Our intensive agriculture plays a key role in the changing of climate by releasing different gases and volatile compounds in air and in soil. This climate change has serious threats on human being as well as plants.
To overcome this problem, agroecology is the best and suitable option. It comprises of different types of techniques used in agriculture, mostly based on traditional practices and have spread in all over the world from last 20 years. These techniques are energy efficient, sustainable and community oriented and very usefull and helpful in growing of healthy and nutritious organic food.
The farming oriented towards the ecology is known as “permaculture” or “organic farming”. But from the last few years, term agroecology has replaced the term organic farming because its scientific basis and agricultural practices based on the principles of ecology. There is no risk to climate change in organic farming because there is no any emmission of any gas such as N2O, NO and CH4 which are releasing in modern agriculture techniques.
To obtain organic and nutritious food, farmers of Pakistan follow the principles of ecology and use the traditional techniques instead of using the genetic engineering and cemistry based techniques to enhance the yield, to control the insect pests and disease and to improve the soil health (fertility of soil).
They follow a crop rotation technique and rotate their crops in such a way that insect pests attack the one crop, do not attack or disappear on the other crop when growing on the same piece of land after harvesting of the first crop. Our farmers know that to maintain a balance of healthy ecosystem, it is very risky to eliminate the insect pests completely from the field because all the predators keeping the pests in balance in a healthy ecosystem will also be eliminated.
These farmers do not use the artifical fertilizers and psticides because these fertilizers and pesticides produces different volatile compounds and gases which after going to the atmosphere, change the climate. They use only the organic fertilizers such as animal bedding material, farmyard manure, urine etc. after fermentation, composting of these materials.
These organic fertilizers are environment friendly, not only save the climate from changing but also add organic matter and important nutrients after mixing it properly with the soil. Thus, it also enhances the fertility as well as the activities of micro-organisms present in soil.
Organic farming is a sustainable farming. Our farmers know that we can make the soil fertile and nutrients enriched, only when the soil contains a abundant amount of living organisms (more quantity/area).
Our agricultural ecosystem is very complex in which all the life-depended essential substances move in a continuous cycles from plant to animals, to manures, to bacteria and then back to the plants after decomposition. These cycles are derived by using the solar energy and all the micro-organisms maintain a balance in an ecosystem.
Diversity in the farming system is an important principle of agroecology. Diversification includes intercropping (growing of two or more crops on the same piece of land on the same time in a growing season), agroforestry (growing of trees and shurbs with the field crops) and many other techniques.
Livestock plays a key role in the farming system because it supports the farming system by adding different nutrients and organic matter which is alternately, used by the plants and the micro-organisms to enhance their growth, development and yield. These all the practices are environment friendly, economically viable, energy efficient and socially uplifting.
Moreover, there is a great interaction between the climatic events and agricultural biodiversity which is the key principle of agroecology. Diversification in the farming system makes the plant to adapt and to resist against the drought by maintaining the yield and minor decline in productivity than monoculture (growing of only one crop on the same piece of land in a year).
By treating the soil and farm organically, not only increases the carbon contents in soil but also reduces the CO2 concentration in the atmosphere. In other words, agroecology stablizes the climate and shows more resistant towards global warming than industrial griculture.
Studies of last three decades showed that there was a 30% increase in the soil carbon content in the organic farming than the fossil-fuel based farming. According to the study of Rodale Institute, organic farming agroecology is the most important tool to mitigate the the CO2 emission and about 40% of CO2 emission is sequestered by using organic practices.
From the last few decades, contribution of peasant agriculture and agroecology has gained a worldwide attention. According to the international reports, International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development and UN Human Rights Council,
There is a need of an efficient and environment friendly farming system in order to feed 9 billion in 2050 and their recommendation is to follow the agroecology to enhance the food production. According to a study, a small scale farmer can produce surplus food (almost double) within 10 years by following the principles of agroecology already present in our country.
By keeping all of these things in mind, there is a great need to shift our modern, chemical and industrial based agriculture towards organic farming. By shifting towards organic, environment friendly, community-oriented and sustainable farming instead of industrial based agriculture, three biggest problems can be solved (energy dependence, healthy food and climate change) from this world.
It reduces our energy dependence due to growing and processing of food by using ony one fifth of our fossil fuels. Organic farming produces healthy and nutritious food which enhances the human health by reducing the chances of heart attack, stroke, diabetes and so on.
Thus, we can solve the problems of malnutrition and food security. And finally, organic farming also reduces the climate change risks by mitigating the CO2 from atmosphere and by adding it into the soil and locking it up in soil organic matter.
Authors: Tanveer Ahmad, Rikza Anwar Ul Haq Awan, Ayesha Mustafa, Fareeha Athar, Mohsin Ali and Shoaib Nadeem
Agro-Climatology Lab, Department of Agronomy, University of Agriculture, Faisalabad