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You are here: Home Resources Learning AgriCultures Glossary for the whole series

Glossary for the whole series

last modified Feb 12, 2015 12:12 PM
Definitions for difficult terms for the whole Learning AgriCultures series.



Acidic soils: The degree of acidity (or "sourness") in the soil, is expressed as a number within a pH scale, running from 0 to 14. pH is the concentration of hydrogen (H) ions -- the more hydrogen ions there are, the more acid the soil is. Below 7 is considered to be acidic while above 7 is alkaline. Although plants prefer different levels of pH, if a soil is too acidic it, plants cannot take up nutrients such as N, P and K. Most nutrients that plants need are readily available when the pH of the soil solution ranges from 6.0 to 7.5. (Source: Acid or Alkaline? What pH means in gardenspeak, at - blog by Marion Owen).

Agricultural involution: increasing productivity in terms of output per area (land productivity) but not increasing labour productivity (output per labourer).

Agrobiodiversity: The variety and variability of animals, plants and micro-organisms that are used directly or indirectly for food and agriculture, including crops, livestock, forestry and fisheries. It comprises the diversity of genetic resources (varieties, breeds) and species used for food, fodder, fibre, fuel and pharmaceuticals. It also includes the diversity of non-harvested species that support production (soil micro-organisms, predators, pollinators), and those in the wider environment that support agro-ecosystems (agricultural, pastoral, forest and aquatic) as well as the diversity of agroecosystems (FAO, 1999).

Agroecology: The term agroecologia originates from Latin America, and refers to the holistic study of agroecosystems, including environmental and human elements. Its goal is to integrate components so that biological efficiency is improved, biodiversity is preserved and the agroecosystem productivity and its self-regulating capacity are maintained. This term is used in Latin America for what the rest of the world refers to as organic agriculture – in Latin America, organic agriculture is specifically linked to a particular system of certification. (For more information and literature links, see the Agroecology in Action website at:

Agro-ecosystem: Agro-ecosystems are about the interactions between all living and non-living components at farm level and in the surrounding landscape.

Agroforestry: This basically refers to "trees on farm". It is the collective name for land-management systems that optimise the economic and ecological benefits created when trees and/or shrubs are integrated with crops and/or livestock. (For more information and links to resources, see the website for the World Agroforestry Centre, at: Also see LEISA Magazine issue on Trees and Farmers (1990))

Agrofuels: See Biofuels.

Agro-industry: Industrial sector that processes agricultural products

Alkaline soils: The degree of alkalinity (or “sweetness”) in the soil, is expressed as a number within a pH scale, running from 0 to 14. pH is the concentration of hydrogen (H) ions -- the less hydrogen ions there are, the more alkaline the soil is. Above 7 is considered to be alkaline while below 7 is acid. Although plants prefer different levels of pH, if a soil is too alkaline, nutrients such as iron (Fe), manganese (Mg), and phosphorus (P) are less available. Most nutrients that plants need are readily available when the pH of the soil solution ranges from 6.0 to 7.5. (Source: Acid or Alkaline? What pH means in gardenspeak, at - blog by Marion Owen).

Amino acids: building blocks for proteins.

Aquifers: an underground layer of water-bearing permeable rock or unconsolidated materials (gravel, sand, silt or clay) from which groundwater can be usefully extracted.

Arbuscules: these are formed by arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi, and look similar to minute sea anemones because they have many small projections that extend inside the plant cells. They are formed by repeated branching of a hypha when it enters a cell. They are the places where the plant and the fungus exchange food and nutrients with each other. (from

Ave: class of animals that are referred to as “true birds”, including domesticated poultry.


Biodiversity (or Biological diversity): the variation of life forms within a given ecosystem, biome or for the whole planet. It exists at three main levels: 1. the combinations of species that make up different ecosystems; 2. the number of different species; and 3. the different combinations of genes in species (adapted from Bioversity

Biodynamic (BD) agriculture: Based on a series of lectures and conversations with Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner, this approach to agriculture relates the ecology of the earth-organism to that of the entire cosmos. The farm is seen as a "living organism" and an important core concept is the necessity to take care of the living soil. (For more information and linked resources, see the website of the Biodynamic Farming and Gardening Association in North America, at:

Bioenergy: Energy derived from biomass-based fuels. Many processes are available for producing bioenergy. These range from conventional (direct) uses of biomass such as burning of sticks and branches to generate energy for cooking and heating, to modern (indirect) production processes involved in biofuels (see definition below), such as converting sugar and starch crops to ethanol to even more advanced technologies such as gasification of wood chips for transport fuel production (FAO).

Biofuel: solid, liquid or gaseous fuel obtained from relatively recently lifeless biological material (biomass) and is different from fossil fuels, which are derived from biological material that has been dead for a long time. Biofuels based on plants can be produced in two main ways: one is to grow crops high in sugar (e.g. sugar cane, sweet sorghum) or starch (maize), to be fermented to produce ethyl alcohol (ethanol); the second is to grow plants that contain high amounts of vegetable oil (e.g. oil palm, soybean, jatropha). Heating these oils allows them to be burned directly in a diesel engine, or they can be chemically processed to produce fuels such as biodiesel.

typically refers to a gas produced by the biological breakdown of organic matter in the absence of oxygen. Biogas is a type of biofuel.

Bio-intensive agriculture: A sustainable 8-step food-raising method know as "Grow Biointensive" which focuses on maximum yields from the minimum area of land, while simultaneously improving the soil. This method was developed by John Jeavons and includes double dug raised beds, intensive planting, composting, and companion planting. (For more information and links to resources, see Ecology Action website, at:

Biotechnology: "any technological application that uses biological systems, living organisms, or derivatives thereof, to make or modify products for specific use" (Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity, 1992). This definition refers to medical and industrial applications as well as many of the tools and techniques used in agriculture and food production.

This animal subfamily includes a diverse group of 10 genera of medium- to large-sized ungulates, including domestic cattle, buffalo and yaks. General characteristics include cloven hoofs and usually at least one of the sexes of a species having "true horns".

Breed: a group of animals that has a unique combination of genes, and is often physically similar. However, breeds are cultural concepts that differ from country to country which makes it sometimes difficult to characterise them. The term “breed” is usually used when discussing animal genetic diversity. The currently accepted classification system of breeds distinguishes between “local” (breeds that occur within one country only) or "transboundary" breeds (breeds that are found in several countries, and that are generally bred for a single product for the market, based on the use of high levels of modern inputs and technologies).


Capital: To keep the discussion simple, our Farming systems model refers to capital as money or things that farmers own that can be converted into money. However, capital is now more often defined in terms of the "Five capitals" (human, natural, social, financial and physical or manufactured) also referred to in the Sustainable Livelihoods Framework.

Carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies: As its name implies, CCS has to do with technologies that capture carbon dioxide and store it in such a way that it cannot be released into the atmosphere.

Carrying capacity: refers to the number of individuals who can be supported in a given area within natural resource limits, and without degrading the natural social, cultural and economic environment for present and future generations. The carrying capacity for any given area is not fixed. It can be altered by improved technology, but mostly it is changed for the worse by pressures which accompany a population increase. As the environment is degraded, carrying capacity actually shrinks, leaving the environment no longer able to support even the number of people who could formerly have lived in the area on a sustainable basis. No population can live beyond the environment's carrying capacity for very long (definition from Urban Environmental Management webpage on Ecological Footprints).

Cash crop: a commercial crop as opposed to a subsistence crop, which is used for the family’s own consumption needs.

Catchment: see definition for "watershed".

Cellulose: main component of the primary cell wall of green plants

Civil society: includes all actors in the public domain (except the government and the military) grouped together. Examples are networks and groups such as farmers' organisations, associations, non-governmental organisations and unions, etc. By forming farmers' organisations, whether they are co-operatives, unions or associations, (small-scale) farmers can influence policies and governance in their countries by entering into civil society platforms. Having a strong civil society is an important part of working towards good governance in our countries - to get farmers' rights, needs and concerns addressed by those in power.

Climate change: otherwise known as "Global Warming" or the "Greenhouse Effect", this is based on consistent observations that the earth is warming up: global temperatures are rising much more quickly than normal, snow and ice is melting, and the global average level of the sea is rising. Because of global warming, more frequent and intense heat waves, storms, flooding and drought are projected around the world. This has a great impact on the further loss of biodiversity and degradation of land, soil, forest, freshwater and oceans (see LEISA Magazine "Dealing with climate change" Volume 24 no.3).

Collateral: proof of security in obtaining a loan - for small-scale farmers this is a problem as it involves needing to hold capital in their farms (e.g. land, machinery, cattle) or that someone outside the household be willing to provide the security for the farmer.

Commodity: an economic term, referring to a good for which there is demand that but which is equivalent no matter who produces it. Commodities are basic resources (e.g. iron ore, crude oil, copper, gold and aluminum) and agricultural products (e.g. salt, sugar, coffee beans, soyabeans, wheat, rice).

Commensalism: the symbiotic relationship where one organism benefits and the other is unaffected. An example is found in spiders that benefit from plant leaves in spinning a web on them, while the plant remains unharmed by the presence of the spider.

Common pool resources: the broad diversity of collectively inherited or produced resources (and resource systems) which citizens have a political and moral interest in controlling and managing within their communities. These resources can be natural (e.g. groundwater, surface water, oceans, mineral resources, genes the atmosphere), social or cultural (e.g. traditional know-how and practices, seeds and herbs). A common pool resource is based on a number of ideal principles: fair access, equitably shared benefits, mutual responsibility for preserving the resources, and democratic and transparent decision-making. It is also referred to as "common property" or simply "the commons".

Companion planting: see Inter-cropping.

Competition: an association between two organisms in which both become harmed. An example is when plants compete for water and nutrients, but survive in weakened states as both have too little of the resources they need for good growth.

Complementarity: relates to different elements helping other to grow better (e.g. when one crop provides protection against pests, or increase the availability of nutrients, for another crop - these can be planted close together to enhance the beneficial elements).

Concession: a business operated under a contract or license associated with a degree of exclusivity in business within a certain geographical area. The owner of the concession either pays a fixed sum or a percentage of revenue to the entity with the ability to assign exclusive rights for an area or facility. Examples of concessions include deforestation companies, mining companies - or sports arenas or public parks with concession stands. Public services such as water supply may also be operated as concessions.

Conservation agriculture: (also known as Conservation farming OR Conservation tillage): This is a concept for resource-saving agricultural product ion that strives to achieve acceptable profits together with high and sustained productions levels while conserving the environment. It is based on enhancing natural biological processes above and below ground. It centres around three principles: 1. Continuous minimum mechanical soil disturbance; 2. Permanent organic soil cover; and 3. Diversified crop rotations in the case of annual crops or plant associations in case of perennial crops. The movement comes from large-scale farming in North and South America, New Zealand and Australia – but has been widely adapted for small-scale farms around the world, including in Africa. (For further information, see: and also special focus on CA in LEISA Magazine edition on Recreating Living Soils (2002)).

Contract farming: refers to production carried out according to an agreement between a buyer and farmers, which establishes conditions for the production and marketing of a farm product or products. Typically, the farmer agrees to provide established quantities of a specific agricultural product, meeting the quality standards and delivery schedule set by the purchaser. In turn, the buyer commits to purchase the product, often at a pre-determined price. In some cases the buyer also commits to support production through, for example, supplying farm inputs, land preparation, providing technical advice and arranging transport of produce to the buyer’s premises. (from Wikipedia)

Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD): Under the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the CBD entered into force on 29 December 1993. Signed by 192 countries, its three objectives relate to the development of national strategies for the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity, to: 1. conserve biological diversity; 2. use biological diversity in a sustainable fashion; and 3. share the benefits of biological diversity fairly and equitably (for more details, go to

Corporate Social Responsibility (or CSR): functions as a built-in, self-regulating mechanism whereby business monitors and ensures its active compliance with the spirit of the law, ethical standards, and international norms. CSR is the deliberate inclusion of public interest into corporate decision-making, and going beyond only looking at financial gains, to honour a "triple bottom line": people, planet and profit.

COSP: Cost of sustainable production – indicator for Fair Trade.

Cover crops: a low-growing crop that is planted for different purposes, to: keep the ground covered to avoid soil erosion; to increase soil fertility (usually through the use of "green manures" or legumes that fix nitrogen); control weeds. The selection of the type of cover crop also includes considerations of whether the crop can lead to food, fodder or a cash crop.

Credit: Simply stated, this is a loan that must be paid back within a certain amount of time. Usually credit involves having to pay an amount of interest on top of the loan.

Crop rotation: This practice involves the mixing of crops in the same place, but in sequence, over time. Crop rotation builds up synergies and complementarities by alternating crops according to families. It does this to avoid the buildup of pathogens and pests that often occurs when a single species is continuously cropped; to avoid excessive depletion of particular soil nutrients, planting crops that have different fertility demands and contributions in sequence will help to balance soil nutrients; and to improve soil structure by alternating deep-rooted and shallow-rooted plants.

Cross-breed: an animal with parents of two different breeds, varieties, or populations. Cross-breeding is done to produce offspring with shared traits or to maintain health and viability of animals. Irresponsible cross-breeding can also produce animals of inferior quality or dilute the gene pool of a pure breed to the point of extinction.

Cultivar: a cultivated variety of a plant that has been deliberately selected for specific desirable characteristics (such as the colour and form of the flower, yield of the crop, disease resistance etc.), that will be retained when propagated correctly.

Cut-and-carry feeding: See "Zero-grazing" below.


Derivative: a financial instrument (or, more simply, an agreement between two parties) that has a value, based on the expected future price movements of the asset to which it is linked, such as a share or a currency. A derivative is not a stand-alone asset, since it has no value of its own. However, more common types of derivatives have been traded on markets before their expiration date as if they were assets. Among the oldest of these are rice futures, which have been traded on the Dojima Rice Exchange (in Japan) since the eighteenth century.

Desertification: persistent degradation of land in dry regions because of climatic variations and human activities.

Diversification: in terms of income, this refers to the situation of having a number of different income sources in order to decrease risks of depending on only one source; in terms of diversification in farming, it also refers to spreading risks by having a number of different strategies and products in the farming system.

Diversity: essentially, this refers to differences; in farming this relates to different elements (e.g. crop or livestock varieties) performing the same function. See also definition for biodiversity above. (See LEISA Magazine "Farming diversity" March 2009 Vol 25 no.1)

Documentation: see “Systematisation”.

Double-cropping: a second crop is planted immediately after the first has been harvested; this differs from Relay cropping (see below) in timing of the second planting.


Ecoagriculture: a concept coined by Sara Scherr and Jeffrey McNeely in a report that includes three pillars (1. Enhance rural lively hoods; 2. Conserve or enhance biodiversity and ecosystem services; and 3. Develop more sustainable and productive agricultural systems). It calls for agriculture to be looked at from the landscape scale rather than at individual farm level, in order to be able to become sustainable. (For more information and links to resources, see the Ecoagriculture website at:

Ecological footprint: a measure of human demand on the Earth's resources and ecosystems. It compares human demand with the capacity for the planet to regenerate the ecological resources used.

Ecology: the study of how organisms interact with each other and with the environment.

Ecosystem: a dynamic complex of plants, animals and micro-organism communities and their non-living environment interacting as a functional unit in a certain place (from Convention on Biological Diversity). Ecosystems make up big natural systems such as grasslands, mangroves, coral reefs and tropical forests, but also agro-ecosystems, which are highly dependent on human activities for their existence and maintenance.

El Niño: a situation when the the physical relationships between wind, tropical Pacific ocean currents and temperature create destructive patterns that influence weather around the world. Among its consequences are increased rainfall across the southern tier of the US and in Peru, which has caused destructive flooding, and drought in the West Pacific, sometimes associated with devastating brush fires in Australia. This occurs every three to seven years during the months of December and January. South American fishermen have given this phenomenon the name El Niño, which is Spanish for "the boy child," because it comes around Christmas celebrations. (For more information, see:

Endemic disease: a disease has reached epidemic proportions when its pattern of frequency in a population is clearly in excess of its expected frequency within a certain time interval. It then occurs with predictable regularity in a population with only minor fluctuations in frequency over time. The term "endemic" also refers to the constant presence of a disease in a population.

Endogenous development: development initiatives that start from "within" a community. The view that the starting point of development is peoples' worldviews and livelihood strategies. (For more detailed information, see

the capability to do work

Entrepreneur: basically, this refers to a business person.

Enzymes: catalysts that carry out all of the chemical changes involved in plant growth

Epidemic: when new cases of a certain disease, in a given human population, and during a given period, substantially exceed what is "expected", based on recent experience. An epidemic may be restricted to one locale (an outbreak), more general (an epidemic) or even global (a pandemic).

Erosion: the movement of soil particles by the action of water, wind, ice, and gravity. This is a natural process, but land can become seriously eroded through poorly managed land-use practices such as deforestation, leaving land bare, overgrazing or road-building.

Ethical trading: an umbrella term for all types of business practices that promote more socially and/or environmentally responsible trade.

Ethnoveterinary practices: veterinary practices making us of locally available natural resources and knowledge. This is sometimes also referred to as "traditional" veterinary practices.

Eutrophication: of a water system is caused by a high concentration of nutrients (e.g. from high fertiliser or manure runoff) entering into it and creating an ecological imbalance. This can lead to abnormally high levels of growth of algae and aquatic plants such as water hyacinths in rivers and lakes. This growth decreases oxygen levels in the water which has serious implications for the survival of other organisms in the system and, consequently, on food supply and biodiversity.

Exotic species, variety, breed: Introduced species, variety or breed that is not found locally.

Experiential learning: David Kolb defines learning as a process where knowledge is created through the transformation of experience. Learning is viewed as a cyclical process, whereby people reflect on actions, knowledge and experience, and as a result they reframe their original perceptions, leading to new actions. (In Experiential learning: Experience as the source of learning and development,1984).

Extension: non-formal educational process for rural populations, aimed at improving livelihoods.


Factors of production: an economic phrase describing resources (inputs) which are used to produce goods or services. These factors are also known as productive inputs. There are three common factors of production in all the literature (land, labour, capital) and different literature may add a fourth key factor. For a better understanding of sustainable small-scale farming, we include a fourth factor: knowledge.

Fair trade: This movement emerged in the 1970s when the first fair trade label (Max Havelaar) was established for coffee producers in Mexico, to guarantee a fair price goes to small-scale producers. Since then, the fair trade movement has grown to become a trading partnership that promotes standards that seek greater equity and transparency in international trade. In practice, fair trade producers can sell their products at pre-defined and guaranteed prices, while receiving an additional premium over and above this price. This premium is paid to the group of producers and can be used for community development purposes. Additionally, a pre-finance mechanism makes importers responsible for timely payments to producers for deliveries. Certification by the official global standard-setting body, Fairtrade Labelling Organization International (FLO) covered 632 producer organisations in 58 countries in December 2008. (For more information, see the website for FLO International, at: Also, see special focus on Fair Trade in LEISA Magazine edition on Towards fairer trade (2008))

Farmer Field Schools (FFS): a more structured approach to facilitate experiential learning of farmers on their own fields, developed by FAO with rice farmers in Indonesia in the early 1990s, and now widely used in a variety of contexts. In a FFS, farmers are trained to systematically observe their crop ecosystem from week to week, and based on their observations (e.g. on pest-predator ratio) they take an informed decision (whether to spray pesticides or not, and if so, which spray to use). Extension agents act as facilitators, making FFS a more participatory learning method than regular extension.

Farmer-to-Farmer extension: in the farmer-to-farmer extension approach, innovative farmers can inspire and teach other farmers to incorporate the method they developed and found successful.

Feed conversion efficiency: feed required for livestock, to produce the edible output.

Food security: exists when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food for a healthy and active life (World Food Summit Plan of Action). This involves 4 conditions: 1. adequacy of food supply or availability; 2. stability of supply, without fluctuations or shortages from season to season or from year to year; 3. accessibility to food or affordability; and 4. quality and safety of food.

Food sovereignty: about the right of producers to define their own food, agriculture, livestock and fisheries systems - as opposed to having them defined by international market forces. For small-scale farmers this means having the right to land and resources, and being able to participate in decision-making about resources in their countries - to ensure that their families and communities have enough food, before their produce enters long-distance trade. Food sovereignty is a concept introduced in 1996 by the small-scale farmers' global advocacy organisation, La Via Campesina (

Free trade: an agreement between countries or regions that remove restrictions on trade transactions, such as tariffs or barriers to trade, import duties or protective measures.

Futures contracts: a financial term, this is a standardised contract between two parties to buy or sell a specified asset (eg. oranges, oil, gold) of standardised quantity and quality at a specified future date at a price agreed today (the futures price). The contracts are traded on a "futures exchange".


Gene revolution: a term for the large scale application of biotechnologies in food production, for example thought the development and use of GMOs. Like with the Green Revolution, there is much faith in new technologies. Its use is seen as the panacea to world hunger, disregarding the many disadvantages concerning loss of biodiversity, environmental degradation and social implications.

Gene sequences: genes are long strings of instructions for making proteins (which are the building blocks of life). These instructions are coded by a 4-letter alphabet, the DNA bases, which are called "gene sequences".

Genetically modified organism (GMO): an organism whose genes have been altered using "genetic engineering" techniques that transfer DNA molecules from different sources into an organism, giving it modified or new genes.

Genetic diversity: the total number of genetic characteristics in the genetic makeup of a species.

Genetic engineering (GE): the alteration of genetic code by artificial means, and is therefore different from traditional selective breeding, in which the organism's genes are manipulated indirectly. Although scientists knew about the existence of genes and DNA earlier, it was not until the 1970s that gene sequences and the fact that genes could be split into segments were discovered. These discoveries made GE possible.

Genetics: the science of heredity and variation in living organisms.

Globalisation: the integration of markets and cultures across countries and continents.

Glut: when there is an oversupply of a good such that the market supply is greater than the demand.

Good governance: Good governance primarily has to do with how effectively a government functions, and serves all of its citizens. It refers to rules and how agreements are made between a government, its citizens as well as businesses. Good governance exists if citizens have a say in how their country is governed - such that even the views of minorities are taken into account and the voices of the most vulnerable in society are heard in decision-making. Good governance exists if governing is transparent, and leaders can be held accountable.

Governance: ‘governance’ refers to the process of decision-making and implementation at local, regional and national levels, by governmental and other institutions. To understand governance for sustainable farming, we look at the policies and funding mechanisms that support or constrain processes in agriculture.

Grading: sorting of commodities according to quality, size or other characteristics.

Green Revolution: Beginning in the 1960s, the "Green Revolution" became an important technological approach to farming, introduced as a way of increasing production of wheat, rice and maize to meet the needs of growing populations. The technological approach is based on input packages designed by agricultural scientific research centres. The package included new high-yielding seed varieties (to replace indigenous varieties) together with chemical inputs (pesticides, herbicides and fertilisers) and better irrigation, and allowed for the development of more intensive, monoculture-based agriculture.

Greenhouse gases: These are carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide and methane. Scientists have concluded that human activities (including agriculture) that increase greenhouse gas concentrations have contributed to the current increase in the planet's temperature - known as "Global warming" or Climate change.

Green manure: a type of cover crop that is selected to increase soil fertility, most often for its contribution of nitrogen, because this is often the most limiting nutrient. Green manure crops are therefore often legumes.


Habitat: the specific environmental conditions required for a particular species to thrive.

Hedge fund: this differs from an ordinary investment fund as it is open only to a limited range of professional or wealthy investors who meet criteria set by regulators, and are therefore exempted from many of the normal regulations. Investors pay a performance fee to the fund's investment manager, who seeks to minimise the risks inherent in their investments using a variety of methods.

Heirloom/conservation variety: a cultivated variety of plant that was commonly grown during earlier periods in human history in a certain region, but which is not used in modern agriculture. Many heirloom vegetable varieties have kept their traits through open pollination, while fruit varieties, such as apples, have been multiplied over the centuries through grafts and cuttings.

HIV & AIDS: AIDS (which stands for acquired immune deficiency syndrome) is a disease that attacks the human immune system, caused by the (HIV) human immunodeficiency virus. It is now considered to be a pandemic, the HIV being carried by over 33 million people worldwide in 2007, and killing over 2 million in that year. (For global data on HIV & AIDS, visit the UNAIDS site:

Holistic management: based on experience in dryland areas of the US, this approach works with natural processes to restore damaged grasslands to health and sustainability, increasing productivity and profitability of ranches and farms on three continents. Holistic Management is a decision-making framework that helps people create the quality of life they want, while ensuring social, economic and ecological sustainability. (For more information, see website of Holistic Management International, at

Hybrid seed: the first generation ("F1") seed produced from controlled cross-pollination between two different parent lines. Hybrid varieties are bred to improve the yield of the resulting plants by combining greater uniformity with other improvements, such as disease resistance. As hybrid seeds are F1s, their characteristics will segregate in the next generations and their yield goes down if seed collected from the first year is used in the second year. For this reason, the seeds of hybrid varieties are not suitable for re-use and this means farmers should buy new seeds every year.  The extra costs and dependency on commercial seed production adds an extra burden to poor farmers.

Hypha (plural Hyphae): long, branching, cobweb-like strands projections from fungi, extending out to reach nutrients.


Improved seed: seed that is bred in formal PGR systems for particularly desired characteristics (e.g. drought tolerance, high yielding or early maturing). Improved seed can be either hybrid or open-pollinating; the latter can be derived by selecting certain plant types from landrace populations or by crossing landraces with modern varieties. Such improved seeds are used more widely than traditional and locally adapted seeds and require some inputs to produce optimally in different environments. More farmers are using these seeds to replace the large diversity of local varieties, which means that the use of traditional landraces is decreasing, thereby increasing the chances of reducing the agrobiodiversity base.

Index fund: is a collective investment scheme that aims to replicate the movements of an index (method of measuring performance in the stock market) of a specific financial market.

Indigenous/traditional knowledge: see ‘local knowledge’.

Infomediary: An individual or company that collects information relevant for their client, filtering out all unnecessary information. In exchange, they collect information on the client’s activities and preferences for targeted marketing research.

Information and communications technology (or ICT): consists of all technical means used to handle information and aid communication, including computer and network hardware as well as necessary software. ICTs therefore include telephones, broadcast media (e.g. radio, television), and all types of audio and video processing and transmission.

Infrastructure: the basic physical and organisational structures needed for the operation of a society or enterprise, or the services and facilities necessary for an economy to function. This typically refers to technical structures such as roads, water supply, sewers, power grids, telecommunications, as well as basic social services such as hospitals and schools (modified from Wikipedia).

Innovation: Waters-Bayer et al. (2009) define an ‘innovation’ as the process by which people in a given area discover or develop new and better ways of doing things, using the locally available resources and on their own initiative. The outcome of this process is local innovations, for example farming techniques or ways of organising work that are new for that particular locality (In: Sanginga, P.C., Waters-Bayer, A., Kaaria, S., Njuki, J. & C. Wettasinha (eds), Innovation Africa: Enriching farmers’ livelihoods, Earthscan, London & Sterling (VA), pp 239-254.)

Inputs in agriculture: whatever comes into a farm system, such as physical resources like water or fertiliser, or other resources such as knowledge or skills, that are used to produce something.

Inoculate/ Microbial inoculant: agricultural amendments that use beneficial microbes (bacteria or fungi) to promote plant health. Many of the microbes involved form symbiotic relationships with the target crops where both parties benefit, the plant benefiting from greater access to essential nutrients such as nitrogen or phosphorus.

Integrated Pest Management (IPM): the careful consideration of all available pest control techniques and subsequent integration of appropriate measures that discourage the development of pest populations and keep pesticides and other interventions to levels that are economically justified and reduce or minimise risks to human health and the environment. IPM emphasises the growth of a healthy crop with the least possible disruption to agro-ecosystems and encourages natural pest control mechanisms (definition from FAO).

Intellectual Property Rights (IPR): "Intellectual property" is the term used to refer to a group of legal regimes, such as patents, trademarks and copyright, that provide legal protection to creators and inventors (and in the case of agriculture, breeders), from others copying or using their work or invention (or genetic resources) without permission. IP Rights in agriculture therefore safeguard the right of the breeder to benefit from others using their genetic resources.

Inter-cropping (or companion planting): planting of different crops close together, for complementary synergies in nutrient uptake, attracting of natural enemies and buffering against or repelling of pests.




Knowledge management: Knowledge management means ensuring that people have the knowledge they need, where and when they need it. By creating an environment in which people can effectively create, share and use knowledge, knowledge managers ensure that collective knowledge can be applied to achieve the (group’s or individual’s) goals. Knowledge management typically concerns the flows of knowledge on a small scale, in a company for example. It is becoming increasingly recognized as a priority for development, for example by IFAD. (NHS National Library for Health, 2005)

Kyusei Nature Farming: based on the teachings of Mokichi Okada, this approach sees the ecological and spiritual as two sides of agriculture. The basic idea is to keep the soil as pure as possible, without using artificial fertilizers of any kind, chemical or non-chemical. A now globally distributed product emerging from this movement in the mid-1980s, is "Effective Micro-organisms" (or EM) that blends common microbes into a solution said to enhance the fermentation processes of composting and related processes in the soil. (For more information, see the website of APNAN (Asia Pacific Natural Agriculture Network), at


Land concession: the right to use land.

Landrace: domesticated plants (or animals), adapted to the natural and cultural environment in which they live (or originated) and have co-evolved over generations. Landrace populations are often highly variable in appearance, but they are each identifiable morphologically and have a certain genetic "integrity". Landraces can have particular properties or characteristics, for example being early or late maturing. They might be particularly well adapted to particular soil types. The terms "landrace" and "traditional variety" are sometimes used interchangeably.

Landscape: a mosaic of local ecosystems with a particular pattern of topography, vegetation, land use and settlement, over a kilometres-wide area (modified from Ecoagriculture).

Leaching of nutrients: when water percolates through the soil, it can carry dissolved nutrients downward with it, meaning that the nutrients are beyond the reach of roots and therefore lost to plants.

the removal of government restrictions on trade, or in general a trend of decreasing government control.

Lignin: important component of cell walls in plants.

Livestock revolution: unprecedented growth in demand for food of animal origin in developing countries, due to population growth, urbanisation, and increasing incomes (change in diets and lifestyle) which give rise to major opportunities and threats for humanity. This term was coined in a 1999 discussion paper by FAO, IFPRI and ILRI called Livestock to 2020 – The Next Food Revolution (See

Local breed: a livestock breed that occurs within one country. The vast majority of local breeds have been developed by natural selection and simple techniques of mating control and selection used by farmers, without using modern genetic and breeding technologies. Local breeds make up more than two-thirds of livestock breeds in most parts of the world. Of the total known 7,616 livestock breeds, the majority (6,536) are local (these are sometimes referred to as "traditional" or "indigenous" breeds).

Local knowledge: knowledge that has been built up over time because of a strong understanding of complex ecological processes and responses to these processes in a specific place. FAO: it is a collection of facts and relates to the entire system of concepts, beliefs and perceptions that people hold about the world around them. This includes the way people observe and measure their surroundings, how they solve problems and validate new information. It includes the processes whereby knowledge is generated, stored, applied and transmitted to others. It is often contrasted with "formal" or "scientific" knowledge. Elsewhere this is also referred to as "indigenous" or "traditional" knowledge. (For more on this, see FAO. 2006. Building on Gender, Agrobiodiversity and Local Knowledge: A training manual)


Mammals: organisms that possess mammary glands or udders, give birth to fully developed young and nurse their offspring with milk produced in their mammary glands. People are mammals, as well as many domestic livestock including bovines, sheep, goats, rabbits, camels, etc.

Marginal land: in agricultural terms, it is the term used to describe poor-quality land that is likely to yield a low return on crop production. It is the last land to be brought into production and the first land to be abandoned. Examples are the desert fringes in Africa and mountain areas in the UK. Such land is typically used for extensive livestock production.

Mechanisation: Mechanisation provides human operators with machinery to assist them with the physical requirements of work. It can also refer to the use of machines to replace human or draught labour. In agriculture, mechanisation has a wider meaning as it refers to the replacement of manual labour and simple hand tools with human, animal, electrical and internal combustion engine powered (driven) machinery. (from Wikipedia).

Microcredit: small-scale loans usually using members of a group as collateral to get the loan.

Microfinance: small-scale financial services, including savings, credit and insurance.

Middleman: a term used in marketing that refers to those actors who stand between the producer and the retailer or consumer.

Millennium Development Goals (MDGs): Established by the United Nations and its member States in 2000, the goals sought specific improvements in eight areas, by the year 2015. The goals relate to: 1. End poverty and hunger; 2. Universal education; 3. Gender equality; 4. Child health; 5. Maternal health; 6. Combat HIV & Aids; 7. Environmental sustainability; and 8. Global partnership. (For more information, go to the site of the United Nations devoted to this subject:

Mineralisation: in terms of soil, this is when the chemical compounds in organic matter decompose, or are oxidised into plant accessible forms.

Mitigation: alleviation, lessening, reducing, diminishing – mitigation measures will aim to alleviate or offset the harm caused by a certain situation (e.g. climate change, HIV/Aids).

Monetisation: the degree to which economic transactions are carried out using money.

Monoculture: the practice of continuously producing or growing one single crop over a wide area. It is important to distinguish monoculture from agriculture in which different "sole" crops are rotated from season to season.

Monogastrics: this term refers to animals with only one stomach. Examples include poultry (chickens, turkeys, ducks, geese and pigeons) and pigs.

Monopoly: a term taken from economics that refers to a situation in which only a single company provides a good or service. Because of the firm in question being the only place providing the good or service, there is no market competition, and therefore it has the ability to charge whatever price it wants. Such a company is said to be monopolising a portion of the market.

Multifunctionality: in terms of agricultural sustainability, this refers to the interconnectedness of agriculture's different roles and functions. The concept of multifunctionality recognises agriculture as a multi-output activity producing not only commodities (food, feed, fibres, agrofuels, medicinal products and ornamentals), but also non-commodity outputs such as environmental services, landscape and cultural heritages (FAO).

Multi-purpose crops: relates to a single crop performing many functions (e.g. a tree having fruit, providing shade, living fence, leaves for fodder, etc.).

Mutualism: any relationship between individuals of different species in which both individuals derive a benefit.

Mycorrhizal fungi: fungi that form a symbiotic association with the roots of particular plants, by colonizing their roots; in this way, plants benefit from greater availability of nutrients.


Natural farming: Based on the teachings of Masanobu Fukuoka, the essence of this method is to reproduce natural conditions as closely as possible. It calls for a farming system that does not require weeding, pesticides, chemical fertilizers or tillage. Biodiversity and always keeping the ground covered are important tenets. (For more information and resources, see which also includes information on an offshoot of Fukuoka’s ideas, called Synergistic farming).

Net forest loss: takes into account both how much forest is removed as well as how much new forest is planted. The ten countries with the largest net forest loss per year between 2000 and 2005 (at 8.2 million hectares per year) are found in the tropics (Brazil, Indonesia, Sudan, Myanmar, Zambia, United Republic of Tanzania, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Zimbabwe, and Venezuela). While the ten countries with the largest net forest gain per year between 2000 and 2005 (at 5.1 million ha per year) are found in all regions: China, Spain, Vietnam, USA, Italy, Chile, Cuba, Bulgaria, France and Portugal (UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme). 2007. GEO4 Global Environment Outlook: Environment for Development, Progress Press, Ltd, Malta)

Nomad: a member of a people or tribe to move from place to place in search of pastures and food (Collins, 1990).


Open-pollinated seed: relates to seed that requires pollination by insects, birds, wind or other natural mechanisms. As open pollination is not controlled, different kinds of traits will come up in the next generations. Unlike hybrid seed, farmers can collect and select open-pollinated seed according to the traits they desire.

Option: finance term referring to a financial instrument that conveys the right, but not the obligation, to buy or sell another financial instrument or asset at a specific price within a specific period of time. Options are traded either in the over-the-counter market or in the exchange-traded market.

Organic agriculture: The term is often used to indicate any farming system that does not use chemical inputs. However, under its official global organisation, "International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements" (IFOAM), it is a specific certified commercial way of farming with ecological, social and economic objectives. Originating in the 1940s, this movement has grown such that 2 percent of total world farmland being certified organic in 2005.IFOAM currently unites 750 member organisations in 108 countries. (For more information and resources, see IFOAM’s website:

Outgrower scheme: a contractual partnership between growers or landholders and a company for the production of commercial agricultural products. Farmers are linked with a large farm or processing plant which supports production planning, input supply, extension advice and transport, usually but not always through contractual agreement. Out-grower partnerships vary considerably in the extent to which inputs, costs, risks and benefits are shared between growers/landholders and companies. Partnerships may be short or long-term (eg. 40 years), and may offer growers only financial benefits or a wider range of benefits. Also, growers may act individually or as a group in partnership with a company, and use private or communal land.

Outputs in agriculture: whatever is coming out of a farming system, such as physical outputs like production of crops or animals, or water flows or losses, or more abstract elements such as improved knowledge and skills.


Pandemic: an epidemic of infectious disease that is spreading through human populations across a large region; for instance a continent, or even worldwide. Throughout history there have been a number of pandemics, such as smallpox and tuberculosis. More recent pandemics include the HIV pandemic and the 2009 H1N1 flu pandemic.

Parasitism: a relationship in which one member of an association benefits while the other is harmed.

Parastatal: government-owned company or organisation.

Paravet: community animal health care worker that is not a qualified veterinarian but can provide basic care (e.g. administration of some medicines and vaccinations) and production advice to people in their communities.

Participatory Action Research (PAR): a research design which puts the experiences of the community central. It is a cyclical process, where researchers and community reflect on the research outcomes and process during the course of the study. Community members are active participants in the research process, to get accurate results and to empower the community and create ownership of the outcomes.

Participatory Innovation Development (PID): a process in which innovative solutions to farmers’ problems are identified and improved. It is a triangulation of indigenous knowledge of the farmers, scientific knowledge of the researchers, and field experience-based knowledge of the extension workers. It is an expansion of the PTD approach, as it looks at organisational innovation and change in addition to technology development. (FAO and Prolinnova)

Participatory Technology Development (PTD): Participatory Technology Development is a participatory extension model. The objective of PTD is to develop a technology though a joint learning process that involves both farmers and external facilitators: agricultural fieldworkers, researchers, and sometimes other stakeholders. Farmers and facilitators jointly identify the problem that needs to be solved, then they both contribute ideas on how the problem can be solved and agree on a way to test the different strategies proposed.

Pastoralism: These systems are characterised by ruminants (e.g. cattle, sheep, goats) and camels grazing mainly grasses and other herbaceous plants, often on communal or open-access areas in a mobile fashion. A pastoralist is someone who is a member of a present or formerly nomadic, livestock keeping culture who remains involved in the livestock economy and participates in the societal customs and norms regarding social behaviour.

Payment for environmental (or ecosystem) services (PES): one type of economic incentive for those that manage ecosystems to improve the flow of environmental services that they provide. Generally these incentives are provided by all those who benefit from environmental services, which includes local, regional and global beneficiaries. PES is an environmental policy tool that is becoming increasingly important in developing and developed countries. (Definition from FAO: See the FAO webpage devoted to this subject for more information:

Percolation: the movement and filtering of fluids through porous materials, such as the movement of water through the soil.

Perishable food: food that can decay or rot quickly if not refrigerated or taken care of in another way (e.g. through drying, salting, canning, etc.).

Permaculture: the term "permaculture", coined by Bill Mollison and David Holmgren, is a blend of "permanent agriculture" and “permanent culture”. The goal is perennial agricultural systems that mimic the structure and interrelationships found in natural ecologies. Originating as an agroecological design theory, it freely borrows techniques and cultural systems from organic agriculture, sustainable forestry, horticulture, agroforestry and the land management systems of indigenous peoples, developing organising principles that are transferred through two-week intensive permaculture design courses around the world. (For more information and links to resources, see the Permaculture Research Institute of Australia’s website at:

Pests: unwanted animals that limit crop production potential. Usually this refers to insects but it also includes larger animals such as birds or rabbits that cause damage to crop growth.

pH: in agriculture, soil pH is an important measure of nutrient availability. The pH scale, running from 0 to 14, measures how acid or alkaline the soil is. pH is the concentration of hydrogen (H) ions -- the more hydrogen ions there are, the more acid the soil is. Many environmental factors, including amount of rainfall, vegetation type and temperature can affect soil pH. The ideal pH for most plants and the soil food web is between 6.5 and 7. Sources: Wikipedia and Acid or Alkaline? What pH means in gardenspeak, at (Blog by Marion Owen).

Photosynthesis: process by which plants convert carbon dioxide into organic compounds, especially sugars, using energy from sunlight.

Phytosanitary standards: In order to import products, export country governments must be able to satisfy import regulations of the import government with a certificate that indicates that the shipment has been inspected and is free from harmful pests and plant diseases.

Plant genetic resources:
a diversity of seeds and planting material of traditional varieties and modern cultivars, crop wild relatives and other wild plant species. These resources are used as food, feed for domestic animals, fibre, clothing, shelter and energy (FAO).

Polyculture: agriculture using multiple crops in the same space in imitation of the diversity of natural ecosystems, and avoiding large stands of single crops, or monocultures. It includes crop rotation, multi-cropping, intercropping, companion planting, beneficial weeds, and alley cropping.)

Position limits: Position limits are the predetermined position level (number of contracts allowable for holding) set by regulatory bodies for a specific futures or options contract. Position limits are created for the purpose of maintaining stable and fair markets.

Price volatility: wildly fluctuating prices, as with cash crops linked to the global marketplace.

Processing: changing raw material into a semi-finished or finished product, such as through drying, grinding, using as part of another product, etc.

Procurement: the purchase of items or services.

Productivity: a measure of output from a production process, per unit of input. Two examples relevant to this series of modules are "labour productivity" (typically measured as a ratio of output per labour-hour) and "land productivity" (typically measured as a ratio of output per hectare/acre).

Proteins: large, complex molecules that do most of the work in cells, and are required for their structure, function, and regulation


Quota: a specific amount of something that cannot be exceeded within a certain period of time; in marketing terms, this often refers to an "import quota" which is a type of protectionist trade restriction that sets a physical limit on the quantity of a good that can be imported into a country within a given period of time.


Reciprocity: the mutual equivalent exchange of goods and services over time.

Recycling: when the end product of one system becomes an input and resource for another (e.g. manure from livestock becomes nutrient source for crops; crop residues become nutrient source for soil, or fodder for livestock).

Relay cropping: a second crop is started amidst the first crop before it has been harvested, an important example of building the agrobiodiversity buffer in the farm.

Remittance: a transfer of money by a foreign worker to his or her family in his or her home country.

Resilience: being able to buffer shocks and stresses

Retailer: a trader that sells directly to individual customers, as in a shop.

Rhizobia: soil bacteria that fix Nitrogen after becoming established inside root nodules of legumes. Rhizobia require a plant host as they cannot independently fix nitrogen.

Rhizosphere: soil located in the immediate vicinity of plants' roots.

Ruminant: this term comes from the Latin ruminare, which means "to chew over again" as these animals have several stomachs and regurgitate their food from their first stomach, chewing it once again to be able to digest it. Ruminants include cows, buffaloes, goats and sheep, among others.


Salinisation: the process that leads to an excessive increase of water-soluble salts in the soil. It is regarded as a serious form of soil degradation. Salinisation is often associated with irrigated areas where low rainfall, high evapotranspiration rates or soil textural characteristics impede the washing out of the salts which subsequently build up in the soil surface layers. Irrigation with high salt content water dramatically worsens the problem. (Definition from European Commission:

Share: a business' stock (the original capital paid into or invested in the business by its founders) is divided into "shares", the total of which must be stated at the time of business formation. Shares represent a fraction of ownership in a business and have a certain declared face value.

Shelf life: the length of time that food, drink, medicine, chemicals, and many other perishable items are given before they are considered unsuitable for sale, use, or consumption. In some regions, a best before, use by or freshness date is required on packaged perishable foods (from Wikipedia).

Shifting cultivation: an agricultural system in which plots of land are cultivated temporarily, then abandoned. This system often involves clearing of a piece of land followed by several years of farming or wood harvesting, until the soil loses fertility. Once the land becomes inadequate for crop production, it is usually left to be reclaimed by natural vegetation. How much time the land is cultivated and how much time is given for fallowing is critical to the stability of shifting cultivation systems, because it determines whether or not nutrients are able to be recovered within the system. If land is over-cultivated or it is given too little time to lie fallow, the land will degrade. Currently 37 million people practise shifting cultivation on 22% of the agricultural land area of the tropics, with the most in Latin America. (For an in-depth overview of this practice, see Giller, Ken and Palm, Cheryl. 2004. Cropping Systems: Slash-and-Burn Cropping Systems of the Tropics. Encyclopedia of Plant and Crop Science. New York: Marcel Dekker, Inc.)

Sine qua non: indispensable

Slash and burn: this practice consists of clearing, burning, cropping, and then abandoning the land. (See Shifting cultivation).

Social capital: refers to connections within and between social networks as well as connections among individuals. These social networks are valuable and necessary for people (including farmers) to be able to achieve their goals (including of productivity). (Adapted from Wikipedia).

Species: for plants - the specific name that together with the genus name, define one particular plant (with the whole name italicised, the genus capitalised, and the species in lower case e.g. Leucaena leucocephala); for animals – a group of related individuals or populations of animals which are potentially capable of interbreeding and producing fertile offspring.

Spot market: This is a public financial market, in which financial instruments (e.g. cash or a contractual right) or commodities are traded for immediate delivery. This contrasts with a futures market in which delivery is due at a later date. The spot market for most instruments exists primarily on the internet.

Stewardship: refers to the responsibility to take care of something owned by someone else, or owned collectively, such as forests or other environmental resources and habitats, in the interest of long-term sustainability - in this context, it can also be referred to as "land stewardship".

Stoma (pl: stomata): pore in stems or leaves, used for gas exchange.

Subsidy: monetary contribution made by the government to make certain goods or services more affordable and therefore more accessible, either to all or only to certain sectors of society.

Sustainable livelihood: the capabilities, assets (including both material and social resources) for a means of living. A livelihood is sustainable when it can cope with and recover from stresses and shocks and maintain or enhance its capabilities and assets both now and in the future, while not undermining the natural resource base (DFID, 1999). (See DFID's Sustainable Livelihood Guidance Sheets for more detailed information on this topic).

Sustainability: in general terms, this is the ability to maintain balance of a certain process or state in any system. It can be defined as the combination of resilience (being able to buffer shocks and stresses) and continuity (being able to continue over long periods and therefore not overtreading the carrying capacity of the natural resource base) (from Jules Pretty, 2008. Sustainable agriculture and food). See Learning Block 3 in Module 1 for an in-depth discussion about what sustainability means for small-scale farming.

Symbiosis: commonly describes close and often long-term interactions between different biological species. The symbiotic relationship may be categorised as being mutualistic (mutually beneficial), parasitic (beneficial to one, to the detriment of the other), or commensal (one organism benefits but the other is unaffected) in nature.

Synergy: when elements co-operate and build on each other to increase the farm's output.

Systematisation: a methodology which facilitates the ongoing description, analysis, and documentation of the process and results of a development project (understood as any kind of formal or informal development activity) in a participatory way. New knowledge is generated though a systematic learning process, which is then fed back and used to make decisions about actions to be implemented to improve project performance. The lessons learnt are shared with others. (from Selener, Purdy & Zapata, 1998)

Systems thinking: a framework for understanding how things work, as well as problems that may need to be solved. It is based on the belief that the different parts that make up a system can best be understood by looking at them in relation to each other and to other systems, rather than in isolation. The only way to fully understand why a problem or element occurs and persists is to understand the part in relation to the whole.
Another way of describing systems thinking is as a framework for seeing interrelationships rather than things, for seeing patterns of change rather than static "snapshots" (from The Fifth Discipline, The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization, Senge, (Doubleday: 1990)).


Tariff: a kind of tax is usually imposed on imported goods as a way of controlling trade between nations. When shipments of goods arrive at a border crossing or port, customs officers inspect the contents and charge a tax according to the tariff formula. Since the goods cannot continue on their way until the duty is paid, it is the easiest duty to collect, and the cost of collection is small (modified from Wikipedia).

"Terminator" and "Traitor" seed: these are two controversial biotechnologies owned by major agrochemical companies, relating to genetically modified organisms. The former relates to modified seed of first generation crops that yield sterile seeds in the second generation. Traitor technology relates to "genetic use restriction technology" which requires farmers to apply a chemical to GM crops to be able to reactivate desired engineered traits. These technologies are intended to both limit the spread of GM plants, and to require farmers to pay for new seed every year, and in the latter case to pay for the required chemicals as well.

Terms of trade (or TOT): in international economics and international trade, this refers to a country’s exports (price) divided by imports (price). An improvement in a nation's terms of trade is good for that country in the sense that it has to pay less for the products it imports. Terms of trade are therefore widely used as an instrument to measure the benefits derived by a nation from international trade.

Tillage: the disturbance of soil to create the best conditions for seed germination and eventual plant growth.

Topography: the physical features of land, including terrain relief.

Transaction: is basically any sort of activity involving a change of money in an account (e.g. putting money into or withdrawing money from an account, adding interest to an account or deducting bank charges are all transactions).

Transboundary breed: a breed that is found in several country. Transboundary species of the five major livestock species (cattle, sheep, goats, pigs and chickens), have been developed for a century or more in intensive production systems, and have spread globally. They are generally bred to provide a single product for the market and require high levels of modern inputs and technologies. A very small number of international transboundary breeds accounts for an ever-increasing share of total global production of animal products. Yet it is only in North America and the Southwest Pacific that the number of transboundary breeds exceeds that of local breeds.

Transboundary disease: as the name suggests, transboundary diseases can easily spread across national and international borders. However, the classification generally focuses on diseases that have a significant economic impact and the ability to disrupt national and international trade.

Turgidity: the pressure inside a plant’s cells, that shows it to be growing strong and healthily.


Ungulate: Hoofed animals including domesticated livestock such as cows, goats, camels, horses that are herbivores with vegetable-based diets. Pigs are also ungulates, but have a mixed diet.

Urbanisation: is defined by the United Nations as movement of people from rural to urban areas with population growth equating to urban migration. The United Nations projected that half of the world's population would live in urban areas at the end of 2008.


Value-based management: a structured approach to measure the performance of a firm's unit managers or products in terms of the net benefit they provide to shareholders.

Value chain: refers to the entire system of production, processing and marketing of a particular product, from inception to the finished product. A value chain consists of a series of chain actors, linked together by flows of products, finance, information and services.

Variety: genetic variation within a species.

Vesicles: structures formed inside the plants' roots, by three of the five genera of arbuscular mycorrhizas. They look like an oval bag and most people believe that they are used for storing nutrients. (from

Volatilisation of nutrients:
chemical process through which gaseous forms of nutrients (e.g. nitrogen as ammonia) are directly lost from the soil and into the air.


Water-logging: saturation of the soil by groundwater such that agriculture is prevented or hindered.

Watershed: Simply put, a watershed refers to an area of land where all of the water that is flowing over or under it drains into the same place. It includes rain (or snow melt), streams, groundwater, lakes, ponds, aquifers and wetlands. A watershed is separated from adjacent watersheds by a geographical barrier such as a hill or a mountain, which is known as a "water divide".

Weed: unwanted plant that limits crop production potential.

Wellbeing: this indicator of quality of life is difficult to measure as it depends on many things such as culture, level of education and personality, but at least one’s basic human needs, such as food, water and shelter need to be met, while also having certain access to health care, education and political freedoms are also part of wellbeing.

Wholesaler: a trader that deals with large volumes of different commodities.

Wilting point: the minimal point of soil moisture that a plant requires not to wilt. If moisture decreases below this point, a plant wilts and can no longer recover its turgidity (the pressure inside the plant cells) even when soil moisture is replenished. The wilting point is a constant (characteristic) of a particular soil.

Worldview: A term for the overall perspective from which a person or group sees and interprets the world, and their collection of beliefs about life and the universe. It refers to assumptions and images that have an effect on people's motivations in life and in our case their farming goals. World view also refers to how people view their position in terms of gender equality, relationship with nature, etc. (For more on worldview: the Compas Network for Endogenous Development specifically devotes attention to this subject (






Zero-grazing: confining ruminants such as cattle, sheep or goats in a stall and developing a cut-and-carry fodder system, which literally means that farmers must cut different grasses, leaves, etc. to feed to their cattle.

Zoonosis: a disease that can be passed between vertebrate animals (wild or domestic) and people(also referred to as zoonotic diseases). The term was originally used to describe a group of diseases that humans could acquire from domestic animals; however, this term has since been expanded to also include all human diseases acquired from or (naturally) transmitted to any other vertebrate.

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