A lot of people agree that sustainable ways of farming are good for the ecosystems, humans and animals. But they don’t agree that it will be able to feed the world. The yield of individual crops have known to be lesser in sustainable farming than conventional agriculture. But rarely are the systems compared in entirety. Sustainable ways of farming encourage diverse cropping, utilizing areas such as borders, bunds to grow fruit trees, fodder crops, leafy greens etc.
Monocropping in conventional agriculture is great at producing a single crop at high yields. But we can’t fill our stomachs with just rice or wheat, can we? The innumerable number of edible wild greens that indiscriminate ploughing and weedicides kill is staggering, if you think about it.
Immense amount of food is wasted in our extremely long supply chains. Shortening the supply chains and consuming local foods itself will more than compensate for what little temporary productivity reduction we will observe if we move to sustainable ways of farming enmasse.
Anyways, the problem of feeding the world has never been a supply (quantity) one and I am sure, most people know it. This is super evident by the amount of crops which remain unharvested because the labour is too expensive or the prices are too low or a combination of multiple factors. It is a distribution problem : distribution amongst people and the distribution of food categories in household baskets.
Far too much processed food is being consumed by us and that results in poor utilisation of harvests : the opportunity of trying to be creative with peels, flowers, stems is lost when you are so distanced from where your food is grown. With people in agriculture reducing and more land being converted to residential, industrial and commercial purposes, foraging of wild but edible foods has gone down substantially.
So, the problem is not with lower productivity of healthier forms of farming. There are far too many techniques available to improve land productivity : crop rotation, multi layer agro forestry being the top most. The problem lies in the hegemony of heavy industry and machinery over farms which enable disconnection of us as people from our food, our rich culinary heritage. What we need is liberation from the narrative that only industrialized agriculture using tractors, combiner harvesters, borewells, hybrid+GMO seeds can feed the world. Nothing can be far from the truth : there is enough land and water for everyone’s need, not for everyone’s greed.
For us to realize this as individuals and as a global civilization, we need a social, societal, spiritual awakening. For the first time in the history of humanity, we seem to have reached a seemingly peaceful phase of existence for the majority. Lets not squander this opportunity of educating ourselves about the benefits of mindful, simple lifestyles. Lets realize the perils of climate change before its too late. If we don’t evolve, homo sapiens will perish, sooner rather than later.