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How Language Services Can Transform the Agricultural Sector

Day Translations, Inc.


Thursday, 12 December, 2019

Day Translations, Inc., an international language translation and interpretation agency, works with clients in a diverse array of fields. In today’s modern era, there is a high demand for translation in innovative, multidisciplinary areas ranging from bioinformatics and transnational affairs to artificial intelligence and data science. In such an exciting environment, it may be easy to dismiss agriculture as an antiquated and irrelevant field. However, in a world with an ever-growing population facing the imminent challenges of climate change and environmental degradation, promoting a healthy, robust agricultural sector supported by cutting-edge research and up-to-date technology is as important as ever.

Although only 11 percent of total US jobs are currently located in agriculture and related fields, the US produces more than enough food to feed its population and is the world’s top agricultural exporter, with $139.5 billion in exports during the year 2018. The reality is that the agricultural sector is highly globalized, with most countries in the world importing agricultural products and many countries exporting as well. As agricultural supply chains around the world become increasingly international in nature, cross-cultural and multilingual communications are becoming more and more essential. In developed countries with industrialized agriculture sectors, this communication can often be within large transnational agricultural corporations that operate across country boundaries. Such enterprises need professional translation services to translate company policies and procedures, agricultural best practices informed by the latest research, and promotional and educational materials into diverse languages used by the company’s employees, stakeholders, business partners, and clients, including efforts at consumer outreach.

Additionally, in many countries throughout the world, many individuals working in the agriculture sector have immigrated from other countries to look for greater economic opportunities or to support their families back home. In the US in particular, over 75% of agricultural laborers in 2016 were foreign-born. This highlights the need for translation of company policies and procedures and employee benefits and rights into the native languages of these workers. Given the marginalized nature of many agricultural workers, information about workers' rights is especially important. Many NGOs and nonprofits working on immigrant and refugee advocacy issues need translation services to educate clients on their rights and empower them to defend themselves and their families to protect their best interests and ensure a higher quality of life. 

In contrast to transnational corporations using industrialized methods, there is a growing global movement towards organic, environmentally sustainable, and locally-sourced agricultural systems mindful of biodiversity protection and natural resource conservation. This is accomplished through sustainable practices such as conservation tillage or no-till systems, use of integrated pest management and non-chemical weed control in place of chemical pesticides and herbicides, precision irrigation technology such as sub-surface drip irrigation that saves water, and use of organic compost in place of chemical fertilizers that load surface water systems with nitrogen and phosphorous, damaging aquatic life. Although the sustainable agriculture movement was born in industrialized countries as a reaction to the excesses of the Green Revolution, this movement is being spread to developing countries as well through international organizations such as the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Bank. Best practices and standards are under constant development and evolution and need to be shared across country and linguistic boundaries, highlighting the need for high-quality translation services. Additionally, many agricultural products consumed in the United States are produced abroad and certified Fair Trade or Organic. Information about international certification program standards and practices must be translated and communicated accurately and effectively, to facilitate comprehension and compliance with such programs from a coffee plantation in Ethiopia to a coffee shop in New York City.

Innovations in agricultural technology are also important in the context of international development and poverty alleviation. Eighty percent of farmland in Sub-Saharan Africa and Asia is managed by smallholder farmers with plots 25 acres or smaller and using mostly traditional methods. These farmers mostly work with limited access to the mechanized technology that characterizes agricultural systems in more developed countries. Additionally, 78% of the world’s poorest households are located in rural areas and depend mostly on agriculture for survival, and over 2 billion people worldwide depend directly on agriculture to meet their economic needs. One key to success for rural farmers in developing countries is access to information on technology and best practices disseminated through agricultural extension and development programs. Many of which are financed and implemented by international organizations whose working language is English or another language of global significance. For such programs to succeed in reaching the farmers they target, translation services are paramount. Informational fact sheets, seminars and training programs, advice on planting, crop management, and harvest techniques, and information about newly available technologies all need to reach local farmers in their own language. With growth in phone access in many rural areas, extension programs are increasingly reaching farmers through text and messaging apps, and these informational texts and messages often must be translated as well. Translating this information into local languages will facilitate climate change adaptation and mitigation and environmental sustainability in a world increasingly menaced by droughts, severe storms, and rising temperatures.

Overall, agriculture is an important field and will remain of vital importance into the foreseeable future. The sector is faced with some important existential challenges, as we struggle to feed the world’s population and provide equitable access to food while also preserving natural ecosystems, biodiversity, and mitigating the effects of climate change. In this increasingly globalized field, high-quality certified translation and interpretation services will facilitate dissemination and sharing of information on best practices and enable the agriculture sector to continue reaching its goals of food production and sustainability.

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