Keywords: agrarian change, coping strategies, cultivation, agricultural sustainability, sustainable development, Nigeria, developing countires, developed countries, social change, economic change, environmental change
Soils, souls and agricultural sustainability: the need for connection
Sustainability is a contested term, and has much in common with justice and liberty in meaning very different things to different people. Typically it is the vision of the developed North that has dominated. This paper describes some of the results of a long-term research project based in Kogi State, Nigeria, designed to explore agricultural sustainability, and in particular how a Northern-based focus on soil and production compares with local visions. The results suggest that local visions are flexible and complex, and are far more tightly embedded in social concerns than more technical approaches allow. Agricultural sustainability is but one concern amongst many, and will be compromised in the short term if deemed necessary. The paper ends by discussing the differences between such localised long-term and detailed studies with the use of sustainability indicators and indices designed to help guide research and intervention policy. It is argued that much of the work on agricultural sustainability has failed to explore the connections between relatively short-term and site-specific social and environmental change and longer-term/larger-scale implications.