Agriculture’s role in unravelling the Paradox of Plenty

The recent Oxford Farming Conference Bitesize webinar brought together speakers from across the world to unravel the Paradox of Plenty, a theme first debated at the 1984 Conference when the idea emerged that countries rich in natural resources, experience less economic growth.

Held on Thursday, October 1, the webinar was chaired by Sarah Mukherjee, OFC director and chief executive of IEMA.

Sarah set the scene reflecting on why farmers appear to be making very little money from the goods and services they produce:

Why is it that we can spend a ‘fiver’ for a coffee in London, but the dairy farmer and coffee farmer that make up the essential part of that coffee are struggling to pay the rent?

Tasked with helping the audience find the answers to these questions, by drawing on their wealth of international knowledge and experience, were speakers Chandrashekhar Bhadsavle, a farmer in India; Daniel McGahey, senior environmental and social scientist at Earth Systems; and Konrad Brits, chief executive at Falcon Coffees Limited.

The paradox of farming

Chandrashekhar, a farmer from India, is passionate about helping local farmers – where an enterprise can be as small as 1ac – employ regenerative agricultural techniques to improve soil health.

This paradox implies that the bumper crop harvest by the farmer brings less profit. But, in our modern situation, there are other negative issues attached to the objective of harvesting plenty, with bumper profits.

“The land and the soil, where most of our food is produced, has started dying. This death of soil is due to over exploitation and greed to produce plenty. We can reverse this, through no-till, regenerative agriculture,” said Chandrashekar.

Chandrashekhar is also aware of the role that agri-tourism can play to not only draw in more young people into the industry but re-instate dignity to farmers.

“Young people are not interested in coming into this industry. They’re losing interest because it’s monotonous, it’s less remunerative and, most importantly, there is no dignity in doing this work.

“Agritourism is important to fix this with farmers sharing their knowledge and feeling a sense of pride in their work,” he concluded.