What we mean by sustainable agriculture is agriculture that is not dependent on inputs coming from a long distance, the use of inter-cropping, crop rotations and the mix of tree, bush and field crops; a mix of animals and plants and herbs; the reuse of water including filtered waste water, and gray water; fertilizer and pesticides produced on the farm itself as mentioned in Scherr, Solar Economy and the use of energy from sustainable energy sources creatively inter-twined with various agricultural processes; farms that provide a meaningful existence for those working the farm; and farms that can meet the basic food requirements of those doing the work and also providing enough produce to sell, for a start.
The survival value of this kind of sustainable agriculture is becoming more and more essential as the planet earth prepares for a series of catastrophes by around 2030, possibly sooner, possibly later. The importance of the Harkin “Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act of 2007” as well as future legislation for price supports for small produce producers, farms in transition to organic farming, and farm insurance for small farms both for weather crises and other kinds of unexpected problems.
The movement for sustainable agriculture can be found world-wide, though in some countries it is far more advanced than in others. One finds both in some of the so-called “developed” countries and some of the “developing” countries that there are strong movements which are growing rapidly but not in all. And “developing countries” that have officially opted for the United States model of agriculture are fighting their own small and marginal farmers. Yet, locally people are fighting back. The loss of power by the Naidu government in andhra Pradesh in India was part of such a move. While many Latin American countries are learning from the Cuban model, this example has yet to be copied outside of the western hemisphere.
Our work, among small locally positioned NGOs in the southern states of India, ones working on small scale sustainable agriculture in ways that also take into account, other interrelated community issues such as gender inequities, education including adult literacy and even the use of computers, the use of alternative energy, etc. promises to make a contribution to this alternative vision. These NGOs are working with poor and marginal farmers and women’s self help groups (SHGs) to assist them to expand their agriculture, and to make use of new technology that makes use of inputs available within the village setting, and to make use of new techniques that promise even greater yields while at the same time improving the local environment.