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Sustainable farming is good for farmers’ well-being

Agroecological practices are farming methods that consider ecological principles. A study recently published in Agronomy for Sustainable Development shows that using this approach can improve the well-being of farmers. 

The research, led by Newcastle University, showed that small-scale farmers in Tanzania who implemented agroecological tactics had significant material improvement, including savings, land acquisition, and other assets. They were also more able to care for dependents, diversify their livelihood opportunities, and secure their possessions more effectively. 

The research team surveyed 467 farming households and found that most practiced at least one form of agroecology – the most common being mulching, intercropping, and reusing post-harvest remains. 

Based on these results, the researchers believe ecological farming can positively influence other farmers’ lives, even if only one technique is implemented. 

“We show that practices taking advantage of nature’s contributions to people within agricultural systems can contribute positively to food security and human well-being of smallholder farmers in rural landscapes of the tropics,” said study lead author Dr. Marion Pfeifer, a professor in Newcastle’s School of Natural and Environmental Sciences.

Rural landscapes in tropical regions have enormous potential to support biodiversity and mitigate climate change. Some projects, including one funded by Science and Nature People Partnership, are already considering these findings. 

“The findings are important for the formulation of policies relevant for land use and management, such as how to manage rural landscapes for biodiversity and wellbeing outcomes,” said Dr. Pfeifer.

“During the past year, we have been working with partners in government and industry as well as farmers to exchange and discuss our findings. We will continue to work with them to identify pathways that allow to increase adoption of agro-ecological practices, where feasible.” 

“As an added bonus, this may well allow us to increase or conserve the trees planted on and around farmed land, adding climate change mitigation values and opportunities for potentially tapping into carbon payment schemes.”

The study authors point out that executing agroecology comes with concerns, and researchers have to ensure that the solutions are fair and have prolonged sustainability.  Moreover,  it’s necessary to ensure local communities benefit from the practices. 

By Erin Moody , Staff Writer

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