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ABOUT N+FFS

ON NATURE-POSITIVE FARMING AND FOOD SYSTEMS (N+FFS)

Nature-Positive Farming and Food Systems (N+FFS) are broadly defined as those context-specific food, feed and fibre production systems that support biodiversity, rebuild the fertility of soils , protect freshwater supplies, store soil carbon, create employment, supply safe pesticide-free wholesome foods to nourish the globe, provide rural and indigenous peoples with rights and decent livelihoods and enhance climate resilience and social stability. N+FFS aim to meet the fundamental human right to healthy food globally while operating within planetary boundaries. The major departure from the ‘conventional farming and food systems’ is that N+FFS attempt to deliver net‐positive ecosystem benefits, while the former one has net-negative impacts. Nature‐positive food systems are characterized by a regenerative, non‐depleting, and non-destructive use of natural resources. They base biodiversity as the foundation of ecosystem services– particularly soil, water, and climate regulation – that farmers manipulate with external inputs and with human or mechanical forces. For terrestrial food production, healthy soil and clean water are the essential means to produce healthy food. Equally essential are pollinators, on which 70 % of the crops depend. These are the most critical indicators of success in producing nature‐positive outcomes.

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WHY N+FFS?

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India is simultaneously facing a pervasive agrarian crisis, environmental crisis and rising incidence of malnutrition. This is the case in many other countries. One of the important reasons for these issues is the net-negative impact of ‘conventional farming and food systems’ on natural resources. There has been a large-scale depletion of soil organic matter and consequently microbial activity, leading to stagnation of yield levels. Similarly, there has been a steady erosion of diversity in cropping systems across India, which reflects in the decline in dietary diversity. These changes have enhanced the risk of high disease and pest incidence. Groundwater extraction in nearly 40% of the sub-districts in India has reached unsafe levels and many of these districts are also facing a problem of severe water quality issues. Climate change related issues have affected the livelihood security of a large number of farmers and pose a serious threat. Widespread use of hazardous chemical pesticides has led to an emergence of pest resistance, secondary pests and pest resurgence, which have in turn resulted in significant crop losses and increase in cost of production.

 

There have been many reported cases of farmers and agricultural labourers who get exposed to pesticides suffering from dizziness, nausea, vomiting, skin cancer, and sometimes even death. Use of pesticides results in killing of non-target organisms including beneficial insects (like bees, an important group of pollinators), earthworms, soil microorganisms, birds, etc. While large sections of Indian population are still under-nourished and India has been falling behind many of the global nutrition targets (Global Nutrition Report 2020), the incidence of non-communicable diseases are on the rise. For example, diabetes has increased in every Indian state. Paradoxically, obesity is also on the rise. The disconnect between ‘agriculture’ and ‘food and nutrition’ has been widening. To address these formidable challenges, it is crucial to mainstream alternative agricultural development and food system approaches which are nature-positive and deliver on livelihoods enhancement and nutrition. Boosting N+FFS will be fundamental to putting the global society on a pathway to a more resilient future and sustainable well-being.

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PRINCIPLES & PRACTICES

N+FFS recognize the fact that health of soil, plants, animals, people, ecosystems, and, ultimately, the planet is one and indivisible. They also recognise that the biosphere provides the services for the life support on which social and economic development depends.  Social and economic development has to be built on a sustainable relationship with the ecological foundations of nature in a safe and just space for humanity with reference to planetary boundaries. The other underpinnings behind N+FFS are, i) adapting to the ecosystems instead of managing them with human being as part of the nature and ii) equality of beings instead of specism where humans are the most important. 

The management practices and production technology of the entire value chain must be linked to the objectives of improving and maintaining non‐commodity ecosystems services in productive agriculture. In nature‐positive production systems, the technologies used are consistent with the salient and contextual territorial, cultural and socio‐economic conditions, and are compatible with natural processes. N+FFS espouse a farm-to-plate integrated value chain approach to work closely with the organisations of smallholder farmers, food processors and other value chain actors in a region/territory to develop organised markets to deliver pesticide-free wholesome foods to a large number of consumers. N+FFS apply ecological principles and food safety principles at production and all other levels in the food chain like storage, aggregation, processing, handling, etc. until the produce reaches the end consumers. The major principles of N+FFS are,

 

  • Building soil health

  • Promoting biodiverse cropping systems

  • Ensuring food safety and integrity

  • Avoiding harmful synthetic chemical pesticides and minimising use of other chemicals across the value chain

  • Developing territorial value chain development for pesticide-free agricultural commodities 

  • Avoiding food losses

  • Empowering of smallholder farmers, indigenous communities and women

  • Being consistent with the salient features of local/regional/territorial food cultures

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BENEFITS 

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Adoption the N+FFS approach across agricultural value chains will improve the economy and wellbeing of the farming communities, save and better the environment, and enhance human health. Important benefits realised by the farming communities include, 

  • Increased awareness about crop ecosystems and the harmful effects of synthetic chemical pesticides and other harmful chemicals

  • Improved knowledge and skills on crop ecosystem management including pest management, nutrient management and water management

  • Increased diversity in the agro-ecosystem, including crop and varietal diversity and uncultivated flora and fauna

  • Shift to cropping systems less vulnerable to pests and diseases and drought, increased resilience to climate change impacts

  • Savings in irrigation water on a significant scale    

  • Significant increase in farm incomes through reduction in the cost of crop protection and realisation of additional farmgate prices

  • Increased consumption of safe and diverse foods, thereby improving the nutrition

  • Availability of pesticide-free fodder

  • Increased control over crop production and resilience 

  • Revitalisation of traditional knowledge, especially that of women

  • Improved occupational health, and 

  • Enhanced solidarity and collective action among the farmers 

The quantum of synthetic chemical pesticides and other harmful chemicals used will come down with a wider adoption of the N+FFS approach. This will result in an enhancement in the diversity of fauna and flora in the agroecosystems and in the wider environment. This will also lead to a reduction in the contamination of surface-water and ground-water bodies. With these, the non-commodified ecosystem services of agro-ecosystems like pollination, nutrient recycling, etc. can be revived and strengthened significantly. The increased availability of affordable pesticide-free safe foods will result in an increase in choice for consumers and more importantly ensure the right of citizens to foods that are safe, are free from pesticides, and are qualitatively adequate. In the long run, adoption of N+FFS approach on a landscape level across the agroclimatic territories/regions can aid in restoring agro-ecosystems, revalorising local/regional food systems, revitalising local economies and reversing climate change through increasing soil carbon stocks. Lastly, N+FFS can help solidify the agricultural base of heterogeneous rural settings, lower poverty vulnerability and ultimately contribute to stable, sustainable and equitable growth of agricultural and non-farm sectors.