bbc.co.uk/ mpapps/pagetools /print/news. bbc.co.uk/ 1\
Eco-farming 'helps world's poor'
By Mark Kinver
BBC News science and nature reporter
Sustainable farming methods can help the poorest farmers in
developing nations out of poverty, new research suggests.
Scientists found that techniques such as crop rotation and
organic farming increased crop yields by an average of 79%,
without risking future harvests.
The study, possibly the largest of its kind, looked at more than
280 projects in 57 of the world's poorest countries.
The findings appear in the journal Environmental Science and
The team of international scientists who carried out the
four-year project found that the farmers enjoyed improved crop
productivity, while reducing their use of pesticides and water.
One of the report's co-authors, Professor Jules Pretty from the
University of Essex, UK, said the findings challenged the
dominate view that the West knew best when it came to
"Most people think it is bad news from the south," Professor
Pretty said, "but in many ways farmers in developing country are
leading the way."
The researchers found methods that did not have an adverse effect
on local biodiversity allowed farmers to reap the rewards of
growing crops in healthy soil.
"People are using a variety of integrated pest management
techniques; making the best of biodiversity like predators,
parasites and multiple cropping," Professor Pretty told the BBC
"In essence, it allows the ecosystem to deliver the pest
This approach paid dividends, he said, because it not only cut
the use of pesticides but also resulted in farmers having to
spend less of their income on chemicals.
SEEDS OF HOPE
An awful lot of this happened without any direct policy input
Prof Jules Pretty, report co-author
Healthy soil also required less water to cultivate crops, he
added: "All crops need water, but soils that are higher in
organic matter are better at holding water.
"If you have diverse and higher soil quality then it is better
prepared to deal with drought conditions when access to water
becomes a critical issue."
Figures from the World Health Organization (WHO) show that many
environmental benefits - clean air and water, stable climate -
are being lost through unsustainable farming practices.
Professor Pretty hoped the data would act as a catalyst for
governments and national organisations to adopt better land
"One of the key things from all of this is that an awful lot of
this happened without any direct policy input," he said.
"If there was more central support then we would expect to see
these sorts of techniques and ideas spread more rapidly."
The researchers admit that uncertainty remains as to whether
these farming methods can meet the growing global demand for
But they concluded that they were cautiously optimistic it could
help the world's poorest farmers out of poverty.
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