Hesperian Health Guides

Farming for Health and a Better Life

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HealthWiki > A Community Guide to Environmental Health > Chapter 15: Sustainable Farming > Farming for Health and a Better Life

Sustainable farming methods not only provide food, but they also build fertile soils, protect water, preserve valuable seeds, maintain biodiversity, and make sure the land will be able to sustain life for future generations. Using sustainable methods to grow food allows farmers and gardeners to grow more in less space, with few or no chemical pesticides and fertilizers. This can result in more and better food to eat and sell, less cost for producing food, and less pollution of the air, water, land, and our bodies. Sustainable farming improves people’s health because it:

  • reduces the threat of drought by conserving water.
  • reduces dependence on chemicals, saves money, and builds self-reliance. Farming without chemicals prevents the health problems chemicals cause for farmers, farm workers, and everyone who eats the food that is produced or drinks the local water.
  • decreases the amount of work needed to produce food when sustainable methods, such as green manures, are used. This is especially important when migration, HIV and AIDS, and other problems make it harder for people to work the land.

Sustainable farming makes the land more productive, so fewer people are forced to leave for the cities. Improving soil, conserving water, and saving seeds sustains farms and farming communities.

Principles of sustainable farming

Farmers in a maize field pause to talk.
The green manure we planted last season really helped the soil.
The maize plants grew bigger, with larger ears than ever before!
And there was less weeding to do because the field was covered in crops all year.

Sustainable farming works best when farmers learn how to work with local conditions, and share what they learn with other farmers. Some general guidelines for sustainable farming are: