Sustainable Agriculture

Sustainability became one of the key words that apply to many aspects of our daily lives in recent years. Sustainable agriculture however has been around much longer, being the original way of farming. Growing vegetable and fruit crops coincided with animal husbandry in an ecologically balanced system following natural patterns.

Unfortunately the agricultural revolution changed these traditions and in doing so, it destroyed priceless knowledge. It was replaced with chemicals leading to a general decrease in soil fertility, creating a downward spiral from which there seemed no escape possible.

But all is not lost as sustainable agriculture is being pushed to the foreground again by several movements and applied by more and more people. Not just individuals but also commercial farmers are making the transition. New ecologically viable systems are being created on a daily basis, the existing ones being rediscovered and maintained or restored. Several examples can be found in South East Asia and Thailand, such as the 300 year old food forest in Vietnam and the new permaculture rice farmers in the North East of Thailand.

One of these movements carries the name permaculture, focusing on sustainable forms of livelihood, of which organic farming and food forests are a big part.

Coffee is a typical food forest crop, lending itself perfectly for this natural and integrated form of agriculture. Akha Ama farms are run closely according to these principles, combining several crops on one plot and letting them work together to get better results.

This system results in natural soil fertility, pest control and water management, reducing or even eliminating the need for chemical applications and irrigation.

Let’s work together to a more sustainable future, it doesn’t matter if you’re a farmer or a balcony gardener, everyone can do something. Just by spreading the word to other people you are already helping.

For references and further study:
The One-Straw Revolution (1978) by Masanobu Fukuoka, New York Review Books, 2009
The Permaculture Way by Graham Bell, Permanent Publications, 2005
Permaculture, Principles & Pathways Beyond Sustainability by David Holmgren, Holmgren Design Services, 2002
How to make a forest garden by Patrick Whitefield, Permanent Publications, 2010