Extensive agriculture, the biggest mistake of a farmer country

Efficient forms of agriculture are a key factor in guaranteeing food security and sustainable development, especially in regions such as Latin America

Extensive agriculture, the biggest mistake of a farmer country

Leer en español: Agricultura extensiva, el mayor error de un país agricultor

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the problem of highest priority for current societies, only after issues related to the availability of drinking water, is access to food. Although agriculture is a central component of the world economy, this productive activity is not as efficient as it could be. Instead of being done intensively, which involves maximizing the amount of food obtained from a minimum amount of sown land, extensive agriculture is generally used, which, opposite to intensive agriculture, covers large amounts of planted land and produces less food comparatively. This type of agriculture employs more resources of all kinds, from water, to seeds, through soil and labor; however, the amount of food produced is not proportional to the investment.

As a consequence, extensive agriculture generates processes of soil degradation due to overexploitation, which are, according to the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), erosion, the extraction of nutrients from crops without replacing them, acidification, salinization, reduction of organic matter, changes in soil structure, and compression by the passage of agricultural machinery, variables that, in sum, make the soil infertile in the long term.

Other environmental impacts resulting from extensive agriculture are the reduction of genetic diversity, loss of habitats and elimination of essential variables for pollination. According to the Alexander Von Humboldt Research Institute, "the factors that threaten pollinators include the loss and fragmentation of natural habitats, the increased use of pesticides and herbicides, the dominance of monocultures, the introduction of non-native pollinators that generate unfavorable competition, and finally, climate change ".

The factors mentioned above, which compromise the subsistence of native pollinators, can be found in agricultural areas of several Latin American countries. This fact is worrisome given that "adequate pollination implies greater production, better size, shape, early maturation and, consequently, greater commercial value", as explained by the Integrated Project of Agricultural Development in Argentina (PROAPI). The collapse of the pollination services is then translated IGNORE INTO a food crisis, reduction of income of the agricultural sector and loss of competitiveness, with all the socio-economic consequences derived from this.

In short, the predominant manner of current agricultural production reduces the extent of fertile soils, requires great amounts of resources and investments, compromises biological diversity and natural pollinators, while income and quality of life are undermined in agricultural countries for the medium term as well.

Even though lack of food is a real problem worldwide and it compromises the quality of life of millions of people, it is an even more alarming reality from the point of view of countries with great agricultural potential, as is the case of a large number of nations in Latin America. In Colombia, for example, the director of the Research Institute of Biological Resources Alexander von Humboldt, Brigitte Baptiste, assures that the productive sectors and the social and economic welfare of the countries depend on ecosystem services derived from biodiversity, and Colombia, because of its location and geographical characteristics, depends even more than other nations on its ecosystems health.


Latin American Post | Maria Isabel Cusgüen Gomez

Translated from "Agricultura extensiva, el mayor error de un país agricultor"