The fundamental transformation of agriculture in a growing world population with limited natural resources may well turn out to be one of the great challenges for this century. International security remains a major challenge, but this will be aggravated – or eased – by the level of food security in various parts of the world. The nexus of food-water-energy calls for an ecological balance that cannot be regained under the current paradigm or model of industrial production. World societies needs a paradigm shift in agriculture. The “green revolution” of years past that relied on intensive technological inputs must now be converted into an integral ecology: an agro-ecological systems approach that considers agricultural efficiency, integrity of creation, fair livelihood, and the strengthening of community.
Therefore, the required transformation is more profound than simply making minor adjustments to the existing system. In line with agricultural research that properly addresses environmental impacts, it is time to institute more diversified and innovative forms of agricultural production that function in greater harmony with the local environment, both natural and human. Various reports support such a systemic turn; UNCTAD, as one example, lists these elements of the ecological transformation now required for agriculture:
- Increasing soil carbon
- Optimization of organic & inorganic fertilizer use
- Reduction of direct & indirect greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of livestock production
- Reduction of indirect GHG emissions through sustainable land management
- Reduction of waste throughout the food chain (farm to market to consumer)
- Changing dietary patterns towards climate friendly food consumption
- Reform of the international trade regime for food & agricultural products
Political and institutional frameworks need to promote sustainable practices that remain economically sound but can overcome harm to our natural resource base. Political activity – ranging from the local level to national policies – must find a way to modify industrial production, protect biodiversity and other ecological goods, and offer greater incentives for a diversified agriculture and the rotation of crops. Because each country or region has its own challenges and limitations, there can be no simplified “one size fits all” solution. Through dialogue with the relevant partners, attending to the larger connections within the fabric of life, and a prayerful and honest discernment of the vocation of farming, newer solutions can be achieved. By possessing a more comprehensive vision of agriculture, social and cultural changes are set in motion towards a new kind of agriculture that our vulnerable world now needs.
[Continue to next section: Economic conversion: Caring for Our Common Home]