Civilization began with agriculture, our nomadic ancestors settled once they began to grow their own food. Agriculture refers to the production of goods through growing of plants, animals and other life forms on land. As of 2006, 45 percent of the world's population is employed in agriculture. However, the relative significance of farming has dropped since the beginning of industrialization. Even though agriculture employs one-third of the world's population, agricultural produce accounts for less than 5 percent of the gross world product.
Agriculture is important for not only providing food but also for providing raw materials for other industries like textile, sugar, jute, vegetable oil and tobacco. Besides being an occupation for people, agriculture is also a way of living. Most of the world's customs and culture revolve around agriculture. A number of festivals and holidays around the world are in conjunction with reaping or harvesting or any other aspect of farming. It increases the supply of food and tax revenue to the government. "Investable surplus" is generated which further can be expanded to other industries and provides foreign exchange.
Due to the apparent abundance of food owing to technologies for growing, transporting and storage; modern day human has overlooked the fundamental dependence on agriculture. Agriculture provides nutrition which is a key determinant of health; it alleviates poverty and individual livelihood. Some other benefits are:
o Water – agricultural crops are the largest users of fresh water. Forests maintain the groundwater we draw from for our everyday uses. Husbandry affects the health of coastal waters.
o Energy – wood is a major source of fuel and energy. Modern biomass plants are fast growing in most countries. These provide clean energy and also aid economic growth.
o Health – agriculture provides nutrition to humans. We cannot live on meat, milk and poultry for more than 2 days without consuming grains or vegetables or fruits. Imagine what lack of agriculture could do to us.
o Biodiversity – ecological balances are maintained, changed or destroyed by agriculture alone. These are critical to sustaining development and health of our planet.
o Climatic changes – reduced agricultural growth adversely affects climate. Extreme events and ecological dysfunction will ultimately affect our planet and the human race.
It is a vicious cycle where environmental degradation is affecting agricultural productivity and agricultural practices are affecting the environment. To conclude agriculture, agricultural science and technology aids in reducing hunger, improving livelihood and increasing economic growth.
Indigenous and local agricultural practices need to be used along with scientific research and developments. There should be a co-ordination of international scientific programs for enhancing agriculture and agricultural produce. Policies and technologies that are conducive to sustainable use of natural resources must be shared internationally. It is imperative to alleviate hunger and look for the causes of nutritional insecurity and degraded natural resources. Productivity of crops, livestock and fisheries need to increased in a socially and environmentally sustainable manner which is acceptable to both the farmers as well as the consumers. Agriculture is an important aspect of every society for its social, economic and environmental growth.