Sustainable agriculture is defined in various ways and terms, the FAO (2000) defined as the management and conservation of the natural resource base and the orientation of technological and institutional change in such a manner as to ensure the attainment and continued satisfaction of human needs for present and future generations. The Technical Advisory Committee of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) defined sustainable agriculture as successful management of resources for agriculture to satisfy changing human needs while maintaining or enhancing the quality of the environment and conserving natural resources (CGIAR, 2001).
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Agriculture still remains the backbone of the economy in many developing countries, it is essential to help lift people out of poverty and hunger by creating a stable income source, especially in rural areas, that can contribute to the development of a green or sustainable economy, not only at the national but also globally(EU Commission, 2012). In the near future, the population, water and food security will be big issues, the global population would probably reach 9 billion (Stephan, 2015). The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that 60% more food will be needed in order to sustain all these people in 2050.
Sustainable agriculture is agricultural products that are needed to meet the needs of current and future generations, and it is needs to be defined not only in terms of their long-term economic potential but also in terms of their environmental and social benefits and costs (Figure 1). The effect of farming practises on the social structure of rural communities and other populations need to be evaluated in terms of sustainability. sustainable agriculture is any suite of agronomic practices should be economically viable, environmentally safe, and socially acceptable (Robertson, G. et al, 2013).
Figure 1 definitions of sustainable agriculture, ASI. (2019).
The FAO in 1995, specifically defined sustainable agriculture and rural development as a process that should meet these criteria, Firstly, ensures that the basic nutritional needs of present and future generations are met both qualitatively and quantitatively, supplying a variety of other agricultural products, Secondly provides sustainable employment, adequate income and decent living and working conditions for all those engaged in farm production, Thirdly, Maintains and strengthens the production capacity of the natural resource base as a whole and the regenerative ability of renewable resources wherever possible, fourthly, reduces agricultural sector exposure to adverse environmental and socio-economic factors and other threats, and strengthens self-reliance.
Sustainable agriculture is the responsibility of all program stakeholders, including producers, staff, policy-makers, academics, retailers and customers. all groups have its own role to play, its own unique contribution to strengthening the sustainable farming community (ASI, 2019). In this essay will define and introduce the main components of sustainability in agricultural sector, the concept and the components of Sustainable Agriculture, the regulation and policies, why it is important for us, why we need for Sustainable Agriculture, some example for good practices of sustainable in agriculture and the support program for Sustainable Agriculture in EU and the global level.
Common sustainable agricultural policy in the EU and USA
The European Union is moving towards sustainable agriculture, which plays a key role in internal and external policies(EU Commission, 2012). The common agricultural policy (CAP) of the EU was developed in 1962 as a collaboration between agriculture and society and between all EU countries and its farmers, the main goals are to help farmers and increase agricultural productivity, climate change and sustainable natural resource management, to maintain rural areas and ecosystems throughout the EU and to maintain the rural economy by supporting employment in agriculture, agri-food and related sectors. For all EU countries, the CAP is a common policy, farmers should operate in a sustainable and environmentally friendly way, and protect our soil and biodiversity (European Commission, 2019).
The CAP takes action with income support through direct payments ensuring income stability and remunerating farmers for environmentally friendly cultivation, policy interventions to cope with challenging market conditions, and rural development measures through national and regional programs to address the specific needs and problems facing rural areas. The CAP helps farmers satisfy their social functions in the following ways: producing food, developing rural communities and sustainable agriculture (European Commission, 2019)
In US farm policy, the Farm Bill has included provisions promoting more organic farming, making it easier for fruit and vegetable farmers to apply for crop insurance, and encouraging farmers to adopt more sustainable practices on their own working fields (UCSUSA, 2017).
Components of Sustainable Agriculture
Soil management, crop management, water management, disease or pest management, and waste management are the main components of both sustainable agriculture, Future sustainability can be determined by the most limiting element and these elements may change over time including population density, water, fossil fuel energy, nitrogen, carbon dioxide, salinity, economy and agricultural land quantities (R. McSorley. et al, 2001).
Good soil management practises are needed to achieve the sustainability principle, including spreading fertilizer, implementing composts, planting cover crops and decreasing tillage. Best crop management practices include pinching, chopping, hilling, and suckering. The Best practices for water management include: drip irrigation, rotational grazing, crop covering, dry farming, water capture and storage, irrigation scheduling (ARLPC, 2019).
Concept and evaluation of Sustainable Agriculture
Sustainable agriculture must be sensitive to all economic social and environmental challenges, and this three factors play an important role in achieving sustainable agriculture or any sustainable challenges, environmental issues contribute to the growth of contemporary social-economics, the key socioeconomic issues to tackle are poverty alleviation, changes in consumption, population dynamics, protection of the environment and human health (Figure 2). The sustainable development, according to the World Conservation Union (1991), improves the quality of life by living within the capacity to maintain ecosystems.
Figure 2 The concept of agricultural sustainable development, (www.researchgate.net)
Sustainable agriculture is a complex issue related to food production while preserving our natural resources including soil and water without any negative impact on the natural ecosystem. In general, the concept of sustainable agriculture should be to maintain today's and tomorrow's human needs with food quality, maintain natural resources, economically viable farming practises for productivity improvement, maintain or improve soil fertility, minimal impact on the wide environment and social acceptability (ASI, 2019).
The Response-Inducing Sustainability Assessment (RISE) approach has been developed by the Swiss School of Agriculture, Forest and Food Sciences in Bern to evaluate sustainability in as objective and systematic a way as possible. RISE has been in use since 2000, helping to make farm activities sustainable measurable and communicable. It studies a single farm operation using surveys to collect information on 10 sustainability indicators across economic ecological and social dimensions, such as soil use and livestock production (Figure 3). In addition, RISE provides valuable insights for policy advice, since some shortcomings in sustainability are the result of the structural framework rather than of farm management. (Stephan, 2015)
Figure 3 Example of RISE results and the classification of a farm in relation to 10 indicators of environmental, social and economic sustainability, (Stephan, 2015)
Why is sustainable agriculture important to us?
Important because it means human food, fuel and fibre needs while maintaining habitat conservation and biodiversity protection (Ruth Fuller, 2010). Sustainable agriculture is essential in our lives and plays an important role in the future because it is related directly and indirectly to our food security and connected with other economic, social and environmental factor. The main priority is to ensure that the agricultural supply of goods, food, water, air and soil meets present and future needs by build and maintain healthy soil, manage water use, reduce air, water and climate pollution and promote biodiversity (UCSUSA, 2017).
Examples of good practice of sustainable agriculture
There are many good and success practice of sustainable of agriculture such as, organic farming and it is a good food production and farm management system with best environmental practices which provides high-quality public goods. The Biogas production from manure and agricultural waste is a source of renewable energy and provides farmers with additional income. By providing ecosystems which are an important component of agricultural landscapes, biodiversity can increase by grazing practices, permanent pastures play a significant role in carbon storage (EU Commission, 2012).
Applying Integrated Pest Management (IPM) by using mechanical and biological controls, can be routinely implemented to maintain the control of pest species while reducing the use of chemical pesticides. Integrating livestock and crops by managing the feed process and fertilizers process, Planting cover crops. cover crops preserve and create soil health by preventing erosion, replenishing soil nutrients and keeping weeds under control, reducing herbicide requirements(UCSUSA, 2017).
How can we promote sustainable agriculture?
The education, awareness, agricultural advice, resource accessibility, land and water are important for sustainable agriculture, particularly by smallholder farmers in developing countries. Sustainable growth-oriented farming requires infrastructure for production and access to working markets, in some countries, the small-scale farmers are still often excluded from the formal credit market and other services as they cannot give any collateral to banks and this must be solved to help the small farmers to sustain the quantity and the quality of farming production (Stephan, 2015).
Communication technologies play an increasingly important role in the agricultural and downstream industries, such as mobile and internet services used in the agricultural services, such as market price sharing and consulting and others services. (Commission, 2012)
Support Programs for Sustainable Agriculture
There are many programs working to develop sustainable agriculture in EU and Globally. In the EU, the European Foundations for Sustainable Agriculture and Food (EFSAF) network has a medium- to long-term emphasis aimed at promoting a more sustainable, integrated European food policy covering agricultural, rural, food and health policies (Silvia Balmas, 2019). The EU program known as NSPIA is also intended to demonstrate sustainable, productive agriculture through the implementation of Best Management Practices (BMPs) and progress measurement through a set of key indicators(Emilio González, 2019).
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The new EU work program Horizon 2020 was launched on 27 October 2017, including a € 1 billion investment in information and development in agriculture, food and rural development, with the goal of making agriculture more sustainable, safer and much more diverse, and rural areas a better place to live and work, strongly connected also with current and future objectives of the common agricultural policy, this includes helping to make the agriculture sector smarter, more strong and more environmentally sustainable.
In developing countries, the sustainability of agriculture facing many challenges is a matter of concern for various stakeholders, for example, in India, the challenges are due to ago-climatic or environmental, social and economic dimensions(Kamble, Prakash, 2018). Overall, many of the issues facing sustainable agriculture programs in developing countries include, population pressure, subsistence farming, rural poverty, degradation of natural resources such as deforestation, land degradation, decreasing productivity, un clear and strong regulations and policies and gender disparities (Regmi, P. et al, 2000).
Conclusions and recommendations
Sustainable agriculture is most important and contributes in a positive way to society, the environment and the economy, and it is the best options now and in the future to save and build our world, The concept of sustainable development in agriculture has played a significant ecological role in the sustainability debate, the scale of sustainability, whether on the farm local or regional level, all impacts on the global aspect as the earth forms one large ecosystem. The global aspect of sustainability is, in general, a fundamental principle of sustainable agriculture development.
Using clean technology and renewable energy can be the best practices and tactics in sustainability, smart farming through the exponentially increasing use of information and communication technology (ICT) in agriculture decreases farming's environmental footprint through preventing leaching issues as well as greenhouse gas emissions, and by controlling and reducing the use of chemical fertilisers and pesticides and reducing water losses in irrigation (Achim Walter. et al, 2017). Developing countries need more awareness, more researches and support programs to secure the water and food and protect the environment and develop their communities and economies.
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