Submitted to: Dynamic Cropping Systems: Principles, Processes and Challenges
Publication Type: Other
Publication Acceptance Date: August 7, 2003
Publication Date: August 7, 2003
Citation: JARADAT, A.A., ARCHER, D.W. CHARACTERISTICS AND HIERARCHY OF CONSTRAINTS TO SYSTEM SUSTAINABILITY AND PRODUCTIVITY IN FARMING SYSTEMS OF THE MEDITERRANEAN REGION. PROCEEDINGS OF DYNAMIC CROPPING SYSTEMS: PRINCIPLES, PROCESSES AND CHALLENGES. 2003. P. 285. Interpretive Summary: Sedentary agriculture has been the mainstay of life for the vast majority of people around the Mediterranean, especially in West Asia and North Africa (WANA). Farmers in this region have been innovative in devising ways and manipulating difficult environments within the constraints imposed by soils and climates. For thousands of years, they developed diverse farming systems to optimally and sustainably utilize natural resources. However, more recently, the traditional methods of coping with the risks and hazards, especially, of dryland agriculture are breaking down under population pressure, while modern technology has not yet produced acceptable alternative for subsistence farmers. In view of the poor level of agricultural production, the region has been unable to keep pace with the growing internal demand for food and feed. Eight major farming systems have been identified and broadly delimited. A full understanding of their characteristics and constraints to their sustainability would help planners, policy makers and extension agents to develop and implement appropriate resource management strategies.
Technical Abstract: The sustainable farming systems which developed over more than 3,000 years around the Mediterranean, especially in West Asia and North Africa (WANA), were based on a delicate balance between annual crops and livestock, tree crop plantations and utilization of rangelands, cereals and grazed fallow. These farming systems are the outcome of centuries of ecological experimentation and adaptation, and represent the best efforts of farmers to manage the resources of this semiarid environment. For centuries, farmers in WANA optimized the biological efficiency of a set of diverse farming systems, managed soils to conserve moisture and fertility, and integrated crops and livestock production. However, more recently, the region has become the largest food-importing in the developing world due to rapidly growing population, at a time of sluggish growth in agricultural production and a deteriorating natural resource base. Traditional farming systems are disappearing as a consequence of misuse of the limited land resources, the expansion of cultivated agriculture to the marginal areas, overstocking of rangelands and destruction of forests. Furthermore, traditional systems of land tenure and land fragmentation discouraged tree crops and pasture planting, as well as the adoption of soil conservation and range management practices. Characteristics and hierarchy of constraints to system sustainability and productivity in the key farming systems will be presented.