Source of life. Foundation for economic growth. That is sustainable agriculture. Crucial to our continuity, it must be the same when it comes to the priorities of the main actors of this sector. World food security is vital. So is the sustainable management of land, water and other resources. Due to the way we have exploited agricultural land, we risk hunger, malnutrion and unsustainable agricultural activity. These are major challenges for present and future agriculture.
According to Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) growing needs of the increasing number of the population, which by 2050 is expected to surpass 9 billion people, will require 60 percent more agricultural products to be produced. While in the present a huge amount of food, approximately 1.3 billion tons per year is lost or wasted throughout the supply chain, causing enormous financial and environmental costs. We currently waste and in the future we will need more. United Nations (UN) states that the capacity of available resources and technologies to satisfy the demands for food and other agricultural commodities for the growing population number remains uncertain. According to United States Agency for International Development (USAID) , from 11 percent of the world's land surface that is suitable for agriculture, 38 percent has become degraded by poor natural resource management practices.
Which are the consequences of bad agricultural practices? They mainly have to do with endangerment. Endangered productivity. Endangered economic growth. Endangered biodiversity. Endangered water resources. Impossibility is another strong word related to it and also quite alarming. Impossibility to meet increasing demands for food of the increasing number of the global population. Solution? We must find one. Luckily, efforts have been intensified and strengthened time passing by.
How will we overcome these challenges?
Sustainable agriculture is a must and efforts towards its achievement must be global. It is the solution for fulfilling needs for food of future generations, while being profitable and environmentally friendly. It aims also to achieve social and economic equity. International agencies, organizations or institutions are working to unite and intensify global attempts to achieving sustainable agriculture.
Sustainable agriculture in Albania
Albania is far behind in its attempts to achieve sustainable agriculture. Little has been done. Lots of needs to be achieved. Albanian farmers lack the required knowledge and information on environmental standards in farming. In most of the cases farmers fail to meet these standards, as they apply agricultural chemicals, use old machineries which damage the soil etc. Relevant and functional infrastructure is missing. The increased vulnerability of the ecosystems, water supply and infrastructure to climate change affects directly the agricultural production in Albania.
According to the Ministry of Agriculture sustainable increase in agricultural productivity will be achieved through the improvement of market supply, decreasing of the export and import rate and through the supporting the economies of families whose main working activity is agriculture.These last years the government is encouraging the use of new environmentally friendly technologies in agriculture, GAP (good agricultural practices,) post-harvesting practices to reduce the amount of waste etc.
Albania needs support, mentoring and the experience of countries which have been drafting and implementing thorough strategies on how to achieve sustainable agriculture. Which are some of the main strategies and principles related to it?
USAID approach – producing more in less land
According to USAID, sustainable agriculture can be achieved by integrating environmental health, economic viability, and social equity, for long-term productivity of natural resources and also improved livelihoods. It presents one very simple strategy: producing more, in less land. The strategy focuses on environmental sustainability across agricultural supply chains and multi-use landscapes. USAID promotes all over the world practices that sustainably intensify farming system productivity. This can help achieve improvement of soil quality, minimization of pesticides and herbicides use, employment of environmental management systems, safe storage and habitat maintenance. USAID supports the ecologically sound agriculture which uses techniques that are economically feasible and also socially responsible.
On June 2012 USAID and a group of other partners launched a New Grand Challenge – The Agriculture/Energy Nexus. This global effort aims to increase clean energy access particularly in the developing countries and also support economic growth, by providing effective, clean energy solutions for farmers and agri-businesses. Enhanced food security and increased economic resiliency is expected to be achieved through this initiative. Powering Agriculture: An Energy Grand Challenge for Development founding partners have combined resources to fund a second Global Innovation Call for the initiative. It aims to issue individual awards ranging from $500,000 to $2,000,000 USD for Clean Energy Solutions. Applications for the second call were due February 12, 2015 and three projects have applied from Albania.
Five principles of FAO
FAO has created five key principles for guiding the strategic development of new approaches and the transition to sustainability. Efficient use of resources. Conservation, protection and enhancement of natural resources. Protection and improvement of rural live hoods and social wellbeing. Enhancement of resilience of communities and ecosystems to climate change. Market volatility and good Governance.
Sustainable agriculture and the EU
The EU considers investments in rural areas and agriculture, crucial to decreasing poverty and hunger. The EU strategy for sustainable agriculture focuses in investment in small-scale farming which can "help a country feed itself and reduce its dependency on outside assistance.”
In the EU investments in knowledge are a must. On a global, regional or national level. For EU countries knowledge is crucial for the achievement of the EU policies on resilience, food security and nutrition. The EU will continue to invest in helping poor people access these goods. Facilitating access to resources which provide the necessary information is also a must. Technology, research and development will lead the way to sustainable agriculture. In the EU countries strict regulations and imposing high costs for all malpractices that damage or deplete natural resources are also crucial to sustainable agricultural practices application.
The Indicative Strategy Paper for Albania 2014-2020 of the European Commission, states that the Albanian public and producers do not have have adequate knowledge of the environmental and foodsafety standards in farming and primary food processing. Through IPARD-Like, a Grant Scheme for agro-food sector development, the European Union aims to "gradually upgrade Albanian agricultural holdings towards community standards, mainly in the fields of environmental protection, food safety and quality, animal welfare, animal and plant health." IPARD-Like scheme supports investments in agricultural production activities in four priority agricultural sectors: milk, meat, fruits and vegetables aiming to increase the supply of safe and environmentally friendly farm products.