Small-scale production systems secure sustainable food supply and conserve biodiversity
Small-scale production system (SSPS)
In this article, the term SSPS will be use both for agriculture and livestock production. SSPS is playing crucial role in the food production and biodiversity conservation throughout the world. In agriculture, SSPS is mainly comprised of the farmers holding less than 2 hectares land. Such farmers usually depend on their local seed verities and use farm yard manure from their own animals waste for the fertility of their field crops. They do not use or rarely use pesticides and herbicides. They control pests with their own local/indigenous knowledge (IK), mainly comprised of biological control. They use their own skills for weeds control, as rotational cropping and grazing by the livestock etc.
Small-scale livestock production is based on subsistence foundations. Such livestock keepers keep mostly their indigenous livestock breeds, as local breeds are well adapted to the ambient ecosystems (harsh and hostile). Local livestock breeds are resistant to many diseases and pests, like ticks and flies etc. Indigenous livestock breeds (ILB) need very low inputs or even zero inputs for their production and survival. In many cases small-scale livestock keepers are landless farmers. They rely on marginal lands for grazing of their livestock; such lands have no other use. The small holding agriculture farmers are also holding small-scale livestock for food production, agricultural operations and soil fertility.
Small-scale agricultural systems are more resilient to climate change and ensure biodiversity. Their production system is quite sociable and in concord with the biodiversity. In most of the cases, small-scale production is organic in nature and health friendly. Traditional and indigenous cultures may be sources of agricultural knowledge useful for devising sustainable production systems. Small-scale producers therefore have an important role to play in achieving the Millennium Development Goals, especially MDG1.
Food security: Food is the very basic need and its security is the right of every individual on the globe. With a slight improvement this year but still the number of hungry people is around one billion. Food security is one of the major concerns of the present global scenario. Unfortunately most of them are from the developing country. Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are far away to achieve, especially MDG1 (eradication of extreme poverty and hunger).
The situation is even more worsening because of much sad state of situations, like land grabbing, factory farming, struggle for gene control and climate change scenario etc. Open market economies, multinational companies struggle to control on gene and political influence of the rich people combine affect the small-scale production systems adversely. Small-scale production systems are the guarantee of safe food for millions of people on one hand and conservation and sustainable use of the biodiversity on the other hand.
Biodiversity: Biodiversity conservation is link to the question of food security. There is very strong link between biodiversity and food security. More diversified the agroecosystems (life, soil and landscape etc) more the resilience of the community to climate change. Unfortunately, more than 90of the crop varieties have disappeared from farmers fields and half of the breeds of many domestic animals have been lost. The other flora and fauna, not documented and studied are even not recorded.
Unfortunately, the present high input unsustainable production systems are based on high inputs (pesticides, fossil oil, fertilizers and antibiotics) and promote monoculture. Such move is resulting in the ever high loss of biodiversity and eliminating SPSS at high level. Because of high demand for animal protein, a short cut solution was adapted to cross the indigenous livestock breeds with the high yielding exotic breeds. Very limited number of breeds/verities within a species were selected for food production resulted in the narrowing the consumption of biodiversity in food chain. Also a high selection intensities within these breeds/verities resulted in further narrowing the gene pole of the biodiversity. The genetic variation, comprised of components between and within breeds/verities, is now under threat because of such intensive selection. The dependency on the genetic resources for food is narrowing, making the food chain even more fragile.
Also, big ideas like dams, highly mechanized monoculture agricultural production (green revolution) resulted in high level of environmental degradation and biodiversity loss. Such dilemma resulted in minimizing the options sustainable food production.
Conclusion: Small scale production system is very important for food security in the climate change context and conservation of biodiversity. Millions of the people around the world are involved both for production and consumption through this system. Such system is very much resilient to the climate change and droughts. While using very low or neglected quantity of fossil oil, they are mitigating climate change. The system is custodian of the precious biodiversity of agroecosystems, rich with biodiversity and in harmony with nature. Unfortunately the forces like, globalization, open market economies, gene control and industrialization/mechanization in agriculture are threatening this system. There is utmost need to characterize, documentize, visualize and prioritize this system both as a food security option and conservation of the biodiversity. Also, it is the need of time to give opportunity to play its role in the future food production systems.
About the Author
Being the president of the Society of Animal, Vet. and Environmental Scientists (SAVES), I am working on the issues of dry lands and indigenous livestock breeds with respect to climate change scenario. Author had been working with the pastoral people for last 10 years, while characterizing and documenting livestock breeds and indigenous knowledge, especially related to camel. Ahthor had been delivering training to the livestock keepers in remote for vaccination, drenching and other valuable practices. I am the author of the indigenous livestock breeds, livestock production systems of the tribal people and indigenous knowledge in Balochistan province, Cholistan and Thar Desert of the Great Indian Desert. He had been traveling with the Afghan nomads (Kochis) to work and document on indigenous knowledge and livestock breeds/husbandry.
Author organized camel scientists and herder in Pakistan and founded Camel Association of Pakistan. I am PhD in camel science and presented many international research presentations at various occasions.Dr Abdul Raziq had visited many countries and research stations.