Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Local farmers are the key to a secure food future

21.11.2003


Tropical regions could enjoy secure food supplies over the next fifty years if local smallholder farmers are helped to help themselves, says a University of East Anglia development expert writing in this week’s international journal Science.



Professor Michael Stocking acknowledges that soil degradation is rife in some areas and that around a billion people currently lack food security, but he questions the bleak picture of the future of tropical soils and food security often painted by environmentalists and campaigners.

"There are many environmental doomsday scenarios, but even climate change and soil erosion are two-edged swords which produce winners and losers," said Professor Stocking, Dean of Development Studies at UEA and an expert on soil management.


"While hilltop farmers in Sri Lanka, for example, may suffer as water and nutrients run off their land, farmers down in the valley below benefit greatly from enriched soils and so provide for local food needs."

Experts visiting tropical regions often exaggerate the problems faced by local farmers, especially if they visit in the dry season when everything looks dead. But many tropical soils are resilient and even some areas that were degraded can come back to life within a couple of years with the right management.

Science does not always get it right and does not necessarily provide workable or acceptable solutions. Soils are dynamic and respond to demands placed on them. If simple provisions such as access to technology are made available, food production by smallholders can be transformed.

"Often local people have the solutions and the appropriate technologies - not necessarily the technologies we would use in the west. We need to understand what local farmers are doing and suggest that others try something similar," said Professor Stocking.

Working with the United Nations and over 200 developing country scientists, Professor Stocking’s group at UEA has collected numerous examples of sustainable management of tropical soils by smallholder farmers that ensure future food supplies, while protecting the environment.


Eastern Ugandan farmers have turned to diversity, planting coffee, bananas and coco-yam together, which provide local foodstuffs and healthy crops to sell on the international market while reducing the chances of disease and erosion.

"It’s wonderful conservation. This and many similar examples make me optimistic for the future. The answer doesn’t just - in the old phrase - lie in the soil; it lies in listening to those who tend it, and in getting them to spread the word," he said.

* ’Tropical Soils and Food Security: The Next 50 Years’, by M A Stocking, appears in the November 21, 2003 edition of Science.

Mary Pallister | alfa

More articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science:

nachricht Back to Nature: Palm oil plantations are being turned back into protected rainforest
21.03.2019 | Forschungsverbund Berlin e.V.

nachricht The inner struggle of the evening primrose: Chloroplasts are caught up in an evolutionary arms race
14.03.2019 | Max-Planck-Institut für Molekulare Pflanzenphysiologie

All articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: The taming of the light screw

DESY and MPSD scientists create high-order harmonics from solids with controlled polarization states, taking advantage of both crystal symmetry and attosecond electronic dynamics. The newly demonstrated technique might find intriguing applications in petahertz electronics and for spectroscopic studies of novel quantum materials.

The nonlinear process of high-order harmonic generation (HHG) in gases is one of the cornerstones of attosecond science (an attosecond is a billionth of a...

Im Focus: Magnetic micro-boats

Nano- and microtechnology are promising candidates not only for medical applications such as drug delivery but also for the creation of little robots or flexible integrated sensors. Scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research (MPI-P) have created magnetic microparticles, with a newly developed method, that could pave the way for building micro-motors or guiding drugs in the human body to a target, like a tumor. The preparation of such structures as well as their remote-control can be regulated using magnetic fields and therefore can find application in an array of domains.

The magnetic properties of a material control how this material responds to the presence of a magnetic field. Iron oxide is the main component of rust but also...

Im Focus: Self-healing coating made of corn starch makes small scratches disappear through heat

Due to the special arrangement of its molecules, a new coating made of corn starch is able to repair small scratches by itself through heat: The cross-linking via ring-shaped molecules makes the material mobile, so that it compensates for the scratches and these disappear again.

Superficial micro-scratches on the car body or on other high-gloss surfaces are harmless, but annoying. Especially in the luxury segment such surfaces are...

Im Focus: Stellar cartography

The Potsdam Echelle Polarimetric and Spectroscopic Instrument (PEPSI) at the Large Binocular Telescope (LBT) in Arizona released its first image of the surface magnetic field of another star. In a paper in the European journal Astronomy & Astrophysics, the PEPSI team presents a Zeeman- Doppler-Image of the surface of the magnetically active star II Pegasi.

A special technique allows astronomers to resolve the surfaces of faraway stars. Those are otherwise only seen as point sources, even in the largest telescopes...

Im Focus: Heading towards a tsunami of light

Researchers at Chalmers University of Technology and the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, have proposed a way to create a completely new source of radiation. Ultra-intense light pulses consist of the motion of a single wave and can be described as a tsunami of light. The strong wave can be used to study interactions between matter and light in a unique way. Their research is now published in the scientific journal Physical Review Letters.

"This source of radiation lets us look at reality through a new angle - it is like twisting a mirror and discovering something completely different," says...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

International Modelica Conference with 330 visitors from 21 countries at OTH Regensburg

11.03.2019 | Event News

Selection Completed: 580 Young Scientists from 88 Countries at the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting

01.03.2019 | Event News

LightMAT 2019 – 3rd International Conference on Light Materials – Science and Technology

28.02.2019 | Event News

 
Latest News

Bacteria may travel thousands of miles through the air globally

25.03.2019 | Life Sciences

Key evidence associating hydrophobicity with effective acid catalysis

25.03.2019 | Life Sciences

Drug diversity in bacteria

25.03.2019 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>