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Opinion: Why traditional knowledge — not external tech — is the key to truly sustainable agriculture

Substituting organic “bio-inputs” for synthetic agrochemicals is still a one-size-fits-all, technology-focused solution, which means it won’t lead to sustainable agriculture

Illustration by Sean Quinn
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Don Cristobal, a farmer and community leader in Pacux, Guatemala, stands in a diversified parcel with trees and traditional milpa, an ancient polyculture system of corn, beans and squash, along with a host of other native edible plants. Photo courtesy of Nathan Einbinder
Native corn varieties such as those shown here are adaptable to drought and come from seeds that were passed down from this farmer’s parents and grandparents in Pacux, Guatemala. Photo courtesy of Nathan Einbinder
Sustainable agriculture relies on the use of local resources by local, small-scale family farmers. Here, a group of small-scale farmers teach sustainable low-impact and indigenous methods to other indigenous farmers in Guatemala. Photo courtesy of Nathan Einbinder
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Ensia is a solutions-focused nonprofit media outlet reporting on our changing planet.