Sustainable agriculture is the successful management of resources for agriculture to satisfy changing human needs while maintaining or enhancing the quality of environment and conserving natural resources.
Sustainable agriculture is also known as eco farming (as ecological balance is important) or organic farming (as organic matter is the main source of nutrient management) or sometimes as natural farming or permaculture. Some other designated it as regenerative agriculture or alternative farming. Sustainable agriculture is a food and fiber production and distribution system that:
• Supports profitable production;
• Protects environmental quality;
• Uses natural resources efficiently;
• Provides consumers with affordable, high-quality products;
• Decreases dependency on nonrenewable resources;
• Enhances the quality of life for farmers and rural communities, and
• Will last for generations to come.
• Ecologically sound, which means that the quality of natural resources is maintained and the vitality of the entire agro-ecosystem from humans, crop and animals to soil organisms–is enhanced. This is best ensured when the soil is managed and the health of crops, animals and people is maintained through biological processes (self-regulation). Local resources are used in a way that minimizes losses of nutrients, biomass and energy, and avoids pollution. Emphasis is on the use of renewable resources.
• Economically viable, which means that farmers can produce enough for self-sufficiency and/or income, and gain sufficient returns to warrant the labour and costs involved. Economic viability is measured not only in terms of direct farm produce (yield) but also in terms of functions such as conserving resources and minimizes risks.
• Socially just, which means that resources and power are distributed in such a way that the basic needs of all members of society are met and their rights to land use, adequate capital, technical assistance and market opportunities are assured. All people have the opportunity to participate in decision-making, in the field and in the society. Social unrest can threaten the entire social system, including agriculture.
• Humane, which means that all forms of life (plant, animal, human) are respected. The fundamental dignity of all human being is recognized, and institutions incorporate such basic human values as trust, honesty, self-respect, cooperation and compassion. The cultural and spiritual integrity of the society is preserved and nurtured.
• Adaptable, which means that rural communities are capable of adjusting to the constantly changing conditions for farming, population growth, policies, market demand etc. This involves not only the development of new appropriate technologies but also innovations in social and cultural terms.
A farming system to be sustainable should have the capacity to endure indefinitely. Therefore the ultimate goal of sustainable agriculture is “to develop farming system that are: (a) productive, (b) profitable, (c) conserve the natural resource base, (d) protect the environment, and (e) enhance soil health and safety over a long term’. Hence, this can be referred as Eco-friendly Agriculture.