A Development-Minded View of Earth Day 2014: Part 1

As this year’s Earth Day celebrations continue throughout the month, I’m reminded of the gap between those with #firstworldproblems and those who go to bed wondering about tomorrow’s meals. Earth Day has raised awareness of previously overlooked issues and is changing the way first-world populations live. However, we must remember that those living in constant need can have the greatest positive environmental impact. These are the smallholder farmers around the world.

Smallholders do not have to be the victims of our environmental failures – they can be the heroes.

When smallholders adopt sustainable farming techniques, they change the world. Not only do they help preserve natural resources, these decisions are  environmentally sound, so we thrive, not simply survive.

For example, Bangladeshi farmers using fertilizer deep placement, an environmentally sustainable fertilizer technology, have experienced a 284 percent gross margin increase over those farmers using traditional fertilizer techniques. Where once they only made $71 per hectare of land, many are making $273 per hectare.

Increasing local prosperity helps fuel national economies and encourages an entrepreneurial spirit. So many times, smallholders are treated as the victims. Instead we should emulate their resilience, their leadership and  their headstrong determination. Farmers are changing  their traditional farming techniques, both bettering themselves and the world around them. They’re certainly not simply victims of climate change – they’re our teachers and our heroes.

Stay tuned for Part 2, a story about a smallholder farmer protecting the environment and increasing income.

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