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Eco-Agriculture: Distance Farmer Learning System

Category: Agriculture

Target Audience: B.Sc. Agriculture 1st year students

Objective: To provide worldwide knowledge and experiences in eco-agriculture systems to rural farmers and test farmer’s knowledge on aspects of eco-agriculture

Eco-agriculture describes landscapes that support both agricultural production and biodiversity conservation, working in harmony together to improve the livelihoods of rural communities. While many rural communities have independently practiced eco-agriculture for thousands of years, over the past century many of these landscapes have given way to segregated land use patterns, with some areas employing intensive farming practices without regard to biodiversity impacts, and other areas fenced off completely for habitat or watershed protection. A new eco-agriculture movement is now gaining momentum to unite land managers and other stakeholders from diverse environments to find compatible ways to conserve biodiversity while also enhancing agricultural production.

Biodiversity conservation: Degradation of soil, pollution of soil, water and air, the fragmentation of habitats and loss of wildlife can be the result of inappropriate agricultural practice

There are different concepts of sustainable agriculture, but none is generally accepted. It embraces several forms of non-conventional agriculture that are often called organic, alternative, ecological or low input. However, from economic and ecological perspectives, two basic criteria must be met if agriculture is to be sustainable in the long term. These are:

Sustainable farming uses some form of integrated pest management for pest control, and this can include the use of chemical pesticides that are not used by organic farmers. Thus, sustainable agriculture does not mean a return to the farming methods of the late 1800\s. It combines traditional techniques that stress conservation with modern technologies, such as improved seed, modern equipment for low-tillage practices, integrated pest management that relies heavily on biological control principles, and weed control that depends on crop rotations. Sustainable farms try to use wind or solar energy instead of purchased energy, and use organic animal manure and nitrogen-fixing legumes as green manure to maintain soil fertility, as much as possible, thereby minimizing the need to purchase inputs from outside the farm. The use of genetically engineered crop strains is certainly not excluded by sustainable farming. The emphasis is on maintaining the environment, not on rules about what can or cannot be done. Profits from sustainable farms can exceed those of conventional farms.

Innovative farmers have developed many alternative farming methods and systems. These systems consist of a wide variety of integrated practices and methods suited to the specific needs, limitations, resource bases and economic conditions of different farms. To make wider adoption possible, however, farmers need to receive information and technical assistance in developing new management skills.