Farming with more crop diversity increases agricultural employment at a global scale

Photo Credit: Sveta Fedarava

At a time when unemployment threatens rural economies around the world, farms with more crop diversity offer more jobs. A recent study in the journal Ecological Economics has shown that across the globe, crop-diverse farms provide more employment opportunities than specialized, monoculture farming systems. In addition to supporting more jobs, increased crop diversity was also associated with better crop yield, creating a win-win for farmers who could then afford to hire more help. The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals aim to increase employment as well as crop diversity because crop-diverse farms are known to support important biodiversity both above and below ground. Indeed, national organic standards in the U.S. require farmers to use practices that maintain and increase biodiversity on the farm. This study examined whether there would be tradeoffs between crop diversity and employment by analyzing 15 years of agricultural and socio-economic data from 44 countries across all continents. The researchers found that instead of trade-offs, there was a positive correlation: farms with more crop diversity hired more people. The authors suggest that, since unemployment and the loss of biodiversity are major concerns all over the world, agricultural policies aimed to increase crop-diversity would serve both environmental and rural development goals simultaneously.