From an array of stand points, perspectives and ideologies, some people view farmers and environmentalists simply as one, while others are able to visualise the differences between the two stables and some do not see any difference at all, but some will see all of the above as one.
Guest column with Peter Makwanya
Of course, some would say, the difference is the same or there is no difference, whatever that means. But for farmers to be able to survive, they need the environment, while the environment needs farmers to work on it.
In this regard, a simple and general working definition of the two discourses would help to enlighten us on what the farmer and environmentalist stand for. An environmentalist would make efforts that contribute toward goals or work for businesses and organisations that enhance environmental efforts towards the conservation of natural resources.
A farmer’s primary function involves livestock or agriculture. Some farmers specialise in crop production, others specialise in livestock rearing while some do both.
As these two practices appear different from the point of view of many, they should not be entirely divorced from each other, as they influence each other in many respects. Environmentalists should be able to see sustainability in the eyes of the farmers and vice-versa. But the major question that always keep probing is: what are those things that link farmers with environmentalists? In their collaborative practices, environmentalist and farmers need to reach out to each other sustainably and in good faith too.
Farmers are always called upon to implement sustainable agricultural practices that are aimed at environmental protection. When the environment is not protected there won’t be fertile soils, infrastructure like dams, roads and buildings, as well as healthy livestock and above all resilience to talk about. Good agricultural yields always come from the well-administered and good-nurtured environment. Food production processes and practices need not destroy the environment or damage the natural ecosystems. Even the language that the farmers speak, should not always encourage the habits that harm the environment. How the farmers and environmentalists interact should always uphold the relationship between language and the environment.
What the farmers communicate should help to shape the people’s views on the environment as well as incorporating the natural environment. Human supply life-lines like water ways, rivers and streams should not be polluted and it is the duty of environmentalists to take care of that, through sufficiently conscientising farmers about the dangers of discharging agricultural chemicals and waste into the natural ecosystems. This include the reduction of agricultural greenhouse gases which contribute to global warming. This is significant in fostering resilience against extreme climatic conditions.
Farmers should not hide behind the natural changes in the environment so as to continue polluting the environment while environmentalists should not always blame farmers for environmental damage, without proper education and awareness on their part.
Farmers still have to protect their farms against the consequences of the environmental damage, so they need empowering knowledge and information from the environmentalists to enable them to plan for the future.
Issues of flooding, soil erosion, low or heavier rainfall patterns are natural phenomena, hence farmers and environmentalists, as important stakeholders that they are, should fight against these together.
In farming, the environmental motto is adaptation and resilience not adoption of new farming methods and resistance to change, while in environment it is about protection and conservation, all contributing to environmental sustainability. Farmers also want to visualise only the environmentalists saving the environment yet they are equally important stakeholders as well. Biodiversity conservation should not be the total responsibility of environmentalists, while farmers are busy destroying flora and fauna. Every stakeholder in the conservation discourse should be made aware that biodiversity protection is the basis for social and economic development.
Environmentalists and farmers need to share the same aspirations with regards to organic farming which does not harm the natural ecosystems. Together, they need to increase education and awareness of the merits of organic farming.
Environmentalists sometimes clash with farmers on the question of practising agricultural activities in environmentally protected areas and it is the farmers’ responsibility to seek adequate knowledge on the practising of agricultural activities in protected areas like game parks, heritage sites and wetlands.
Finally, farmers and environmentalists should be seen to be encouraging efforts of building on local and indigenous knowledge systems as well as how they can be integrated in both agricultural and environmental activities for total resilience.
Peter Makwanya is a climate change communicator. He writes in his own capacity and can be contacted on: firstname.lastname@example.org