In March of 2015, the IIED (International Institute for Environment & Development) and the CAU (China Agricultural University) held a joint workshop on sustainable farming. The workshop brought together practitioners, researchers, government and NGO staff, all working on sustainable agriculture.
It’s interesting to note here that China has a very long history of traditional and ecological farming practices, at least 4,000 years or more. I hate to admit that I didn’t know that, but I didn’t. For most of this time there was no use of chemical fertilizers or pesticides. These practices are known as “an agriculture without waste” and are outlined in F.H. King’s book, Farmers of Forty Centuries.
The “agriculture without waste” model is characterized by maximizing productivity through small-scale, high-intensity farming. Traditional practices included crop rotation, intercropping, terracing, using diverse crop varieties and growing legumes for nitrogen fixation which is essential to plant growth and health.
In other words, the ancient Chinese traditions of growing food were developed to feed its people then, now and way into the future. It worked then and it works now.
Unfortunately, recently the widespread use of conventional and more modern agriculture techniques has had very negative effects on the environment. China has become one of the biggest users of fertilizers and pesticides in the world. Soil erosion, pollution, and the like, are widespread. Plus, water is scarce in various areas of the country as well. It’s a recipe for disaster.
Why should we care about agriculture in China? You know why. Mother Earth sustains all life, doesn’t she? That’s why we called her “Mother”. If you think that China imports a lot of produce, you’re correct. But globally, China is the 4th largest exporter of vegetables and the 6th largest of fruit.
Therefore, the world is eating produce from China, grown with whatever techniques used. Ingesting pesticides and chemical fertilizers is not my idea of healthy eating.
Hopefully, the philosophy of sustainable farming has at least a small hold there, here, and everywhere across our sacred planet.
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