Global Sustainable Farming and the "Soco" Soil Conservation Project

By Hughes, Shannon Avery | Denver Journal of International Law and Policy, Summer 2017 | Go to article overview

Global Sustainable Farming and the "Soco" Soil Conservation Project


Hughes, Shannon Avery, Denver Journal of International Law and Policy


I. INTRODUCTION

According to the United Nations, the world's population reached 7 billion people in 2013. (1) According to their projections, the world's population is expected to reach 9.6 billion people by 2050. (2) Of the many issues we are faced with as a planet, one principal concern is how we will feed an additional 2.6 billion humans by 2050. In addition to socio-economic, hunger, and poverty concerns, another issue brought about by the rise in population is how Earth's agriculture can provide an adequate yield without creating further environmental degradation.

The International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD) established one of the most rigorous and comprehensive assessments of agriculture to-date: Agriculture at a Crossroads (the Report). (3) Co-sponsored by other leading organizations such as the World Bank and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), this report concluded that, in order to address hunger and poverty, social inequities, and environmental sustainability, a radical change was needed in agricultural policy and practice. (4) The Report indicated that because modern industrial farming uses enormous amounts of water, fertilizer, and energy, it causes collateral damage to the environment. (5) This damage ripples, increasing land loss, habitat loss, climate change due to greenhouse gas emissions, soil erosion from monoculture (the intensive and continual farming of one type of crop on a plot of land), toxic run-off into drinking water, and increased chemical pesticide use. (6)

Agricultural production techniques most recently placed a significant emphasis on high production. Farmers industrialized their trade, in order to feed as many people as possible which decreased levels of starvation around the world. (7) However, the pursuit of high production took a tremendous toll on the environment. In the long-run, industrialized farming techniques wreaked havoc on air and water quality, negatively impacting nearby farming communities. Air and water pollution are just a glimpse into the issues that communities must shoulder as a result of high-yield farming, and unfortunately these issues generally fall on the shoulders of the most vulnerable, the global poor. (8) Negative externalities from industrial farming also contributes to poverty, drought, and, ironically, hunger in many underprivileged communities. (9) As resource scarcity conditions worsen, it can also create an atmosphere in which political unrest can unfold--causing increased global food prices, and even violence if left unchecked. (10) It is therefore imperative that efficient yet sustainable farming becomes a high-priority in discourse related to the environment, global planning, and human rights.

The backbone of agricultural efficiency and production is soil quality. Without nutrient-rich soil, resulting crops are fewer and less healthy. Modern farming practices have caused soil degradation to become a chief concern among the agricultural community. (11) Soil degradation is often accelerated by human activities, such as improper soil use and cultivation practices. (12) A recent sustainable agriculture project entitled the "Sustainable Agriculture and Soil Conservation through Simplified Cultivation Techniques" (the SoCo Project) focused on solving soil degradation issues in the European Union and can be used as a model for how soil health can be evaluated and managed. (13) The program used initial research; formal discussions between communities, stakeholders, and researchers; and a variety of organic and conservation farming techniques to ultimately increase short-term productivity while maintaining the integrity of the soil for long-term production. (14) From this project, we understand that utilizing certain farming practices can better protect soil and result in healthier crops and less environmental degradation. (15)

The SoCo Project's main success was proving that the modern industrialized farming techniques that developed countries had hung their hats on, were not the only way to increase production. …

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