Foreword [Volume 19 No. 3 (2019)]

Can organic farming feed the world? This is a question posed by one of the authors in this issue (Kidane and Steven, 2019). It is a question many in the food, agriculture, and environment sectors, including myself, have pondered. Faced with alarming projections, for example, by 2030, the current world population of 7.6 billion people is expected to rise to 8.5 billion, with most (97%) of this growth happening in the developing world; rural to urban migration will increase and cities will be home to 60% of the world’s population; food demand is expected to rise by 2 billion more people, and (as) the world’s arable land decreases.

To meet this rising demand for food will require expanding the physical cultivation area or intensifying production in already existing farmland. Increasing yields per unit of land cultivated will involve heavy use of pesticides and chemical fertilizers. But what are the health and ecological trade-offs of using chemical fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides?

Recently in the news, lawsuits against agrochemical company Monsanto (recently bought by Bayer Company) have been brought forth by people who through occupational exposure to glyphosate (ROUNDUP) caused them to contract cancer. In rural sub-Saharan Africa, these chemicals are available for farmers to purchase without proper instruction on the application, or warning about adverse effects. Smallholders apply chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides indiscriminately, with little regard to the impact on their health, and the environment. In Kenya, there are rising cases of chronic ailments in various rural areas in the country. Renal failure and various cancers are on the rise. One wonders if these are adverse effects of toxins from years of chemical use in our farming lands. There is cause for concern, and we call on public health to investigate and advise.

So what alternatives exist for farmers in the developing world? Organic farming, regenerative agricultural practices such as agroecology, agroforestry, and permaculture are some recommended practices for restoration of arable land. A convergence of all stakeholders is required to raise awareness of the impact these chemicals have on health and environment, to disseminate alternative technologies and train farmers in alternative practices. The burden that the use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides places on human health and the environment is too serious to take lightly.

In this issue of AJFAND, we have 16 carefully reviewed papers. We congratulate the authors on their achievements, and to our voluntary reviewers, who are an important part of the process, we thank you immensely. AJFAND now participates in the Research4Life program- AGORA. As our profile continues to grow, we have an even greater onus to ensure high standards. We invite our authors, who feel so led, to become reviewers and contribute to bringing forth research from the global south.

Mary Njeri Karanu
Assisting Editor-in-Chief, AJFAND