Modern agricultural science, while often very good, never ceases to amaze me in terms of shortsightedness and ignorance of anything outside their extremely narrow comfort zone called conventional (or industrial) agriculture. USDA and big agribusiness, which largely controls these scientists, certainly makes matters worse.
So, I was stunned when I read of some Washington State University research in Science Daily, New Way Proposed to Save Africa’s Beleaguered Soils.
This research, published in the respected journal Nature, reports on a “new type of agriculture that could restore the beleaguered soils of Africa and help the continent feed itself in the coming decades.” They even coin a name for this “new” agricultural method, perenniation. Perenniation,
“mixes food crops with trees and perennial plants, which live for two years or more.”
I agree that this is a great agricultural method. But, there are two problems with this research and agricultural scientists taking credit for something they certainly didn’t invent.
Perenniation, or as it has been known for years as polyculture, is an agricultural method that has been around literally for thousands of years.
What is ironic is that one of the two factors for destroying this farming system to the extent it had to be reinvented is agricultural research scientists. These folks, along with USAID, USDA, and agribusiness, forced the “Green Revolution” down the throats of farmers. The Green Revolution brought chemical fertilizer and pesticides/herbicides, along with patented seeds and other things into play.
Colonialism was also a major factor in destroying traditional farming methods as farmers were forced to switch to cash cropping from their usual subsistence agriculture. Cash cropping made them dependent on others for food and other things. This and the Green Revolution is what is responsible for the state of farming in Africa (and other places) today.
Now, I am glad that polyculture has been “discovered,” “rediscovered,” or “invented” and I am glad some farmers are switching to it. But, what they are really doing is going back to traditional farming methods.
Tags: Africa, agribusiness, cash crop, colonialism, conventional agriculture, green revolution, industrial agriculture, Maya, perenniation, polyculture, soil science, subsistence, sustainable, sustainable agriculture, USAID, USDA, Washington State University