Mass food production is a strategy developed over decades that has attempted to guarantee the availability of food for the world's population. However, to achieve high levels of production, agriculture has become mechanized and practices have been developed that damage the environment by exploiting natural resources (water), deteriorating and depleting the soil, and reducing the biodiversity of species.
Conventional agricultural practices include monoculture, which consists of dedicating the soil to the cultivation of a single species. Other such practices include the use of agrochemicals for pest control and soil fertilization, as well as the use of hybrid or genetically modified (transgenic) seeds. Despite this global context for massive food production, conventional agriculture has not met expectations for food security; moreover, the equitable distribution of food has not been achieved.
It is important to note that, in both developing and developed countries, family farming is the predominant form of food production. That is why the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has among its current goals to reposition this activity to promote a shift towards a more equitable and balanced development in production, oriented to the use of biodiversity to produce food sustainably, that is, through environmentally-friendly agricultural practices. In this sense, today a paradigm shift is essential to achieve food security in households, one of the alternatives being the production of organic food through the development of conservation agriculture.
Organic food production contributes to boosting primary production through the use of agroecological practices based on sustainable crop management, such as the application of organic compost for soil fertilization and the use of natural mulch with crop residues, the use of seeds adapted to the climatic conditions of the region, which favors the preservation of native species, and crop rotation or association for food diversification. Together, these agricultural practices contribute to integrated crop management.
The implementation of agroecological practices for organic food production does not harm other plant and animal species near the crop, but rather integrates them into the ecosystem, forming an ecological space that benefits production and favors biodiversity, allowing the conservation of native species. For example, the incorporation of allopathic or medicinal plants as associated crops can help control pests and plant diseases. This also increases the communities of beneficial microorganisms that live in the soil and contribute to plant growth.
Helps conserve the environment
Because agroecological practices consider organic food production, one of the benefits is the elimination of agrochemicals, which pollute the soil, water, and air. In addition, these chemicals are toxic to humans and contaminate food.
Healthy and nutritious products
A vision of food production under conservation agriculture, which includes the use of natural fertilizers to enrich the soil and the control of pests and diseases without the use of agrochemicals, makes it possible to obtain fresh and safe food. The consumption of these products favors a nutritious diet, as they are an option to replace the consumption of highly processed foods, which cause damage to health.
Contributes to the family economy
The production of organic food at home contributes to the family economy since these products will be incorporated into the diet, meaning savings in spending. It is also a strategy for reducing surpluses, which is a problem in conventional production, where surplus food production usually ends up destroyed in the field.
In Mexico, food security is a constitutional right, aimed at guaranteeing nutritious, sufficient, and quality food for the entire population. However, the percentage of the Mexican population with some degree of food insecurity is still critical. The production of organic food, using native seeds, such as corn, beans, vegetables, etc., under conservation agriculture through agroecological practices, is a system carried out in an ancestral way by small producers that can contribute to combating this food security lag in households. It is very important to mention that such agricultural practices allow the conservation of natural resources and the environment.
By Rosina Cabrera Ruiz, academic of the Center for Research in Food and Development.