Even though agriculture has made great progress in feeding the ever-increasing population, still it faces serious problems and challenges. Some of these challenges such as food production to feed the undernourished and increasing demand for poverty alleviation have been with us for a long time and will continue to be in foreseeable future. Food production will have to increase, and this will have to come mainly from existing farmland. Many predictions are gloomy indicating that gap between demand and production will grow. Population growth, urbanization, and income growth in developing countries are fueling a massive global increase in demand for food.
Sustainability, climate change, and replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy are relatively new challenges for agriculture. Overuse and inappropriate use of agrochemicals have led to contamination of water, loss of genetic diversity, and deterioration of soil quality (Rasul and Thapa 2003). Sustainability is not only a challenge in itself, but also a new worldview, a paradigm, which has changed our understanding of agriculture. This new paradigm seriously questions our conventional ways of solving agricultural problems and challenges. High external input or "modern agriculture," which once was the promising approach to agricultural production, is now considered to be unsustainable. There is consensus that modern agriculture has diminished the importance of farming as a way of life, and creates certain problems such as ecological degradation (Alhamidi et al. 2003). There is also a growing skepticism about the ability of modern agriculture to increase productivity in order to meet future demand. Sustainable agriculture as a concept has emerged to address the challenges that are facing modern agriculture (Karami 1995).
Some researchers define sustainable agriculture primarily as a technical process. Altieri (1989) defined sustainable agriculture as a system, which should aim to maintain production in the long run without degrading the resources base, by using low-input technologies that improve soil fertility, by maximizing recycling, enhancing biological pest control, diversifying production, and so on. The technological and to a lesser extent economic dimensions of sustainable agriculture have tended to be privileged while the social dimension has been neglected. As a result sustainable agricultural has suffered from limited adoption. This paper argues that the way out of current crisis of promoting sustainable agriculture is to shift our perception from a technocratic approach to a social negotiation process that reflects the social circumstances and the power conditions in a specific region at a specific time (Blaschke et al. 2004). If one accepts the argument that the concept of sustainability is a "social construct" (Webster 1999) and is yet to be made operational (Webster 1997; Rasul and Thapa 2003), then sociology has a great deal to offer toward achieving agricultural sustainability. Understanding what agriculture and sustainable agriculture are, is a prerequisite to understand the sociology of sustainable agriculture.
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