A Farmer’s Perspective: Justifying the Causes of Soil Degradation

A Farmer’s Perspective: Justifying the Causes of Soil Degradation

Soil as the Cradle of Life

Often undervalued and overlooked in our daily lives, soil is a hidden treasure beneath our feet. It is a vibrant ecosystem that sustains life on earth, but today it faces critical challenges. In this humanist call for sustainability, let us reflect on the importance of caring for soil and restoring harmony between humanity and nature.

In my opinion, modern agriculture is driven by money, producers act like puppets, they do what they are told, they use any chemical fertilizer, they produce a monoculture; that is not what agriculture should be for me; agriculture should be about producing healthy food so that the soil is regenerated, but that is not happening today
Gabe Brown
Farmer (United States)

Soil is where life begins and ends. It is an ever-changing ecosystem that is home to countless micro-organisms, including bacteria, fungi and earthworms that work together to break down organic matter and maintain soil health. Every square meter of soil contains more bacteria than there are people on the planet. This biodiversity is essential for soil fertility and food production.

From a farmer’s perspective, soil degradation is a complex issue that often arises from the practical challenges and demands of farming. In this article, we will explore the causes of soil degradation from a farmer’s perspective, highlighting the reasons and challenges they face when working the land.

  • Agricultural Intensification: Farmers often intensify their farming practices to meet the growing demand for food. The use of modern techniques such as monocultures, heavy use of pesticides and fertilizers and irrigation is seen as a necessary step to maximize crop yields and meet the needs of a growing population. Over time, however, these practices can lead to soil degradation. Farmers justify these practices by pointing to the need to increase production to feed a hungry world.
  • Land Conversion for Profit: Land conversion for purposes such as urbanization or industrial development can be financially rewarding for farmers. The sale of land for these purposes often results in a significant financial gain, which can help improve the livelihoods of farmers and their families. However, this conversion disrupts soil structure and reduces the amount of agricultural land available, ultimately contributing to soil degradation.
  • Deforestation for Economic Gains: In some cases, farmers engage in deforestation to clear land for agriculture. The promise of increased agricultural area and economic returns can be a powerful justification, even if it results in soil erosion and other forms of land degradation.
  • Overgrazing for Livestock Production: Livestock are an important part of many farmers’ livelihoods. Overgrazing, while detrimental to the land, is often seen as a necessary means of providing for the family or as a source of income. Farmers may justify overgrazing by pointing to the need for meat, milk and other livestock products in the marketplace.
  • Necessity of Water Resource Management: Farmers rely on irrigation systems to sustain their crops, especially in arid regions. While essential for agriculture, these systems can sometimes lead to soil salinization and waterlogging. Farmers justify these practices by stressing the need for consistent and reliable crop yields to support their livelihoods and communities.
  • Waste Disposal and Pollution Concerns: Farmers may argue that the waste produced on their farms, such as organic and chemical residues, is part of the agricultural cycle. Proper disposal or pollution control measures can be costly and time consuming. These concerns can lead to soil contamination, which is often seen as a by-product of necessary agricultural operations.
  • Climate Change Mitigation through Land Use Changes: Farmers may make land-use changes, such as switching to biofuel crops, to support climate change mitigation efforts. While these changes can have environmental benefits, they can also displace food crops and natural ecosystems, potentially affecting soil health.
  • Population Pressure and Survival: The pressure to meet the needs of a growing global population, including their own families, can sometimes lead farmers to push the limits of their land. They may argue that they are simply trying to survive and provide for their loved ones, often without immediate access to alternative sources of income.

Sustainable Agriculture as a Solution

To meet these challenges, we must adopt a humanistic perspective on the relationship between man and nature. We must understand that soil is an invaluable resource that sustains our existence. As a society, we must move away from indiscriminate exploitation and adopt sustainable agricultural practices.

And to achieve this goal, sustainable agriculture presents itself as a solution to these problems. Instead of seeing the soil as a mere production platform, we must see it as a living ecosystem that needs to be cared for and respected. Crop diversity, soil regeneration and quality over quantity are the pillars of this new approach to agriculture.

Through our NOVASOIL project we can help farmers and others in the primary sector to prevent and/or improve the health of their soil. Simply subscribe to our newsletter.


Understanding soil degradation from the perspective of farmers reveals the complex and difficult choices they face in their efforts to sustain their livelihoods and communities. While many of the causes of soil degradation are driven by practical needs and economic justifications, it is important to strike a balance that ensures both short-term needs and long-term soil health. Sustainable farming practices, good land management and support for farmers to adopt environmentally friendly methods can help combat soil degradation while meeting the needs of those who work the land.

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