Small and medium sized farms are key to providing quality nutrition to the global population, according to a new study measuring the contribution of agriculture, livestock and fisheries to global nutrient production, diversity and food security.
The new research, published in the first issue of The Lancet Planetary Health, was carried out by a trans-disciplinary team of more than 400 scientists from 19 different institutions, including geographers, livestock, agricultural and marine scientists, economists, public health and nutrition specialists, epidemiologists, and environmental scientists.
They found that farms smaller than 50 hectares produce nearly 51-77% of all commodities and nutrients, including cereals, livestock, fruits, pulses, roots and tubers and vegetables.
The study results highlight the fact that when it comes to nutrition, quality is as important as quantity. Whilst we might be accustomed to thinking about nutrition in terms of calorific intake, micro-nutrients such as vitamins and minerals play a vital role in human growth and health. Currently there is a ‘hidden hunger’ crisis of affecting two billion people worldwide who are lacking in these vital micro-nutrients.
Mario Herrero, who headed up the study also points out that crop diversity can create resilience against climate change and extreme weather. Using the example of the devastating effect Cyclone Debbie had on cane growers as well as tomato, capsicum and eggplant producers, he points out that an event such as a major wheat disease would be a huge problem for farms all across Australia.
“We need to be careful about putting all our eggs in one basket… Having diverse farming systems builds resilience.”
This new appreciation of the benefits of small farms will influence how we address the second of the UN sustainable development goals, which aims to “end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture”. A range of farm sizes will be necessary to achieve these goals. However, in order to nourish people, rather than just feed them, small farms need to be protected as they are the source of so much nutritional diversity.
Re-post ~ Small farms need protection to safeguard nutrients and diversity by Kate Langford in ECOS eNews
Read more ~
- Farming and the geography of nutrient production for human use: a transdisciplinary analysis by Mario Herrero et. al.
- Small Farms: Stewards of Global Nutrition? Diverse Farms, Diverse Foods: Farm Size and Nutrient Diversity by University of Minnesota Environment Reports