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Four Ways Mexico’s Indigenous Farmers Are Practicing the Agriculture of the Future
1. Farm like a forest
Not accounting for land covered by water, desert, or ice, about half of the planet is dedicated to pasture and croplands, according to WRI’s study. And the continued expansion of agricultural land is driving biodiversity loss and ecosystem degradation. According to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, an increase in “cropping intensity” could avert the need to clear an additional 62 million hectares for crops by 2050. That’s an area about the size of France. In other words, farmers need to start growing different plants one after another on the same land, as well as growing them closer together at the same time, a practice known as intercropping.
2. Eat low on the food chain
Aside from the detrimental health effects of getting our protein from animal products, it’s also highly inefficient. Poultry is the most efficient conventional source of meat, and still only converts 11 percent of its feed energy into human food. Beef cows convert only 1 percent and are major contributors of greenhouse gases. Shifting toward plant and insect-based protein sources is part of the sustainable food solution.
3. Restore health to damaged land
Cropland can expand at low environmental cost if the encroached lands do not have much natural potential to store carbon or support biodiversity. The arid Mixteca region of Oaxaca meets these criteria and has been termed an “ecological disaster zone” by the World Bank. Soil erosion and depletion has damaged about one million acres of cropland, and corn productivity rates have plummeted to the lowest in Mexico.
4. Cultivate reverence for the planet
One essential element missing from the World Resource Institute’s otherwise thorough and brilliant “menu of solutions” for the global food crisis was the ethical perspective that co-evolved with best practices in environmental management. This ethic, known as convivencia,or “living together” with both our human and natural communities, is best summarized by Kiado Cruz, a Zapotec farmer from the Oaxacan town of Yagavila:
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