Change or Perish: Practices towards zero hunger and environmental protection

The United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal number 2 targets reducing hunger among vulnerable people. This can only be achieved through sustainable food production systems.

Food production is embedded in soils; therefore, proper soil management practices can work to ensure adequate food production for the population.

The practices include, among others: Soil testing, returning crop residues to the soil, use of organic manure, crop rotation, legume inoculation, cover cropping, inter-cropping where applicable, weeding, conservation tillage, erosion control and precision farming.

Soil surveys can be useful in determining the condition of different soils for intended uses. Farm managers should adopt this technology to characterize soils for decision making. After a soil survey exercise, land evaluation should be done to determine the suitability of different parcels of land for specified purposes.

This is done by matching the soil properties to crop requirements using a conventional land evaluation criterion. This concept supports the perception of agriculture as a business. After land evaluation, high value crops can be envisaged in the Soil Mapping Units having properties that favor the highest productivity.

On environmental protection, soil characterization will identify the probability of pollutant leaching in different soils. This will prevent groundwater contamination and subsequent potential of biomagnification and eutrophication. Reasonable use of pesticides is strongly recommended where biological pest control is impracticable or is economically infeasible.

The Boserupian Theory of Population was based on the concept of innovation when necessity arises. The concept entailed that population increase was not a big deal provided that farmers were innovative enough to produce adequate food amidst the population pressure. Ester Boserup, in her book “The Conditions of Agricultural Growth,” saw population pressure as a major cause of land use change and change in agriculture technology. The key suggestion was that the means of increasing agricultural output is intensification.

Agricultural intensification entails an increase in food production per unit of inputs. The inputs may include labour, land, time, fertilizer, seed, feed or cash. Through intensification, you can produce 10 bags of output from the same piece of land where you previously harvested 5 bags, which is helpful when you have more people to feed.

My opinion is that this theory remains valid up to today and should be practiced. It also forms the basis of the “More People Less Erosion” concept. We therefore need to change or else perish shall we.

Samuel Mwendwa is a Soil Scientist from University of Nairobi, Kenya.



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