Review of Footsteps 110: Farming for the Future

Climate changeCrop FarmingEnvironmental sustainabilityFood SecurityLivelihoodsLivestockSustainable agriculture

This feels like a timely edition of Footsteps magazine. And a great one to kick off the crucial decade ahead of us. The effects of climate change are being felt around the world. The cyclical realities of floods, droughts and soil degradation are making it very difficult for huge parts of the world to farm and feed themselves. This is a big problem on so many levels. And it takes a magazine like Footsteps to address some of these issues in an accessible and practical way.

A man prepares the land for planting new cocoa trees in the Ivory Coast. Photo: Tom Price

A helping hand

There is so much happening in the field of conservation agriculture. Footsteps 110 is a good starting point to navigate the new demands and changes happening in global farming. It is full of great advice on how to farm naturally using mixed farming systems. Its pages are filled with practitioners, experts and local people from different continents sharing their knowledge and experience in a helpful way. 

Rice is said to be the staple food of more than half the world’s population. An article by a partner in India looks at a low-input way of growing rice, and has tips on bringing water to crops in dry and barren land. It also lists the advantages of intercropping or growing crops in combination with each other. Another article promotes agroecology in north-east Brazil which takes a ‘nothing wasted’ approach to food production while restoring healthy ecosystems. A useful illustrated spread, which is easily pulled out of the magazine for reference, features the four key steps to success for farmer-managed natural regeneration. I’ve cut out the Golden Rules of Pruning to pin up in my own garden shed.

Find out how everything is connected in this short film on farmer-managed natural regeneration.

Footsteps 110 is a good starting point to navigate the new demands and changes happening in global farming.’

A woman carrying a jerrycan of water for irrigating crops in Mozambique. Photo: Kylie Scott

New ideas

Innovation is a key theme. Agriculture and Livelihoods Technical Adviser for Tearfund in East Africa Neil Rowe-Miller gives us a glimpse into the future in his excellent opening article. He outlines the need for more sustainable agricultural practices as well as the importance of trees and the key role of women as early adopters in agriculture. We hear about a new type of ranch in Colombia where cows are able to graze high-protein fodder trees and bushes. And there’s a simplified guide that explains step-by-step how to carry out an on-farm trial to test the suitability of implementing new technologies in a local context. The author is keen to stress that these farm trials allow farmers to experiment and find solutions to their own, specific problems.  

My favourite story of this new edition of Footsteps features an interview with a pioneering family in northern Thailand who took the unusual step of leaving the city with one main goal: ‘to grow all their own food and eat healthily’. Turn to the back page to find out how they got on.  

Meeting the challenge

On one level this is a sobering read. But it is also inspirational. I’m daunted by some of the challenges such as overpopulation and deforestation, but impressed by some of the benefits of natural farming for crop yields. And I’ve learnt a lot about the importance of trees and biodiverse soils to a healthy ecosystem. In the face of such a deadly serious challenge as climate change, I’m encouraged by the innovation in agricultural practices, and in humankind’s ability to adapt and re-establish some sort of balance and order in the natural world. 

Let us know which stories and issues interested you in the comments box below. 

You can read more about conservation agriculture and all the stories mentioned above in Footsteps 110.

Download a PDF version

Nick Wyke
Nick Wyke is the editor of the Tearfund Learn blog.