Sustainable Food Production
The pacific islands face major challenges when it comes to food production. Small land masses being one, and importing unhealthy food is another. Soil damage, climate change, water and energy and a constantly growing population availability all affect agricultural productivity as well, the latter cannot be solved by advances science and technology but rather a reasoned approach to human development.
Global agriculture has grown 2.5–3 times over the last 50 years and it has kept in pace with human population growth but only because of leaps and bounds in science and technology, the full scale mining of non renewable phosphate rock used to make superphosphate fertiliser, and destruction on a vast scale of crucial ecosystems like tropical rainforests. Land degradation and Desertification and loss of productivity and x are also due to unsustainable intensive agricultural practices. Agriculture also uses up large amounts of water (70 per cent of all water taken from aquifers, streams, rivers and lakes). Soils are also being depleted of their nutrients, eroded, waterlogged and becoming salty, by over grazing, over irrigation, using too much or too little phosphate fertiliser, over ploughing. Soil in the Pacific is not forgiving of poor management.
The Pacific Islands rely on imported modern agricultural products and less and less on their own abilities to produce food. Modern agriculture is energy intensive — tractor and transport fuel, producing agri-chemicals and storing and processing food all depend on affordable fossil fuels. Today’s Agricultural practices contributes around 13.5 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions. The expansion of agricultural land into forest releasing stored carbon from above and below ground is increasing this share of global warming. Climate change will also cause delayed or early onset of seasons, more variable precipitation and temperatures and hence affect plant growth, and increasing incidence of climate 'shocks' — such as unpredictable prolonged drought as the Pacific is experiencing of late. To adapt to these changes farmers will need knowledge, financial and social support and a package of context specific strategies, including traditional and newer methods..
PAA promotes and supports agroecology and zero waste food production to is developing increase yields while conserving resources, improving the environmental and social equity and quality if life.. Environmentally sound food production should be tailored to the Pacific environment to suit local conditions and farmers' preferences and should include method like agroforestry, conservation agriculture, permaculture, integrated pest management, the inclusion of aquaculture and small livestock into farming systems, water harvesting, soil conservation and integrated nutrient management.
These new management systems, and new crop varieties, promise to enable the Pacific to produce more food while conserving resources and protecting the environment and improving health and lifestyle by returning to healthier food production, preparation and consumption methods. Farmers, rural workers, local groups and community leaders need to participate in innovation, rather than being treated as passive recipients of new technologies.
We recently supported this Zero Agricultural Waste project in Tonga
Photo Copyright:Petra Campbell