In this article, the term SSPS will be used both for agriculture and livestock production. SSPS is playing a crucial role in food production and biodiversity conservation throughout the world. In agriculture, SSPS is mainly comprised of the farmers holding less than 2 hectares of land. Such farmers usually depend on their local seed verities and use farmyard manure from their own animals waste for the fertility of their field crops. They do not use or rarely use pesticides and herbicides. They control pests with their own local/indigenous knowledge (IK), mainly comprised of biological control. They use their own skills for weeds control, as rotational cropping and grazing by the livestock, etc.
Small-scale livestock production is based on subsistence foundations. Such livestock keepers keep mostly their indigenous livestock breeds, as local breeds are well adapted to the ambient ecosystems (harsh and hostile). Local livestock breeds are resistant to many diseases and pests, like ticks and flies, etc. Indigenous livestock breeds (ILB) need very low inputs or even zero inputs for their production and survival. In many cases, small-scale livestock keepers are landless farmers. They rely on marginal lands for grazing of their livestock; such lands have no other use. The smallholding agriculture farmers are also holding small-scale livestock for food production, agricultural operations, and soil fertility.
Small-scale agricultural systems are more resilient to climate change and ensure biodiversity. Their production system is quite sociable and in concord with the biodiversity. In most cases, small-scale production is organic in nature and health-friendly. Traditional and indigenous cultures may be sources of agricultural knowledge useful for devising sustainable production systems. Small-scale producers, therefore, have an important role to play in achieving the Millennium Development Goals, especially MDG1.
Food security: Food is a very basic need and its security is the right of every individual on the globe. With a slight improvement this year but still the number of hungry people is around one billion. Food security is one of the major concerns of the present global scenario. Unfortunately, most of them are from developing countries. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are far away to achieve, especially SDG1 (eradication of extreme poverty and hunger).
The situation is even more worsening because of much sad state of situations, like land grabbing, factory farming, the struggle for gene control and climate change scenario, etc. In open market economies, multinational companies struggle to control genes and the political influence of the rich people combine to affect the small-scale production systems adversely. Small-scale production systems are the guarantee safe food for millions of people on the one hand and conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity on the other hand.
Biodiversity: Biodiversity conservation is linked to the question of food security. There is a very strong link between biodiversity and food security. More diversified the agroecosystems (life, soil, and landscape, etc) more the resilience of the community to climate change. Unfortunately, more than 90of the crop varieties have disappeared from farmers’ fields and half of the breeds of many domestic animals have been lost. The other flora and fauna, not documented and studied are even not recorded.
Unfortunately, the present high input unsustainable production systems are based on high inputs (pesticides, fossil oil, fertilizers, and antibiotics) and promote monoculture. Such a move is resulting in the ever high loss of biodiversity and eliminating SPSS at a high level. Because of the high demand for animal protein, a short-cut solution was adapted to cross the indigenous livestock breeds with the high-yielding exotic breeds. A very limited number of breeds/verities within a species were selected for food production resulted in the narrowing of the consumption of biodiversity in the food chain. Also, high selection intensities within these breeds/verities resulted in further narrowing the gene pole of the biodiversity. The genetic variation, comprised of components between and within breeds/verities, is now under threat because of such intensive selection. The dependency on the genetic resources for food is narrowing, making the food chain even more fragile.
Also, big ideas like dams, highly mechanized monoculture agricultural production (green revolution) resulted in a high level of environmental degradation and biodiversity loss. Such a dilemma resulted in minimizing the options for sustainable food production.
Conclusion: Small scale production system is very important for food security in the climate change context and conservation of biodiversity. Millions of people around the world are involved both in production and consumption through this system. Such a system is very much resilient to climate change and droughts. While using a very low or neglected quantity of fossil oil, they are mitigating climate change. The system is the custodian of the precious biodiversity of the agroecosystems, rich with biodiversity and in harmony with nature. Unfortunately, forces like, globalization, open market economies, gene control and industrialization/mechanization in agriculture are threatening this system. There is utmost need to characterize, document, visualize and prioritize this system both as a food security option and conservation of biodiversity. Also, it is the need of time to give the opportunity to play its role in the future food production systems.
To have a visual look at a very beautiful and successful small-scaled orchard farm in the Borai region of Balochistan, click on the link https://arkbiodiv.com/2018/07/16/the-farming-system-that-ensure-biodiversity-conservation/