The main consequences of non-sustainable farming

By Matanat Rashid

Wed, 5 Sep 2018

According to the American Journal of Alternative Agriculture, sustainable farming is a system that, “over the long term, enhances environmental quality and the resource base on which agriculture depends; provides for basic human food and fibre needs; is economically viable; and enhances the quality of life for farmers and society as a whole”.

On the same line, The Centre for Integrated Agricultural Systems (CIAS) defines sustainable agriculture as farming systems and government policies that develop long-term positive impacts on the following: agricultural profitability; environmental quality; food sufficiency, quality and affordability; and rural family and community vitality.

Though, regardless of its definition, most academics and agronomists agree that the practice of sustainable agriculture is one of paramount importance in today’s world.

The repercussions of non-sustainable farming are not only ensuing in off-farm environmental and social impacts, but it is also impacting farming operations as well. According to Jules Pretty, “when a factory causes environmental degradation, the impacts are most keenly felt downwind and downstream. When a farmer damages soil and water, the most severe impacts can be on his or her own farm, reducing yield, the nutritional value of the crops and animals produced, and destroying the resources upon which the business depends.”

The reason why sustainable farming is of paramount significance is the fact that unsustainable farming is proven to be damaging to all the parties involved. Refraining from sustainable agriculture methods could lure adverse consequences such as:

Land Degradation:

Non-sustainable farming practices are among the most considerable factors of land degradation. According to Farmers Weekly, the degradation of land in the past two decades is rapidly growing, more than in any comparable time in history, and this issue should not be taken lightly. As per Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, “The issue of land degradation is among the world’s greatest environmental challenges, with the potential to destabilize societies, endanger food security and increase poverty.” Poor land and water management are the culprits that mainly drive land degradation. Sustainable agricultural practices have the tendency to address these issues, and hence why their implementation remains the need of the hour.

Food Security:

Unsustainable agriculture, in addition, has adversative socio-economic consequences. For example, water scarcity has been the prominent trigger of the unfolding food crisis in the world. The practice results in a decline in productivity of land due to soil erosion and desertification. Unsustainability can further exacerbate food insecurity, as forests provide food, inputs and services that support crop and livestock production (FAO, 2006). Soil compaction is another reason that has caused doubts over food security. To put it concisely, the aspects involved in food insecurity could be solved with a proper plan; a plan which is strategized through sustainable agriculture.


The annual global loss of 75 billion tons of soil costs about $400 billion per year, or approximately $70 per person per year (Lal, 1998). The reason for this loss is entirely down to one thing; unsustainability in the Ag sector. The studies also suggested that the unsustainable farming practices have reduced agricultural Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by between 3 and 7 % in many developing countries.

Human Health:

Ultimately, the human health is at a substantial risk just because of the lack of sustainable practices in the agricultural sector. Water pollution from non-organic fertilizers, high-risk pesticides, and desertification-induced dust storms present a great risk to human health. According to the Modern Farmer, “Sustainable agriculture can ensure the food people are consuming is safe as all the conventional practices have proved to be a disaster when it comes to providing insurance for human health.”

Sustainable agriculture seeks to provide a healthy environment, economic profitability, and social and economic equity. Farmers, food processors, distributors, retailers, and consumers should play their part in ensuring sustainability as it is beneficial on a remarkably broad scale.

With the help of the agricultural supply chain, Challenge Advisory, has designed AG 4.0, an agricultural workshop where farmers, academics, industry leaders and government representatives will present and discuss the top challenges the agriculture sector is facing.

On sustainability, Gabriela Burian- Global Director for Sustainable Agriculture of Bayer Crop Science, will introduce the panel discussion, sharing her extensive knowledge with the audience.

Closing the panel, Henry Gordon-Smith- Founder & Managing Director of Agritecture Consulting, will be delivering a keynote address on “using data to make cities smarter through urban agriculture”

Speaking of AG 4.0, Henry states: “With more than 50% of the world’s population living in cities, new models for local agriculture are emerging in unexpected environments and using high-tech approaches. Agriculture 4.0 will explore the role of smart urban agriculture and their applications for smart cities”

About Challenge Advisory

Challenge Advisory LLP is a multi-sector strategy consultancy. We partner with disruptive and innovative organisations to provide revolutionary solutions to their most pressing challenges.

Media Contact:

Maria Onofrio

Project Director

Challenge Advisory

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Matanat Rashid

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