For many farmers, sustainable land management practices are a way of life. It is a lifelong commitment to managing their natural resources – soil, plants and water – according to their inherent carrying and productive capacity.
By practicing good farming and conservation practices, farmers ensure that they do not over utilise or misuse these resources, and by doing that, they prevent land degradation from occurring. That is the main purpose of sustainable land management – to prevent land from degrading and to ensure long-term sustainable production and delivery of ecosystem goods and services.
Not practicing sustainable land management can yield poor rewards. For example, my grandfather used to plough the first cultivated fields on our farm with oxen up and down the slope. Over time the topsoil gradually washed away and today only a thin layer of topsoil remains on top of an eluviation layer; all the minerals and clay have been washed away over the years. These soon became marginal cultivated fields.
Fortunately, my father converted those marginal cultivated fields to planted pastures when he took over from my grandfather. In addition, as part of the sustainable land management plan for the farm, we started implementing sustainable agricultural practices, such as ensuring minimum tillage and adding cover crops to rebuild the soil biology and soil productivity on those fields.
Making a complex system work
Any farming operation is a complex system in which natural agricultural resources, labour, capital and entrepreneurship are combined through different farming operations to produce and market agricultural products and services.
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