IDSB02: Lecture 9 - Agricultural Environments and Development. March 16th, 2017
Agriculture Under Ecological and Economic Pressure:
● Land scarcity.
● Low soil fertility and soil degradation.
● Soil and water contamination.
● Increasing risk of climate change.
● Dependence on multinational corporations and export crops.
Agriculture and Resource Use:
● Agriculture is the main consumptive human activity for many natural resources.
● Agriculture is particularly a source of environmental issues surrounding water.
● It’s a key consumptive human activity for many natural resources:
○ 70% of freshwater use.
● It’s also a significant contributor to greenhouse gases due to land conversion.
○ 23% of greenhouse gas emission (2010).
● It impacts biogeochemical cycles.
○ Fertilizers more than double quantities of N and P entering the biosphere..
Green Revolution (1950s):
● Rise in pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, irrigation, and high yielding varieties, plus
agricultural research, extension, and infrastructural development.
● Allowed food production to enable, or keep pace with, worldwide population growth.
● The “package” of new seeds, techniques, and inputs raised yields upwards of threefold
focused on wheat and maize than to rice and tubers.
● Most pronounced increases in yields in human history.
○ 50% of developing country populations had adequate food in the 1960’s.
○ Fell to 20% in 1974.
● India adopted a green revolution breeding program for rice and became a major
● Overall 250% increase in grain production.
Fertilizer Use and High Yielding Varieties:
● Improved wheat and maize yields for agricultural modernization.
● Plants characterized by:
○ Short growing seasons.
○ Pest resistance.
○ High fertilizer response.
○ Genetically modified organisms.
Figure 1: Shifting cultivation with Fallow System. ● Shifting cultivation: is the abandonment of land after being cultivated for a few years in
order to allow fertility to be naturally restored.
Figure 2: Rotational Woodlot System.
Figure 3: Temperate Soils versus Tropical Soils. Temperate Soils Tropical Soils
● Younger and less weathered. ● Typically older, meaning they’re
● Temperate soils have higher cation oxidized and highly weathered.
exchange capacity. ● Lower cation exchange capacity.
● Neutral pH. ● Highly acidic.
● Temperate soils have a thick humus ● Tropical soils have more
layer of organic matter. phosphorous fixation.
● Less vulnerable. ● High amounts of water leach
nutrients out of the soil.
● Soil horizons are shallow.
● Less of an ability to hold water lead
to more runoff.
GMOs and Development:
● Potentially negative health impacts of GMOs are very difficult to measure or prove.
○ This doesn’t mean that they don’t exist.
● In development, more immediate and likely critical concern is over ownership of crop
Figure 3: Top 10 Genetically Modified Foods.
Geo-Politics of Biotechnology - Opposition:
● Emerging circles oppose bringing improved seeds and fertilizers to traditional farmers. ○ They oppose linking those farmers to international markets.
● Believe that “sustainable food” in the future must be organic, local, and slow.
● Argue that GMOs should be labelled.
● Attitudes against new agricultural science in developing countries is dangerous if
exported to regions not as productively prosperous (Paarlberg, 2008).
● The rise of the organic movement began with Silent Spring by Rachel Carson.
Impacts of Conventional/ Intensive Agriculture - Environmental/ Social Limits?:
● Soil erosion.
● Declining biodiversity.
● Soil and water contamination.
● Pesticide resistance.
● Quality of diet and health.
Agriculture and Development:
● The Green Revolution frames much current thinking on agriculture and development.
● Critiques emerged on the role of the Green Revolution in developing countries.
● Social critiques:
○ The green revolution didn’t fix problems associated with the distribution and
access to food.
● Scientific critiques:
○ Sets a precedent for relying on techno-fixes to ensure food security.
Agriculture for Development:
● Contemporary development policy and practice is intimately tied with agriculture.
● The World Development Report from 2008 addressed “Agriculture for Development”
calling for greater investment in agriculture in developing countries.
● The report warned that the sector must be placed at the center of the development
agenda if the goals of halving extreme poverty and hunger by 2015 are to be realized
and more recently if more SDGs are to be realized.
● The role and contributions of agriculture to human development are:
○ An economic activity.
○ A source of food and livelihood security.
○ A provider of ecosystem services.
The Global South:
● A globa