In agriculture, the idea of a circular economy revolves around the usage of waste from one agricultural process to another. It is a way to farm sustainably using indigenous knowledge, scientific advances, innovations, and new technologies. The ongoing linear economy’s “take-make-waste” approach can be replaced by it. Eventually, it will minimize inputs of agricultural production, close the nutrient loops and reduce negative impacts on the environment primarily by eliminating discharges of waste.

A major example of circular agricultural practices is wastewater management. About 70% of global freshwater is withdrawn for agriculture. In South Asia, the ratio is the highest i.e. 90%. For example, nutrient-rich wastewater from livestock can be safely used in pastures or plant production if properly managed or treated. On the other hand, return-flow irrigation channels back drainage and surplus irrigation to the network. Besides, farming models like organic farming, agro-forestry, and mixed-farming enable our farmers to use fewer agro-inputs, rely on organic inputs (which are often by-products of the circular model) and create employment through labor-intensive activities.

Moreover, bio-fertilizers and bio-energy products are examples of the circular agricultural economy that contributes further to a sustainable future. Precision agriculture can be an integral part of circular agriculture as it uses ‘the right amount, at the right time, in the right place’ approach for agro-inputs and controlling environmental components.

The circular agricultural economy can have a large-scale impact on sectors like food security, energy security, bio-security, and sustainable development. As a call for action, we can involve cooperatives, individuals, and private sector participants to get actively involved in circular economic activities like irrigation and wastewater management, mixed farming, renewable energy production like bio-gas, and, integrated poultry and fish farming, etc. more effectively. In addition, these activities will create more employment and income for the country due to their labor-intensive nature. Now we need to invest in technologies as well as research and strengthen institutions as well as incentives to foster a circular agricultural economy in our country.

Dr. F H Ansarey
ACI Agribusinesses Division

Photo Credit: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)