Twenty cases have been selected to show how enabling policies have been implemented by governments at various levels to implement SARD.
Although almost every country would now say it supports sustainable agriculture the evidence points towards only patchy reforms. Only two enabling policies have countries have given explicit national support for sustainable agriculture - putting it at the centre of agricultural development policy and integrating policies accordingly. These are Cuba and Switzerland. Cuba has a national policy for alternative agriculture; and Switzerland has three tiers of support for both types of sustainable agriculture and rural development. Austria, Denmark, Sweden and Finland have given explicit national support for organic agriculture, but this has not necessarily impacted upon conventional farmers.
The Table below contains a summary of the types of support given by countries to sustainable agriculture, and the associated emergence of large-scale sustainable agriculture on the ground. Three countries have seen sub-regional support: three states in southern Brazil, with remarkable effect on zero-tillage and conservation farming; some states in India, particularly Rajasthan for watershed and soil management support and incentives for biofertilizers and Gujarat for policy on participatory irrigation management, with complete turnover to water users' groups.
A much larger number of countries have reformed elements of agricultural policies through new regulations, incentives and/or environmental taxes, and administrative mechanisms, and these are having considerable though partial effect. These include Kenya (catchment approach to soil conservation); Indonesia (ban on selected pesticides, combined with national programme for farmer field schools and IPM in rice); India (support for soybean processing and marketing); Bolivia (regional integration of agricultural and rural policies); Burkina Faso (Gestion de Terroirs land policy); Sri Lanka and Philippines (water users' groups for irrigation management). But none of these countries has yet explicitly put sustainable agriculture at the centre of their policy frameworks.
An even larger set of countries have seen some progress on sustainable agriculture at project and programme level - but this still remains largely despite, rather than because of, explicit policy support. Most reforms, though, remain piecemeal, with sustainable agriculture still largely at the margins of conventional policy processes and aims. No agriculture ministry is likely to say they are against sustainable agriculture, yet good words remain fully to be translated into integrated and comprehensive policy reforms.
Sustainable agricultural systems can be both economically, environmentally and socially viable, and contribute positively to local livelihoods. But without appropriate policy support, they are likely to remain at best localized in extent, and at worst simply wither away.
|Selection of progressive policy reforms for sustainable agriculture according to degree of integration and observed outcomes|
Countries with large-scale successes
Countries with significant localized successes
Countries with explicit national policy support for sustainable agriculture
(national policy for alternative agriculture)
(3 tiers of support for both types of sustainable agriculture and rural development)
Denmark and Sweden
(national support for organic farming; reduction policies for inorganic fertilizers and pesticides)
(agricultural and environmental scheme with incentives to farmers 82 percent farmers joined)
Countries with explicit regional or provincial policy support (but not national)
(zero-tillage and conservation farming in 3 southern states)
(soil management support, incentives for biofertilizers)
(participatory irrigation management; complete turnover to water users groups)
Countries with supportive policy elements, but not integrated across agricultural sectors
(catchment approach to soil conservation)
(support for zero-tillage farming through matched central grants)
(banned selected pesticides; national programme for farmer field schools and IPM in rice)
(support for soybean processing and marketing)
(regional integration of agricultural and rural policies)
(Gestion de Terroirs land policy)
(national Landcare programme)
Sri Lanka and the Philippines
(water users groups for irrigation management)
(pesticide reduction policies; nutrient regulations)
(support for mucuna cultivation)
(support for water harvesting)
(national participatory watershed management policy)
(conservation agriculture for sustainable development act)
One of the most remarkable coordinated policy efforts on sustainable agriculture has occurred in Cuba. Up to 1990, Cubas agricultural and food sector was heavily dependent on external support from the soviet bloc. It imported 100 percent of wheat, 90 percent of beans, 57 percent of all calories consumed, 94 percent of fertilizer, 82 percent of pesticides and 97 percent of animal feed. It was also paid three times the world price for its sugar. At this time, Cuba also had the most scientists per head of population in Latin America, the most tractors per hectare, the second highest grain yields, the greatest increase in per capita food production in the 1980s, the lowest infant mortality, the highest number of doctors per head population, the highest secondary school enrolment and lowest teacher: pupil ratios.
But in 1990, trade with the soviet bloc collapsed, leading to severe shortages in all imported goods. Within two years, petroleum imports fell to half of the pre-1990 level, fertilizers to a quarter, pesticides to a third, and food imports to less than half. The government response was to declare an "Alternative Model" as the official policy - an agriculture that focuses on resource-conserving technologies that substitute local knowledge, skills and resources for the imported inputs. It also emphasizes the diversification of agriculture; the breeding of oxen to replace tractors; the use of IPM to replace pesticides; the introduction of new practices in science; the need for widespread training; the promotion of better cooperation among farmers both within and between communities; and reversal of the rural exodus by encouraging people to remain in rural areas.
The impact of the new policy has already been remarkable. Some 220 village-based and artisanal Centres for the Reproduction of Entomophages and Entomopathogens have been established for biopesticide manufacture. They produce 1 300 t/year of Bacillus thuriengiensis sprays (used to control lepidoptera), 780 t/year of Beaveria sprays (for controlling beetles), 200 tonnes of Verticillium (for whitefly control) and 2 800 tonnes of Trichoderma (used for biological control). Many biological control methods are proving more efficient than pesticides. The use of cut banana stems baited with honey to attract ants, which are then placed in sweet potato fields, has controlled sweet potato weevil. There are 173 vermicompost centres, the annual production of which grew from 3 000 to 93 000 tonnes. Crop rotations, green manuring, intercropping and soil conservation have all been incorporated into polyculture farming: cassava-beans-maize, cassava-tomato-maize, and sweet potato-maize have all been shown to be 1.5-2.8 times more productive than the sum of the individual monocultures.
Two important strands to sustainable agriculture in Cuba have emerged:
® intensive organic gardens in urban areas of three types self-provisioning gardens in schools and workplaces (autoconsumos), raised container-bed gardens (organoponicos), and intensive community gardens (huertos intensivos);
® sustainable agriculture on both large and small farms in rural areas.
Both have made a significant contribution to total food production (urban areas are defined as all farming within municipal boundaries and all agriculture within 3 km of population centres above 2 000 people). In 1994, for example, organoponicos, autoconsumos and huertos intensivos were producing some 4 200 tonnes of food per year. By 1999, this had grown to 727 000 tonnes. Both the number of gardens and per area productivity has increased. There are now some 7 080 gardens (up from 2 500 in 1997), and productivity has grown from 1.6 kg/m2 (1994) to 19.6 kg/m2. It is difficult to say how many farms are now devoted to sustainable agriculture practices - estimates suggest some 200 000 farms on about 150 000 hectares. For the organoponicos, an estimated 26 000 people are involved in direct food production.
One measure of effectiveness of sustainable agriculture to produce the necessary food is the aggregate data on caloric intake. This was 2 600 kcal/day in 1990, fell to some 1 000-1 500/day soon after the transition (with severe food insecurity), and has risen to an average of 2 700 kcal/day by the end of the 1990s.
At the forefront of the transition towards sustainable agriculture has been the Grupo de Agricultura Organica (formerly known as the Asociación Cubana de Agricultura Orgánica, and formed in 1993). GAO brings together farmers, field managers, field experts, researchers and government officials to help convince farmers that organic-based alternatives can produce sufficient food for Cubans. There remain many difficulties though: i) proving the success of an alternative system to sceptical farmers, scientists and policy-makers; ii) developing new technologies sufficiently quickly to meet emerging problems; iii) coordinating the many actors to work together; iv) the need for continued decentralization of food production to farmer level, and the appropriate land reform to encourage local investment in natural asset-building; v) encouraging farmers of large scale rice, potato, sugar cane and citrus to reduce their use of pesticides and fertilizers.
Dr. Fernando Funes, Group of Organic Agriculture (GAO), Cuba Apartado 4029,
C.P. 10400, Havana, Cuba
Tel. 53-7-258862 Fax 53-7-286409 <[email protected]>
The progressive Swiss policy reforms of the agricultural sector were made in the late 1990s a radical package supported by 70 percent of the public in the 1996 referendum (Swiss Agency for Environment, Forests and Landscape, 1999). The Swiss Federal Agricultural Law was reframed in 1992 to target subsidies towards ecological practices, and then amended in 1996 as the 'Agricultural Act 2002', following a national referendum. Policy now differentiates between three different levels of public support depending on the sustainability of agriculture. Tier one is support for specific biotypes, such as extensive grassland and meadows, high-stem fruit trees and hedges. Tier two supports integrated production with reduced inputs, meeting higher ecological standards than conventional farming. Tier three is support for organic farming.
There are five minimum conditions necessary for farmers to receive payments for integrated production, the so-called 'ecological standard' of performance:
1. Provide evidence of balanced use of nutrients with fertilizer matched to crop demands and livestock farmers having to sell surplus manures or reduce livestock numbers.
2. Soils must be protected from erosion - erosive crops (e.g. maize) can only be cultivated if alternated in rotation with meadows and green manures.
3. At least 7 percent of the farm must be allocated for species diversity protection through unfertilized meadows, hedgerows, or orchards.
4. Use of diverse crop rotations.
5. Pesticides have to be reduced to established risk levels.
A vital element of the policy process is that responsibility to set, administer and monitor is delegated to cantons, farmers' unions and farm advisors, local bodies and non-government organizations. By 1999, 90 percent of farms were able to comply with the basic ecological standard (which allows them to receive public subsidies). Some 5 000 farms (8 percent) are now organic (up from two percent in 1991), and most farmers are now expected to meet the 'ecological standard' during the year 2000. Pesticide applications have fallen by 23 percent since 1990, and phosphate use is down from 83 to 73 kg/ha.
® Source: Swiss Agency for Environment, Forests and Landscape (1990)
The state government extension and research service, EPAGRI (Empresa de Pesquisa Agropecuária e Difusâo de Technologia de Santa Catarina), works with farmers in the southern Brazilian State of Santa Catarina, from the flat coastal areas in the east to the rolling highlands and mountains of the centre and west. It is involved in working at a microwatershed level with local farmers to develop low-input and productive systems of agriculture. Each member of staff works in about four microwatersheds of about 150 families for a period of two years, playing an important social as well as technical role. Farmer experimentation is encouraged, and there is a large amount of decision-making at the level of these local extensionists.
The technological focus is on soil and water conservation at the microwatershed level using contour grass barriers, contour ploughing and green manures. Farmers use some inorganic fertilizers and herbicides, but there has been particular success with green manures and cover crops. Some 60 species have been tested with farmers, including both leguminous plants such as velvetbean, jackbean, lablab, cowpeas, many vetches and crotalarias, and non-legumes such as oats and turnips. For farmers, these involve no cash costs, except for the purchase of seed. These are intercropped or planted during fallow periods, and are used in cropping systems with maize, onions, cassava, wheat, grapes, tomatoes, soybeans, tobacco and orchards. Farmers use animal-drawn tools to knock over and cut up the green manure/ cover crop, leaving it on the surface. With another farmer-designed, animal-drawn instrument, they then clear a narrow furrow in the resulting mulch into which the next crop is planted. As a result, most farmers no longer plough.
The adoption of ZT in Santa Caterina is significant because farm structure is considerably smaller than in the neighbouring states of Paraná and Rio Grande do Sul (where hectarage under ZT has too seen extraordinary growth in the past decade). It is estimated that some 106 000 farmers have adopted ZT on about 880 000 hectares through the microbacias programme. There have been substantial improvements in yields: maize up 47 percent over eight years (to 1999) to reach 3 750 kg/ha, soya up 83 percent to 2 730 kg/ha, and wheat up 82 percent to 2 125 kg/ha.
Like other ZT programmes, EPAGRI has documented improvements to water quality, soil health and water retention. Soils are darker in colour, spongy to the step, moist and full of earthworms. The reduced need for most weeding and ploughing has meant great labour savings for small farmers. From this work, it has become clear that maintaining soil cover is more important in preventing erosion than terraces or conservation barriers. It is also considerably cheaper for farmers to sustain.
Ahighly significant component of the microbacias programme has seen the transformation of whole watersheds and the attention to social capital formation. In Santa Caterina, some 7 700 groups have been formed in 559 microbacias, and these have become engaged in a wide range of activities. EPAGRI has also worked to involve local municipalities fully in the process of participatory technology development and extension, and now many municipalities employ their own agronomists to help in the process.
Dr. Gilmar Jacobowski, Technical Director, EPAGRI <[email protected]>
Lauro Bassi <[email protected]>
Toronto Food Policy Council is an extended network of organizations concerned with food security, sustainable agriculture, public health and community development. The focus is on increasing low-income families' access to an affordable, nourishing diet and on fostering food micro-enterprises involving low-income people. It was set up in 1990 to bring together professionals and activists from a wide range of sectors: public health, farm and rural, food, labour, education, community, and hunger advocacy.
The FPC receives support from the City Council, and is administered by the Department of Public Health. This gives it formal credibility, whilst allowing it to work with many community groups. It has two key roles: the removal of public policy impediments which limit access to decent levels of nutrition; and the creation of progressive policies which promote community action on food issues. At the time of the emergence of the FPC, Toronto was characterized by economic decline, a rapid shift from permanent to part-time and short-term jobs, increased dependence on social services, ingrained poverty in certain groups combined with increased poverty in lower-middle classes, and increased numbers of people hungry. During the 1980s, food banks emerged in response to the dismantling of social security safety nets, growing to more than 400 in number by the 1990s. A total of 150 000 residents use food banks each year, and on average each receive US$10 worth of food every month. But food banks were also recognized as only a stop-gap that focused on the symptoms of hunger rather the underlying causes.
The FPC set out to shift the food, welfare and public health systems from their emergency focus to give them a greater role in improving community self-reliance and social capital. One example of the FPC programme is the Field to Table Program, which arose from a partnership between community groups and Ontario farmers. It has three modes of food delivery: under the Good Food Box, families can buy a box of fresh fruit and vegetables each month; from community markets, individuals can purchase fruit and vegetables and sell them locally; and in the Buying Clubs, community members can order fresh fruit and vegetables and have them delivered.
The Good Food Box has been particularly effective. It targets people who wish to buy fresh foods, are on low incomes, have disability or health problems and/or are senior citizens. Between 1 500 and 2 500 boxes per month were delivered in 1997, mostly to customers on low income, including a sizeable proportion of single parent mothers. The impacts have been on many parts of the food system. Some 70 percent of those buying food boxes now eat more vegetables; 21 percent eat a greater variety; and 16 percent now try new foods. More people also know about the recommendation that we should eat five or more servings of fruit and/or vegetables per day. At the start, a quarter of food in the food banks was sourced from Ontario farmers; by 1996 it had grown to 95 percent. Even more interesting, a substantial number of GFB recipients said the scheme was affecting their social contacts. More than a fifth said the scheme had made them more community oriented. Other less tangible effects of the whole Field to Table scheme have been noted, such as in schools' where there is better attendance, less tardiness and better socialization in classrooms. The Field to Table programme reaches 10 000 people.
Other benefits of the FPC's work include the rapid growth in community gardens in Toronto, the support now given by provincial government to provide massive help for schools food programmes, and the wider impacts on policy processes. It has also been promoting local economic renewal through a wide range of institutions and sectors, including ecological tax reform, health care reform and agricultural policy reform.
® Source: Rod MacRae, Food Policy Consulting <[email protected]> - <www.realfoodhome.net>
In Germany, regional schemes developed by the Länder (regional governments) pay farmers not to damage the environment. To 1997, some 200 000 farmers had joined the schemes, covering some 17 million hectares, about a tenth of total agricultural area. To date, the main uptake has been for extensive grassland management, about 80 percent of the total. However, some states have made important steps towards positive environmental management.
The MEKA (Marketentlastungs und Kulturlandschaftsausgleich) cheme of Baden-Würtemburg gives farmers 'à la carte' menu of technologies from which to choose, each one earning them 'eco-points', and each point brings them DM20 per hectare. For example, using no growth regulator attracts ten points; sowing a green manure crop in the autumn earns six points, applying no herbicides and using mechanical weeding gets five points; cutting back livestock to 1.2-1.8 adult units per hectare brings three points; and direct drilling on erosive soils earns 6 points. Direct environment protection measures include up to fifteen points for reduced stocking on areas designated as of special scientific interest and points can also be earned for keeping rare breeds.
The national cost of the scheme is split between the Federal government and the regional government, with the CAP picking up the rest under agri-environment regulation. By 1997, 102 000 farmers had signed up, with the result that 220 000 hectares of grassland is now managed extensively, 225 000 hectares of arable is also managed extensively, with a considerable proportion no longer using pesticides or fertilizers, 97 000 hectares of protected vineyards and orchards. But only 2 300 hectares of land has been entered for positive nature conservation, such as new hedge planting or riverine management. Some 14 000 hectares, however, have become organic.
In Hessen, some 82 000 hectares are farmed under the HEKUL (Hessiches Kulturlandschaftaprogramm) programme, which is extensifying farming and encouraging the adoption of organic farming technologies. In Rheinland Pfalz, the FUL (Förderprogram Unweltschonende Landbewirtschaftung) Programme includes payments for organic production, low-input integrated practices, and extensified grassland farming.
® Source: Pretty (1998). The Living Land
The Watershed Development and Soil Conservation Department of the Government of Rajasthan was set up in 1991 to implement a participatory approach for integrated watershed development. Since the 1940s, groundwater levels had fallen dramatically, forests had become degraded, and community institutions undermined. But despite considerable expenditure on soil conservation, the impacts were poor, as Krishna observed: "field observations confirmed... near zero maintenance by the beneficiaries". The GoR recognized the need to involve local people, and has since facilitated the formation of 15 000 watershed users groups, with at least three million hectares (possibly as high as 10-15 m ha) under sustainable practices. The technologies are low-cost and based on indigenous and biological technologies, including strips of vetiver and other grasses on the contour; contour bunds and contour cropping; field bunds; drainage line treatment; and regeneration of common lands with shrubs and trees. Sorghum and millet yields have more than doubled to 400-875 kg/ha (without addition of fertilizers); and grass strips have improved yields by 50 200 percent to 450-925 kg/ha.
® Source: FAO
The National Irrigation Administration of the Philippines' government seeks to establish irrigators' associations (IAs) to sustain the operation and maintenance of small-scale irrigation systems that have received construction assistance from the government. These small-scale systems are generally less than 1 000 ha, but cover about half of the country's irrigated lands. The remainder are government-owned and operated.
During the 1960s and 1970s, the NIA approach was distinctly non-participatory. Engineers planned infrastructure, and systems were built with only nominal local consultation. Systems often fell into disrepair, as farmers saw little reason to take on management responsibilities. During the 1980s, though, the NIA adopted a participatory approach to irrigation.
Fundamental changes were made in the NIA to support this new participatory approach. These included the introduction of motivated, mostly female, community organizers; the reorientation of site assessment procedures to reflect locally-diverse conditions; the devolution of authority to make the provincial irrigation engineers responsible for overall coordination of irrigation programmes in their respective provinces; and the strengthening of agency accountability to water users.
The approach to institution building was also fundamentally different. In the non-participatory approach, farmers were expected to form IAs only shortly before construction began, when NIA personnel called farmers together to elect their officials. The participatory approach, by contrast, focuses on the association months before construction starts. Full-time organizers reside in the project area and prepare local people to work with the engineers. The organizers also continue to work with the association for at least two crop seasons under the improved system. Farmers are now involved from the very start of the project, including determining the layout of the proposed system, and constructing dams, canals, and structures. Once the construction is completed, the NIA turns over full authority for the systems to the IAs.
The NIA developed their participatory approaches experimentally over time. This meant that participatory and non-participatory efforts continued side-by-side, and it has been possible to measure the impact of the participatory element alone. The primary impacts include: rice yields increased by 19 percent in wet seasons and by 16 percent in the dry; farmers contributions to costs increased from 54 to 357 pesos/ha; an increase from 27 percent to 83 percent in systems in which farmers suggestions were incorporated in design; a fall by half in the number of NIA-built canals abandoned or rerouted; an increase in association members present at the turnover ceremony; an increase from 50 percent to 82 percent in remittance of amortization payments within a year; an increase in time farmers contributed to group maintenance of systems; and an improved capacity of IAs to manage their own affairs.
® Source: National Irrigation Administration, Philippines
The Solomon Islands are an archipelago of about 900 islands, many of which of difficult access and with limited services and resources. Rural communities lifestyle has long been based on subsistence agriculture, artisanal fisheries, forest harvesting and inter-community trade. The expansion of cash economy and the increased exploitation of natural resources (cash crops, timber, tuna) by non-residential entrepreneurs has enhanced exodus to "urban" areas, development gaps for rural dwellers and social conflicts. The lack of credit facilities, equipment, materials and technical skills has limited the development of smallholders' initiatives and rural businesses. In the early 90's, based on community, cultural and/or religious relationships, some 30 rural associations have been spontaneously established; called Rural Training Centres. Their main roles were to provide advise, technical assistance, vocational training and access to credit.
The 30 RTCs (more joined the association during the project implementation) supported 10 to 30 initiatives in their area of interest. Some trainees became trainers themselves, finding part-time employment in the RTCs. New trading facilities and commercial routes were established in the areas of production, creating new jobs opportunities. New branches of the Development Bank have been established in particularly dynamic provinces.
The key impacts include:
® combating poverty through self-employment and entrepreneurship and limiting exodus to urban areas;
® managing land sustainably through support is given to design and implement the initiatives based on improved traditional knowledge, environmentally sound techniques, local resources available and social needs of the concerned communities;
® sustainable agriculture through increased and diversified use of customary land with better return for local communities: strengthened role of local leadership; added value to local products through direct involvement in commercialization and processing; increased social development through new trade and services facilities.
® Benefits to women in sustainable development through approval of many applications from women the most common fields of intervention for women were sewing, food processing and poultry.
® partnerships with NGOs - the RTCs are community-based NGOs and are participating directly to the definition of the role and activities of their association and to the decision-making process.
® financing sustainable development - the credit scheme is recording a good rate of success with loan repayment procedures generally in line with the type of investment.
In the United States, farmers' markets have emerged on a huge scale in recent years. Under the Federal 1976 Farmer-to-Consumer Direct Marketing Act, state extension services have a mandate to promote the development and expansion of direct marketing. Held on a weekly or twice weekly basis, farmers and consumer groups have established new market sites to foster direct selling to the local public. There are at least 2 400 farmers' markets in the United States of America, involving more than 20 000 farmers as vendors, one third of whom use them as their sole outlet. Each is unique, offering a variety of farm-fresh and organic vegetables, fruits and herbs, as well as flowers, cheese, baked goods and sometimes seafood. Each week, about one million people visit these farmers' markets, 90 percent of whom live within 11 km of the market. The annual national turnover is about one billion dollars.
The benefits these farmers' markets bring are substantial - they improve access to local food; they improve returns to farmers; they also contribute to community life and social capital, bringing large numbers of people together on a regular basis. Consumers also perceive the food to be of better quality and cheaper than in supermarkets. One piece of research on fifteen farmers' markets in California found that produce was 34 percent cheaper than in supermarkets. The contributions to local economies are substantial. One farmers' market in Madison, Wisconsin contributes 5 million US dollars to the local economy each year; another in Santa Fe, New Mexico brings an added 0.75 million US dollars to the nearby farming and food system.
The evidence also seems to suggest that farmers' markets have a largely positive impact on other local businesses and enterprises, as they increase foot traffic and visibility. There is no evidence that they remove business from other shops. Farmers' markets also recycle resources into other important community functions, contributing particularly to social capital. In Los Angeles, for example, the Encino market is sponsored by an organization that provides for the elderly, and part of the revenue from the market goes back into health care. Markets run by the Georgia Hunger Coalition bring black farmers from rural south Georgia into black housing estates of Atlanta to sell their produce to 300 households. And in New Orleans, the Viet Namese market features a wide range of Asian vegetables and ducks raised on 16 hectares of former wasteland.
® Source: <http://www.usda.gov> - <http://attra.ncat.org/attra-pub/farmmrkt.html>
Like a range of other Asian countries, the national IPM programme in India uses farmer field schools to build farmer capacity and knowledge on agroecology. Some 77 000 farmers have been trained in 2 600 FFS on rice, cotton, sugarcane and oilseeds. A further 12 400 demonstrations have been conducted after FFSs to help spread the concepts and practice of IPM. FFS are also being used to address wider soil, water and nutrient management issues. In Tamil Nadu, for example, farmers are experimenting with row planting, planting distance, biofertilizers (Azospirillum, Azolla), organic manures and basal fertilizer applications. Farmers adoption of biocontrol agents (e.g. Trichogramma, neem) means that conventional pesticide use has fallen by 50 percent on average. Incomes have increased by Rs 1 000-1 250/ha, and rice yields have increased by 250 kg/ha.
® Source: Kenmore (1999)
In 1986, a Presidential Decree banned 56 brands of pesticide on rice and established a national IPM programme, with the aim of making farmers experts in their own fields through the use of farmer field schools. One million farmers have now attended about 50 000 FFSs, the largest number in any Asian country. The programme is supported by FAO, the World Bank and USAID, and operates in 12 of the 26 provinces, including all 6 rice-bowl provinces. The impacts have been substantial: one survey of 2000 farmers found that rice yields had increased by 0.5 t/ha on average, with lower variation in year-on-year yields. At the same time, the number of pesticide applications had fallen from 2.9 to 1.1 per season, with dramatic reductions in the use of banned products. On average, a quarter of all farmers are now applying no pesticides, rising to a half in some villages. Many of the FFSs have continued to be active as farmer IPM groups, meeting to discuss farming problems; monitor pest and predator populations in their villages; conduct village wide campaigns to control rats, extend IPM to neighbouring villages; and run savings and credit programmes.
® Source: Kenmore (1999)
The INTEGRATED project is an IPM extension programme working in a wide range of agro-ecological zones of Sri Lanka. It is implemented by Care International, with funding from the EU and DFID. The project uses farmer field schools to promote IPM, and has trained 4 300 farmers in sustainable rice and vegetable production methods. Some 55 000 farm households on about 33 000 ha have now adopted sustainable agriculture, with substantial reductions in insecticide use (2.9 to 0.5 applications per season for rice). Yields have increased by 12-44 percent for rice, and 7-44 percent for vegetables, depending on location in the country.
® Source: Jones (1999)
Researchers with the International Rice Research Institute, Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (Viet Nam) and Visayas State College of Agriculture (Philippines) have been engaged in the past eight years in a unique and successful initiative to encourage the adoption of more sustainable rice production in the Mekong Delta, Viet Nam. Surveys in the early 1990s showed that insecticide use by farmers was high, particularly to control leaf-feeding larvae that caused visible defoliation. Farmers believed that such visible damage caused yield loss, but researchers had discovered that leaf-damage during the vegetative stages of rice rarely reduce yields. Indeed, use of insecticides was more likely to kill beneficial insects, and lead to outbreaks of secondary pests.
Through an innovative media campaign backed with farmer-field schools, farmers in Long Am Province were encourage to test the heuristic "insecticide spraying for leaffolder control in the first 40 days after sowing is not needed". The campaign distributed 380 000 leaflets and 35 000 posters, organized 1 390 demonstrations and broadcast a radio drama 1 550 times. This reached 97 percent of the 20 000 farmers in the study region, and 82 percent of those on the whole province a total of 172 000. In the two and a half years after the campaign, mean insecticide spraying fell from 3.35 to 1.56 sprays per farmer per season. Farmers' perceptions had changed substantially - 77 percent had stopped early season spraying, and 20-30 percent had stopped using insecticides altogether.
Other provinces in the Mekong Delta adopted the approach, and their campaigns have reached 92 percent of the 2.3 million farmers - who have now reduced spray frequencies to one per season (a 70 percent reduction). Rice yields have not changed during this period - remaining at about 4t/ha. Researchers concluded that the two interventions - detailed understanding from the farmer field schools, and spread through the media campaign, play complementary roles in changing both farmers' beliefs and practices. Researchers are now exploring ways to develop targeted advice for other phases in the rice cycle - as the total potential audience of rice farmers in Asia is more than 200 million.
K.L. Heong, International Rice Research Institute, MCPO Box 3127,
Makati City 1271, Philippines <[email protected]>
Zero- or No-Til (plantio direto) has seen extraordinary spread amongst some 200 000 farmers in the two southern states of Paraná and Rio Grande do Sul. These have been organized into 2 100 microbacias in Paraná, and 455 in Rio Grande do Sol. The total area under ZT in 1999 was 10.5 million hectares - up from about 700 000 ha in 1990. These farmers are organized into some 8 000 Friends of Land Clubs, which are organized at many different levels - local, municipal, multi-municipal, river basin and state.
The model of ZT is unlike that adopted in industrialized countries, particularly in the United States, as green manures, cover crops and legumes have been incorporated into rotations, so reducing the systems requirement for herbicides for weed control. The major on-farm impacts have been on crop yields, soil quality and moisture retention, and labour demand, and reduced fossil fuel use (a 40-70 percent drop). Maize yields have improved by 67 percent from 3 to 5 t/ha in a decade and soya by 68 percent from 2.8 to 4.7 t/ha. A great deal of recent interest has focused on the substantial public benefit being produced by these farms through sequestration of carbon in organic matter in soils. This new carbon sink is helping to mitigate the factors that stimulate climate change.
The key conceptual change in these ZT programmes has been the transition from soil conservation thinking (based on physical conservation measures) to soil restoration and improvement (based on biological measures). Maintaining soil cover is much more important than preventing erosion through terraces or barriers. It is this that has led to benefits both for farmers and the wider environment. And as John Landers (1999) has put it: "ZT has been a major factor in changing the top-down nature of crop services to farmers towards a participatory on-farm approach".
® Source: John Landers <[email protected]>
This participatory extension project work with some 20 000 farmers on 4 200 hectares to encourage the adoption of various agroforestry practices within farms. These include i) undersowing of Tephrosia vogelii, pigeon pea and Sesbania sesban in maize for soil fertility improvement; ii) dispersed tree interplanting (e.g. Faidherbia, Acacia polycantha. A. galpinii); and iii) soil and water conservation practices, especially contour grass hedges.
The project uses participatory approaches to bring a wide range of government and non-government organizations together with farmers to ensure that these technologies are well adapted to local conditions. Farmers are formed into farmer associations, which can then draw down on these external bodies for specific services. The project has trained farmer trainees, who pass on their expertise to colleagues. As a result of these social process and new technologies, maize yields have improved from 700 kg/ha to 1 500-2 000 kg/ha. Farmers have become less dependent on fertilizers (many of which are too expensive for smallholders), and the project reports more households becoming both food and woodfuel secure. Some 6.98 million trees were planted in 1999 by 1 155 913 households, and the project expects to see reduced pressure on natural forests as these mature.
® Source: Zwide Jere, MAFEproject
Environmental or 'eco' taxes seek to shift the burden of taxation away from economic 'goods', such as labour, towards environmental 'bads', such as waste and pollution. The market prices for agricultural inputs and products do not currently reflect the full costs of farming. Environmental taxes or pollution payments, however, seek to internalize some of these costs, so encouraging individuals and businesses to use resources more efficiently. Such green taxes offer the opportunity of a 'double dividend' by cutting environmental damage, particularly from non-point sources of pollution, whilst promoting welfare.
There is still, however, a widespread view that environmental taxes stifle economic growth. Growing empirical evidence on the costs of compliance with environmental regulations and taxes suggest that there have been little or no impact on the overall competitiveness of businesses or countries, with some suggestion that they have increased efficiency and employment.
Although there are a wide variety of environmental taxes and levies in countries of Europe and North America (e.g. carbon/energy taxes, CFC taxes, sulphur taxes, NO2 charges, leaded and unleaded petrol differentials, landfill tax, groundwater extraction charges, and sewage charges, environmental taxes have not tended to be applied to agriculture. The notable exception is pesticide taxes in Denmark, Finland, Sweden and in several states of the United States of America; fertilizer taxes in Austria (1986-94), Finland (1976-94), Sweden, and again several states of the United States; and manure charges in Belgium and the Netherlands.
The ideal situation for a pesticide tax is for the highest costs to be imposed on products causing the most harm to environmental and human health. However, there is no accepted methodology for hazard ranking. There are various options, including a banding system, with pesticides grouped into classes with similar impact, and an ad-valorem or kg-based tax, with tax as a proportion of price or imposed on pesticide use. An important question remains on what happens to farmers' behaviour following the establishment of a pesticide tax. In particular, if prices increase, will use of pesticides fall? The price elasticity of demand is important for determining such environmental effects, and estimates from the Netherlands, Greece, France, Germany, Denmark and the United Kingdom put it generally between -0.2 and -0.4, with a few ranging up to -0.7 to -1.0. This seems to imply that it will take a large price change for farmers to change their practices inelastic demand limits environmental effectiveness, though it is good for generating revenue.
But, there are several reasons why elasticity is probably higher. First, demand is inelastic if there is an expectation that price rises will quickly be reversed - but if farmers come to accept that higher prices incorporating the environmental taxes will remain in place, then further behaviour changes will occur. Second, a well-designed package of taxes with regulations, advice and incentives can increase price responsiveness. And third, as innovation increases, more sustainable agriculture options become available to farmers, so promoting further change.
Where taxes have been established, they have been levied on sales price or kg of active ingredient used. These taxes vary from 0.7 percent of sales price (USA) to 36 percent (Denmark), and have different effects - at best a 65 percent reduction in pesticide use in Sweden since 1985. Revenue raised ranges from £37 (US$59) million per year in the United States (of which 24 percent is from California alone), £12.5 (US$20) million in Norway, and £0.9 (US$1.5) million in Sweden.
Fertilizer taxes have been introduced in several countries, and are currently of the order of £0.06-0.25 (US$0.1-0.4) per kg of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium in Austria, Norway and Sweden, though much lower in the United States: £0.0004-0.0125 (US$0.0006-0.02)/kg N in various states). Most agree that tax packages having the greatest impact on externalities are those combined with other policy instruments (advice, incentives and regulations) and that are hypothecated - with the revenue raised being reinvested solely in promoting more sustainable alternatives.
® Source: Pretty (1998); Ekins (1999)
One of the best examples of rural partnerships comes from Australia, where a remarkable national social experiment has been underway since the 1980s. Landcare encourages groups of farmers to work together with government and rural communities to solve a wide range of rural environmental and social problems. By the end of 1998, there were 4 500 active local groups, comprising more than a half of all Australian farm families. For a country where individual farmers have prided themselves for so long with frontier spirit, and capacity to cope alone with problems, this is an extraordinary society-wide recognition that some problems can only be dealt with by working together.
Landcare groups have emerged to deal with many different local problems that affect the whole community. Groups deal with pest, weed and rabbit problems; with tree decline; with dune regeneration; with conservation farming; with soil salinity; with wildlife conservation; and with farm profitability and business management. One example is the Morbinning Catchment group from the wheat belt of Western Australia. The Morbinning Catchment consists of twenty families on 25 000 hectares of farmland. They formed the group in 1989 united by their common problems of increasing soil salinity, poor drainage and the effects of periodical flooding. These problems could only be dealt with by planning and cooperating across farm boundaries. Over eight years, the group has revegetated 300 hectares of creeklines; treated 550 hectares of saltland; planted 440 000 trees including 91 km of windbreaks and 90 hectares of fodder trees; erected 249 km of fencing to protect natural bush; planted 460 hectares of alley farming systems and 80 hectares of permanent pastures; and installed 145 piezometers so as to measure regularly the water table depth. The group have also been at the forefront of local farm improvements, including in oil seeds, reduced tillage, alternative fertilizers, soil aeration, floriculture, sandalwood planting, and farm stays and school visit programmes.
® Source: Pretty (1998) <http://www.landcareaustralia.com.au/default.htm>
In July 1995, the government of Gujarat adopted a resolution announcing the participatory irrigation management (PIM) programme. It envisages a complete turnover of operation and maintenance of canals to water users associations (WUA). While the canals remain government property and major repairs continue to be the responsibility of the irrigation department, the responsibility of the day-to-day functioning of the system is of the WUA. Planning of crops, allocation of water available for irrigation, fixing the water rates, collecting the water demand forms and water charges from the individual members and disciplining the defaulters are the other responsibilities of the WUA under the PIM. After carrying out repair and rehabilitation, works on the canal network the management is to be "turned over" to the WUAs.
In the pilot phase of the PIM programme, thirteen projects were selected to experiment and learn from the new approach. This programme focuses on the formation of user cooperatives and the development of links between different actors (participant farmers, NGOs and government). The NGOs mobilize and organize farmers to set up a WUA and guide it during its formation and through subsequent stages. However, technical help, cooperation and guidance from the department remains an important link. The participating farmers form and manage the Association, they also make a fixed contribution toward the initial expenses of repair and rehabilitation of the system. It is generally understood and appreciated that the NGOs have been particularly adept at developing cooperative spirit among the participants.
The most outstanding results include:
® Peoples participation grew gradually in the WUA, with strong emphasis on "Learning by Doing" (a concept that emerged during the process of implementation of the PIM);
® The higher (than government) water charges levied by the WUA underwent a series of negotiations proving empowerment of people, and at the same time water pricing to be dynamic and difficult process;
® The importance of motivation in a participatory programme, and the NGO's role in this;
® Phasing strategies of the process of implementation of the programme provided invaluable lessons for replication;
® The importance of taking in to account the dynamics of caste, class, inter and intra-village differences in the society while implementing a programme;
® The important and crucial role of documenting the process of implementation by a researcher - a parallel research effort was found to helpful in introducing mid-course corrections in the implementation of the programme.
In the remote Northern Areas of Pakistan, the Aga Khan Rural Support Programme has helped to establish more than 2 600 village or women's organizations, which cater for some 53 000 households. Village groups first organized to help construct an irrigation channel, road or bridge, then help members regularly to save small amounts of money and so create collateral for credit provision. Over time, and with local control and responsibility, groups have been able to save substantial sums.
Other notable successes have emerged in southern India, where NGOs such as Myrada, SPEECH and Pradan have again shown the value of small groups. Years of relying on banks and local cooperative societies to supply credit had rarely helped the poor. But when they started to work with small independent groups with members feeling they could trust one another, they noticed that not only was the money managed more carefully, there was a far greater commitment and responsibility from the groups towards repaying the amount of money, something that had not unduly bothered them when they were part of the cooperative. What is particularly significant for the programmes is that some 95-98 percent of loans are repaid in full. This contrasts with just 20-25 percent for banks making loans under Integrated Rural Development Programmes.
® Source: Pretty (1995)