Small scale farmers produce food and other raw materials for self-consumption, and/or for its consumption from the local to the international markets. They usually own small areas of land that go from one to five hectares. They live in rural areas, and unfortunately, they are very often marginalized by the rest of the society. But then, how is that they are actually helping to save the planet?
One of the main issues of the current environmental crisis is the scale and the quick rhythm at which many companies are using up the earth’s natural resources. Because it is at that same rhythm and scale at which the externalities of that use are occurring, i.e huge amounts of waste and harmful emissions.
Small scale farming means small(er) use of natural resources. One example of this is its water use, which is strongly dependent on the naturally occurring raining seasons, as opposed to the big scale agriculture using artificial irrigation systems to increase their production. The negative consequences of some of these irrigation systems can go from deploying water sources of the area, to even causing public health problems due to spreading of water-related bacteria, like in the case of mass production of rice in Asia (Berg and Westengen, 2018).
Another clear example is the use of fertilizer and pesticides. While industrial plantations have access to these chemicals as part of their agricultural method, small scale farmers very often do not have (economic) access to them, nor the need to use them in their crops. Not only is that the amount of food and raw materials they are in need of producing is way less than a big commercial plantation, but also and very importantly, their ancient methods of cultivation do not include these artificial inputs. If there is no use of artificial chemicals, then there are no negative consequences from its use (water, air and soil pollution).
Another positive point is that small scale farmers do posses a very conscious perspective of what the natural resources mean in their life. This perspective comes from their local cultures that see nature as a part of their existence, and not as something external to them that they can just use it only to benefit from it. Most ancient and rural cultures everywhere in the world recognize their environment as something they need to take care of and be grateful for. This conscious point of view is essential to shift towards a sustainable way of living and producing at the global level.
While it is true that in 2050 we will need to produce approximately 50% more food to meet the global population ‘s needs, and that by that time climate change will challenge agricultural production, it is also true that small scale farmers can keep being one of the fundamental sources of our food. Science aimed at sustainable production, as well as public support can definitely enhance and improve the way small scale farming is being done.
“There are more than 500 million so-called small farms in the world, and a total of 1.5 billion people depend on these to survive” (Utviklingsfondet, 2020).
At this very moment small scale farmers are feeding a huge part of the global population, and by doing so, they are helping to save our planet. So, go on and support their products!
- Tryggve Berg and Ola Westengen. “Cropping systems” in Lecture note #4 for EDS352, Norwegian University of Life-Sciences, 2018, 30 pp.
- Utviklingsfondet. “Små bønder, store muligheter”. 2020. URL: https://www.utviklingsfondet.no/nyheter/sma_bnder_store_muligheter#
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