Our Cultivators

Most who cultivate land or water resources do so because they prefer living with nature to living in cities. They observe the natural world on which they depend for their living. They think ahead because it is very much in their interests to use soil and water sustainably, and (as Habitat Heros) often wish to restore lost wildlife.


However, cultivators are much influenced by external factors. The weather, and hence changing climate, is one factor. The income and expenses, for example for fuel, for each type of cultivation are important too. Income depends substantially on how much markets pay for produce (including food, other materials and recreation). However, cultivators also need payment for public services from land, such as water regulation, storing carbon and maintaining nature’s riches. The income therefore depends partly on markets but also on the money that governments need to provide to maintain healthy ecosystems.


For planning their livelihoods, cultivators think in terms of units of land area. In particular how much income will come from each acre (or hectare). Our governments need to think of how these areas add up, to ensure that there are enough foods and services of different types for our society. We think of water easily, because we need to drink and not be flooded. We think of soil too rarely. We need governance that encourages our cultivators to use regenerative methods to restores damaged soil (and thus improve resilience to changing climate) and to work together on rebuilding the associated communities of species (and thus enable diversified incomes). Creation of farmer clusters may be a promising step, with 'grass-fed' certification another useful measure.


We also need to think about what we consume and what we ask of our governments, because the need is for a balance of different foods and services and not sudden shifts (see less meat 'yes', no meat 'no'). We need to be especially supportive of our cultivators, because our lives depend on them. Many of them are Habitat Heros.


Our Cultivation


Globally, about 29 million square kilometres of land are covered by glaciers or deserts and cannot be cultivated. Of the 100 million square kilometers which are more manageable, almost 1.5% is covered by fresh-water and a similar amount by human structures, together with 11% covered by shrub, 11% by food crops, 37% by forest and nearly 39% by livestock pastures and rangeland.


The UK is relatively densely populated, with the population of England slightly higher than Holland and 5 times the average for the world’s manageable area. In the UK, about 1% of that land is fresh water and 6% built upon, 13% is wooded and extent of moorland (mostly in the north) is similar, with a majority farmed (25% is arable and 35% grassland). High value for arable crops has already motivated ploughing of most grassland where tillage is practical.


If coupled with rapid transition to renewable energy, trees are a Nature-based Solution to help us become carbon negative and reduce global temperature again. However, trees absorb little carbon until they are quite big. Therefore, planting fast is important and also paying well for ‘standing-carbon’, or trees may be felled to make space for planting. Moreover, tree-planting should not reduce the 60% of our food currently cultivated in the UK


One of IUCN’s related sites has more about conservation benefits from farming activities, and also forestry, in other parts of Europe.