March 29, 2022 | Tuesday
By the year 2050, an additional two billion people are projected to live on Earth. While demand for food will increase by more than 60%, today’s agricultural practices are not likely to handle the increased production of food needed to feed the entire population. Food production capacities need to improve everywhere, but not at the expense of the environment.
While agriculture is an important driver of Kosovo’s economic growth, most of the farms are small (less than 5 hectares) and farming is done primarily for subsistence purposes. In addition to the small farm size constraint, agricultural productivity in Kosovo is faced with numerous other challenges such as outdated technology, lack of agricultural extension services, and inability to export certain agricultural products (e.g., animal-source foods).
The primary goal of most subsistence farmers is to improve of yields and generate increased income. Unfortunately, many of Kosovo’s farmers struggle with inefficient production of crops and livestock that limits their income. These struggles are largely caused by the lack of access to modern genetic material (plant seeds and breeds of improved livestock) and to modern technical information that would assist farmers in shifting toward more sustainable and environmentally-friendly farming methods that would improve yields while also preserving (if not improving) the productivity of their most important natural resource – land.
Because of the small farm size in Kosovo, it is crucial to adopt sustainable farming methods (e.g., crop rotation, cover crops, buffer strips, integrated pest management) that encourage soil improvement and natural resource protection. Doing so will reduce farmers’ needs for inputs and thus operational costs for farmers. Drip irrigation, for example, is scarcely used in Kosovo, yet it is a highly efficient water conservation technique that should be practiced more. Crop rotation (planting different kinds of crops on the same parcel of land over time to replenish the soil) is another practice that needs to be more widely adopted. Farmers need to understand that depletion of nutrients from agricultural land will hurt them economically because of the damage done to the land.
There are various procedures/techniques that fall under the definition of “sustainable” agricultural methods. It is important to note that sustainable agriculture implies a dynamic system that integrates various levels of production, and reducing use of pesticides, for example, does not mean that a farmer is producing sustainably. Kosovo needs to adopt policies and incentives that help farmers develop sustainable methods, and in the process preserve our natural resources, improve rural incomes, and enhance national food security. When we promote rural economic development, we are lifting many out of poverty as well as promoting ethnic and gender equity and long-term economic viability of our country.
Writes: Albulena Basha – MS in Economics and Sustainable Agriculture, Iowa State University