Mzansi, did you know that the production of crops and livestock plays a critical role in your health? You’ve got to eat, and production does not begin in your grocery aisles. On World Health Day celebrated on 7 April every year, Andrew Ardington from the Regenerative Agriculture Association of Southern Africa (RegenSA) unpacked the role of farmers on the health of humans.
As the world observed World Health Day last week on 7 April, a tradition since 1950 to commemorate the anniversary of the founding of the World Health Organization (WHO), all eyes landed on the agricultural sector and its direct link to human health.
According to Ardington the increase of chronic illnesses has much to do with what’s wrong in our nutrition. “The problem is that modern man believes that he can solve all problems with a technical solution, but food is not chemistry and physics. It is biological and complex.
“Leaving aside the dangerous chemicals we use to produce our food, we then process it to the degree that it is totally unrecognisable by anything other than chemical analysis,” Ardington says.
What’s the soil got to do with it?
The farm is where it all starts, says Ardington. He explains that because maize is largely considered a staple diet in South Africa, the method used to produce this commodity needs to be reviewed.
“Our maize is produced in soils that have been degraded by industrial agriculture from a carbon level of around 4% to current levels of around 0.4% – a 90% loss of carbon,” he says. “We need to change to regenerative maize production, improve the quality of food we produce and start healing the environment on our farms.”
He adds that already, extensive testing in the United States has produced evidence of a direct correlation between soil carbon levels and the nutrient density of foods.
Could this signify an end to industrial agriculture?
Food shortages are already a growing concern locally and globally. Food security at a household level is at criminal levels, in Ardington’s opinion, and this state was made significantly worse by lockdown.
Food insecurity is largely a function of economics rather than agriculture; a function of access rather than a lack of availability, he adds. “Every time the world has had to supply food aid to a region, the world has been able to do it. At a global level there has always been food available. The people who were starving just didn’t have access to it for political or economic reasons.”
Ardington is advocating that the world turns to regenerative agriculture for the sake of future food security. Because if we’re not careful, industrial agriculture will crash and lead to even more massive, global food shortages.
He explains that the current industrial method of agricultural production is based on the mining of resources – soil, fertility, water – and not farming those resources. “And we all know that mines have a limited lifespan.”