This Earth Day, think agriculture

Corn fingers

On April 22nd, 1970- the date of the first Earth Day– 20 million people marched for clean air, clean water and improved environmental protections. These actions were designed to draw public attention to the environmental agenda and move environmental issues up the priority list of policy makers. The question is: What will unite us this Earth Day? Today we are well aware of the pressures placed on the environment, and we have perhaps more data and more tools to communicate data than ever before. Launched this week, a new awareness tool, the Plant Doctor Game, aims to reach more people with information about one critical environmental movement- sustainable agriculture– and resources here to help.

When we think about the environment, we don’t usually picture orchards, pastures or fish farms. But in a world where two-thirds of planet’s land surface and 70 percent of the available water is used to produce food, agriculture is undoubtedly a good place to start considering environmental impact. Building a stronger link between environmentalism and agricultural production would benefit both natural resources and long-term food and job security. According to WWF, “Unsustainable agricultural and aquaculture practices present the greatest immediate threat to species and ecosystems around the world.” But besides the environmental footprint, agriculture is also the largest employer on earth, providing livelihoods for upwards of 2 billion, many of whom live in the world’s least developed regions and depend on agriculture to provide for their families. Given current trends, there will also be a need to produce more food – 60% more- by the time the population reaches an estimated 9 billion in 2050. How will we strike a balance between food production and environmental protection? The key is knowledge, and many answers for sustainable agriculture are available today. Not all knowledge for sustainable agriculture is new, but there are innovative approaches to bringing sustainable agriculture advice to more people worldwide, so that food can be produced without the environmental cost. There are even innovative ways, using technology and social media, to bring sustainable agriculture into the public eye.

This Earth Day, a new game app aims to do just that- providing a glimpse of what goes instgram_cover_landedon behind supermarket shelves to produce food sustainably. This includes introducing players to some of the everyday challenges of smallholder farmers, numbering over 500 million worldwide, and resources available to help. There are many organisations, from local farmer cooperatives to global development cooperations, connecting farmers to sustainable agriculture advice, and Plantwise, led by CABI, is one such programme. Farmers depend on healthy crops, and when their crops suffer from plant health issues, they need somewhere to turn for safe and sustainable solutions. Plant doctors, trained by Plantwise and partners, provide diagnosis of crop issues and recommendations to manage them, reducing crop losses over time. They support farmers to overcome plant health challenges in over 34 countries with the help of a global knowledge bank where everyone can find information to grow better. Now it’s your turn. Can you join a plant doctor in the field and help save the farmer’s crop?

Click to download and play Plant Doctor Game today. Share and tell us what you think.

Earth day is one opportunity to draw attention to factors affecting the environment, and the livelihoods around the world who depend on it. Building the link between farmers and sustainable agriculture advice is one way to weave food production and environment protection together for a more balanced future- the trick is to spread the word to others and start the discussion. This game app, developed by Plantwise and the Swiss Agency of Development and Cooperation (SDC) by Swiss Tomato will be debuted at the Swiss Pavilion for Expo Milano 2015 on May 1st. This will be an opportunity to talk about food, agriculture and the environment, not as separate issues, but as a united interest for everyone. Read more about Expo Milano 2015, the Swiss Pavilion and Plantwise here.

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