What exactly is socioeconomic agriculture? In an age of global warming and increased food shortages, sustainable agriculture has become a key to preserving the land and food supply. While growing techniques are continually evolving, the basic agricultural methods have not changed much in decades. Sustainable agriculture practices have been practiced by different societies for centuries, so why don’t more developing countries to promote this traditional mode of farming?
In the past, agricultural productivity in many countries of the world was highly dependent on imported products, such as dairy, grains, meat, and rice. Because these products were expensive and not available locally, farmers often had to resort to cultivating crops in other countries with lower cost equipment or labor. This type of agricultural activity also depleted soils and water supplies, putting both human health and the environment at risk.
In the 1970s, a series of changes occurred in agricultural policies. First, the United States began to de-emphasize its agricultural support to individual farmers and focus instead on providing subsidies and price supports to large scale producers. Second, the United States began to greatly increase the amount of food it purchased from other countries. Third, the government began allowing more imports, which led to an increase in rice exports. These events helped push the production of rice cultivation in the country up while land reserves were decreasing. The result has been a serious imbalance in agricultural production and sales between rich and poor countries.
Many farmers in the Philippines, India, and Pakistan have seen their rice production decline by up to 50 percent over the past two decades. While this decline is disconcerting to many, there is a simple explanation for the problem. Between international trade and political instability in developing countries, farmers have been forced to abandon their lands for jobs on urban assembly lines, construction sites, and other low-paying employment opportunities. As a result, they have lost access to agricultural credits, insurance, and other forms of aid that might have helped them improve their production and maintain higher prices for rice.
The solution, then, is to return to good economic practices for rice farmers in these countries. In developing nations, the governments must take action quickly to give displaced rural inhabitants help to provide them with alternative means of life. Developed nations should invest in irrigation systems that make use of pesticides that are less toxic to humans and animals. In addition, farmers should be educated and encouraged to produce crops that are free of chemical fertilizers and pesticides.
For the poor themselves, there are a number of ways in which they can improve their conditions. First, farmers should be given access to agricultural credit so that they can purchase pesticides and fertilizers at reasonable prices. Second, agricultural, subsidized programs should be established so that farmers are provided financial assistance to train their children in economic gardening and farming, so that they will be able to provide high quality rice at affordable prices to their families.
Such development programs designed to alleviate poverty and promote agricultural development should be supported by the developed world. China has made great strides in this area in the past few years. Today, China has become the largest producer of genetically modified rice and also one of the largest exporters of fertilizer and other agricultural chemicals in the world. Similarly, India has a number of agricultural development programs based on agricultural fertilizer production, while Mexico has an agricultural feed development program based on fertilizer production.
These developments must be sustained. Otherwise, we will simply be reaping the benefits of technology at the cost of poor farmers. Rice farmers in India who have been given access to modern technologies to grow rice in large quantities have seen their costs for inputs reduce dramatically. This has helped lower their overall costs of production. This has helped them expand into other areas, giving rise to rural economic development.