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Editorial (September 2007)

Soils are essential to life on earth (WRENmedia)
Soils are essential to life on earth
WRENmedia

By the end of the century, the UN estimates that the world's population will reach 10 billion people. This increase is already exerting unprecedented pressure on agriculture and while towns and cities sprawl into the peripheries and encroach upon farmland, there is an ever-growing need to increase food production.

However, a population boom may not necessarily herald an era of even greater food insecurity and environmental destruction: there are many ways to promote sustainable farming practices in developing countries while simultaneously improving livelihoods and increasing productivity.

In Focus On we report from Nepal, Burkina Faso, the Congo Basin, Cambodia and Mexico on the use of a variety of non-timber forest products (NTFPs) and the effectiveness of sustainable forest management initiatives.

The need for effective environmental management is also an issue in the Caribbean nation of Haiti. Country profile looks at how agriculture has been affected and the myriad challenges that lie ahead.

Soil contamination and demineralisation plague farmers in many countries, with erosion and desertification threatening to swallow up once-productive farmland. The importance of soil is considered in Points of view, where we are given a closer look - through the eyes of the experts - at this often underrated, widely abused, yet vital natural resource.

The need to recognise the importance of soil is one way to appreciate our connectedness with the world around us. In Book reviews, "The Earth Only Endures" by Jules Pretty calls for a closer relationship with our surroundings in order to be truly content.

As always, we strive to bring you news of recent innovations. In Developments we look at how the humble weaver ant could be marching to the rescue of west African mango farmers, while there is growing concern across Africa that imminent changes to organic certification standards could be a snub to many of the continent's organic farmers who depend on exports to Europe.

Raffia producer group in Masquaroda village (FARM Africa)
Raffia producer group in Masquaroda village
FARM Africa

Airfreight remains an important way for developing countries to access foreign markets and this doesn't just apply to food. In Perspective, Zyta Soomar, of Longmore Flower Estates, explains how she has been sowing the seeds of success at her cut flowers business in South Africa.

News brief includes reports on the devastating floods in Asia and Africa, and the ongoing menace of avian flu. And this edition's In Pictures comes from northern Uganda where school children displaced by civil war are being trained in sustainable agriculture.

Whether you're a farmer, policymaker, researcher or simply have an interest in the role of agriculture in international and rural development, we hope New Agriculturist will give you a more than glimpse of some of the issues facing farmers in developing countries, and the wider world.

We also invite you to listen in to the podcast, providing an overview of this edition, as well as other audio files linked to featured articles. To pass on your comments or ideas, please email us through the links provided on the contact page.

Date published: September 2007

 

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