I am qouting Olivier De Schutter, UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food,
speaking at the 64th session of the UN General Assembly as upscaling of community seed banks, upholding ‘Farmers' Rights’ is even more relevant today with the serious effects of climate change being faced by our planet
“All States should: Support and scale-up local seed exchange systems such as community seed banks and seed fairs, community registers of peasant varieties, and use them as a tool to improve the situation of the most vulnerable groups,..”
BANKING FOR THE FUTURE: SAVINGS, SECURITY AND SEEDS
A short study of community seed banks in Bangladesh, Costa Rica, Ethiopia, Honduras, India, Nepal, Thailand, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
The Development Fund/ Utviklingsfondet
CHAPTER V: UP-SCALING COMMUNITY SEED BANKS TO IMPLEMENT FARMERS’ RIGHTS AND TOWARDS A SUSTAINABLE FUTURE FOR AGRICULTURE
To fully reap the benefits of community seed banks in enhancing farmers’ access and control of seeds, as well as their contribution to the conservation and sustainable use of crop genetic diversity, we will end this report with a set of policy recommendations.
- Establish and/or support community seed banks as part of their obligations to implement Farmers’ Rights and other provisions of the Plant Treaty, such as sustainable use and conservation of crop genetic diversity. Parties should support the up-scaling of community seed banks in order to reach as many farmers as possible, especially in marginalised areas.
- Integrate community seed banks in broader programmes on agricultural biodiversity, where the local seed banks should serve as a storing place for results of participatory plant breeding and participatory variety selection, and make such results accessible to farmers. Seed banks should also be venues for seed fairs for farmers to exchange and display their seed diversity.
- Include community seed banks in governments’ agricultural development strategies as a vehicle for adaptation to climate variability. Agricultural extension services would provide the best institutional infrastructure to embark on a scaling up of local seed bank experiences to a national level.
- Revise seed regulations and provisions on intellectual property rights to seeds to ensure Farmers’ Rights to save, use, exchange and sell farm-saved seeds.
- Redirect public subsidies from promoting modern varieties to fund the above mentioned activities.
Agricultural Research Institutions should:
- Ensure that farmers are given an informed choice between traditional and modern varieties. Extension services and government agricultural policies should be reviewed as to ensure this balance. There is a need to democratise agricultural extension systems so that it provides all kinds of information (e.g. about the role of formal and informal seed systems) in a transparent way without putting farmers’ varieties to a disadvantage.
- Extend their expertise and services for free to assist and support communities and NGOs in setting up and maintaining community seed banks. Their assistance and support should be based on the actual needs and capacities of the communities and local organisations seeking their expertise.
- Facilitate the access of communities and NGOs setting up community seed banks to other in situ as well as ex situ sources of seeds, if necessary and when required. They should help provide linkages among communities engaged in community seed banking and relevant institutions and organisations that may be able to support such efforts. Community seed banks are the bridge between in situ and ex situ conservation. Through them, national gene banks should make their acquisitions available to farmers.
Commercial seed sector should:
- Contribute to the Benefit Sharing Fund of the Plant Treaty, which in its turn should make sure that sufficient funds for supporting community seed banks are in place. The cost of conserving crop genetic diversity should not be borne by resource poor farmers in the Global South, but be shared by all who benefit from the commercialisation of this diversity.
- Multiply and produce farmers’ varieties for increased availability of locally adapted seeds.
- Adopt a mechanism to share their skills and knowledge in establishing and maintaining community seed banks to interested communities, farmers’ organisations and other NGOs in and around the countries where they are based. The main role of NGOs is to promote community seed banks until governments have incorporated such banks in their formal systems like agricultural extension services.
- Strengthen community based management of agricultural biodiversity and avoid using community seed banks for promoting only modern varieties.
Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) on the lives and livelihoods of Asia's indigenous peoples and farmers as well as food safety and security in the region covers a larger group since it binds the 10-member ASEAN and six non-ASEAN countries - including China - with a combined population of over 3.5 billion while the well known 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) signed on 4 February this year only covers the region's 800 million people,
Represetatives of developing countries need to be aware that RCEP be made friendlier to their needs, as negotiations for the RCEP like the TPPA – are also taking place behind closed doors and without the participation of all stakeholders (farmers, unions, indigenous peoples, health advocates, and other members of civil society, etc.) who must be invited and given a voice and full say in the deliberations for long term sustainability of rural urban communities.
Texts leaked from the RCEP negotiations indicate a strong push is being made to further increase the power of MNC seed companies, in contrast the rural poor needs:
· criminalise seed saving and exchange also
· restrictions on seed saving and exchange at a time when, under the extreme pressures of climate change, farmers need more diversity in their fields, not less;
· increase farmers' dependence on external inputs and raise their risks and costs of production, as well as result in increased seed prices and non availability of locally adapted seeds
· if seeds or traditional knowledge are compiled into databases and made available, MNCs like Monsanto and Syngenta could appropriate the knowledge and genetic resources of farming and indigenous communities.
The full GRAIN report can be read and downloaded here: https://www.grain.org/article/entries/5405-new-mega-treaty-in-the-pipeline-what-does-rcep-mean-for-farmers-seeds-in-asia,
also at: www.grain.org/e/5405
A peer-reviewed study published last year in the British Journal of Nutrition, a leading international journal of nutritional science, showed that organic crops and crop-based foods are between 18 to 69 percent higher in a number of key antioxidants such as polyphenolics than conventionally-grown crops. Numerous studies have linked antioxidants to a reduced risk of chronic diseases, including cardiovascular and neurodegenerative diseases and certain cancers. The research team concluded that a switch to eating organic fruit, vegetable and cereals – and food made from them – would provide additional antioxidants equivalent to eating between one and two extra portions of fruit and vegetables a day, full report at:
I have provided the required evidence to support Jomo's presentation, contributed earlier.
Attached is a report of Dec 5, 2015, putting soil degradation on par with the effects of climate change.
I am taking the liberty to reproduce Jomo's presentation in Rome, Nov 2015, as Nutrition through agriculture needs to be our focus if we are to achieve the development goals this time around.
Better nutrition for better lives
Rome, 26 Nov (IPS/Jomo Kwame Sundaram*) -- Food systems are increasingly challenged to ensure food security and balanced diets for all, around the world.
Almost 800 million people are chronically hungry, while over two billion people suffer from "hidden hunger," with one or more micronutrient deficiencies.
Meanwhile, over two billion people are overweight, with a third of them clinically obese, and hence more vulnerable to non-communicable diseases.
Overcoming hunger and malnutrition in the 21st century does not simply involve increasing food availability, but also improving access, especially for the hungry.
Creating healthy, affordable and sustainable food systems for all is the most effective way to achieve this.
Since 1945, food production has tripled as average food availability per person has risen by 40 per cent. But despite abundant food supplies, almost 800 million still go hungry every day, of whom most live in developing countries.
Many more go hungry seasonally or intermittently. Hunger affects their ability to work and to learn. Clearly, the problem is not just one of food availability, but also of access.
The health of over two billion people is compromised because their diets lack essential micronutrients, which prevents them reaching their full human potential.
"Hidden hunger," or micronutrient deficiencies, undermine the physical and cognitive development of their children, exposing them to illness and premature death.
Ironically, in many parts of the world, hunger co-exists with rising levels of obesity. Over two billion people are overweight, with a third of them deemed obese.
This, in turn, exposes them to greater risk of diabetes, heart problems and other diet-related non-communicable diseases.
FOOD SYSTEM: PROBLEM AND SOLUTION
Food systems must become more responsive to people's needs, including food insecure, socially excluded and economically marginalised households.
Mothers, young children, the aged and the disabled are especially vulnerable. Adequate nutrition during the "first thousand days," from conception to the child's second birthday, is especially critical.
Our challenge then is not simply to produce and supply more food, but to ensure that better food is consumed by all, especially those most in need. And this has to be sustainable in terms of the environment and natural resources to ensure the capacity of future generations to feed themselves.
Increasingly intensive industrial farming systems and massive food wastage are often simply unsustainable.
Food production has often put great stress on natural resources - exhausting fresh water supplies, encroaching on forests, degrading soils, depleting wild fish stocks and reducing biodiversity.
We need to recognize and deal with these challenges urgently. Fortunately, we also have the means to transform food production systems to make them more sustainable and healthy by empowering local communities.
HEALTHY FOOD SYSTEMS FOR HEALTHIER PEOPLE
Strong political commitment is required to prioritize nutrition and to improve food systems.
Food system policies, programmes and interventions should always strive to improve diets, nutrition and people's access to and consumption of foods adequate in quantity and quality - in terms of diversity, nutrient content and safety.
Food production research and development should focus on ensuring more diverse, balanced and healthy diets, including more nutrient-rich foods, as well as ecological and resource sustainability.
Natural resources must be used more efficiently, with less adverse impacts, by getting more and better food from water, land, fertilizer and labour.
Nutrient dense foods, such as milk, eggs and meat, are improving diets for many, while livestock continues to provide livelihoods for millions. Yet, livestock production and consumption need to be more sustainable, with far less adverse effects on climate change, disease transmission and overall health.
Such food system reforms need to be accompanied by needed complementary interventions, including public health, education, employment and income generation, as well as social protection to enhance resilience.
Governments, consumers, producers, distributors, researchers and others need to be more involved in the food system.
Better nutrition also makes economic sense. About five per cent of global economic welfare is lost due to malnutrition in all its forms owing to foregone output and additional costs incurred.
Expenditure to address malnutrition offers very high private and social returns. Yet, only about one per cent of the total aid budget is allocated for this purpose.
The follow-up to the Second International Conference on Nutrition (ICN2) in Rome late last year provides a historic opportunity for political decisions and concerted interventions to enhance nutrition for all through better policies and international solidarity.
Currently, less than one per cent of foreign aid goes to nutrition. It is hard to justify not making the desperately needed investments in better nutrition for better lives.
[* Jomo Kwame Sundaram is the Coordinator for Economic and Social Development at the Food and Agriculture Organization, Rome, and received the 2007 Wassily Leontief Prize for Advancing the Frontiers of Economic Thought.]
You will agree that the Green Revolution's dramatic increase in crop production of the past 50 years has come at high Environmental costs - Soils Degradation, Mal Nutrition, Hunger, Poverty, Climate Change and Suicides, in the 'Long term'.
According FAO, Twelve million hectares of agricultural soils are lost globally through soil degradation every year. Currently, about 33 percent of world soils are moderately to highly degraded. Forty percent of these soils are located in Asia, South America and Africa and most of the remaining amount are in areas afflicted by hunger, mal nutrition poverty.
2015 is the FAO’s International Year of Soils. The FAO has released a template on “Agro ecology as it Reverse Soil Degradation and Achieves Nutrition and Food Security” in the long term. Agro ecology is part of FAO's Strategic Framework and states that agro ecology has proven to be an effective strategy to meet the global challenge of how to produce the increasing requirements of safe and nutritious food for a growing population in the context of climate change, guaranteeing environmental restoration whilst contributing to economical development and growth.
Following the Agro ecology of the area, integrating forestry, multiple crops and livestock, restores soil health as it increases soil organic matter year after year, facilitates soil biodiversity, by building on successful farmers’ knowledge and season after season research and adaptation, thus reducing hunger, Mal nutrition, poverty, .suicides and the effect of climate change whilst improving net incomes/ purchasing power and livelihoods of the rural poor producer communities.
Link to Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO):
also reproduced below.
Agroecology, which restores ecosystem functioning by maintaining soil health, is an effective strategy to achieve food security in the areas of the world where it is most needed.
The dramatic increase in crop production of the last 50 years has reduced the number of chronically undernourished people. However, these massive production gains have come at high environmental costs, which have affected soil and ecosystem health.
Currently agricultural policy is increasingly expected to face the combined challenge of producing sufficient food for a growing population while guaranteeing environmental restoration. Therefore, policy-makers are more frequently asked how to address the urgent need for soil and environmental restoration when millions of people are still hungry.
Food security and soil degradation
“The world produces more than enough food to feed every member of the human family, yet 1 in 9 people do not have enough to eat”. This was the opening sentence by the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, for the launch of EXPO 2015 in Milan, Italy.
Despite hosting almost all food production, rural areas also hold the majority of the world’s food insecure people. Soils that are well managed by family farmers help ensure the four dimensions of food security: availability, delivering nutrients for crop growth; access, by improving family farm income through more reliable harvests; stability, by conserving water to support nearly year-round cropping; and utilization, by harvesting healthy nutritious food from healthy soils.
Soil degradation consists of biological, chemical and physical degradation. Currently, about 33 percent of world soils are moderately to highly degraded. Forty percent of these soils are located in Africa and most of the remaining amount are in areas that are afflicted by poverty and food insecurity. The strong relationship between soil health and food security calls for strategic and immediate actions especially at the local level to reverse soil degradation, in order to increase food production and alleviate food insecurity in the areas where it is most needed and in the context of climate change.
Agroecology as a strategy to reverse soil degradation
By understanding and working with interactions among soil, plants, animals, humans and the environment within agricultural systems, agroecology encompasses multiple dimensions of the food system, including ecological restoration, political and social stability and economic sustainability. The agroecological approach starts by restoring soil life in order to re-establish and/or enhance the multiple soil-based biological processes. This requires:
* Increasing and monitoring soil organic matter: Soil organic matter is considered the most common deficiency in degraded soils and the main indicator for soil quality. Practical, accessible indicators can support local decisions and larger landscape monitoring and analyses for district level implementation.
* Facilitating and monitoring of soil biodiversity: Soil biological communities are directly responsible for multiple ecosystem functions.
* Build on local farmers’ knowledge: Participatory scientific approaches to soil ecosystem management, such as Farmer Field Schools, are of great importance to inform farmers’ knowledge with researchers’ scientific principles in order better locally adapt agroecological systems.
Farmers: The Ecosystem managers for soil restoration
Degraded soils have lost their capacity to sustain food production as many ecological processes provided by soil biological communities such as maintenance of soil structure, soil-born pest regulation, nutrient and water cycling, have been overlooked or replaced by the use of external inputs. Many farmers across the globe have deep, experiential knowledge of their local soils. They have tested, adapted and discovered agricultural practices that restore soil life and the associated ecosystem services. These farmers are the main ecosystem managers and are at the centre of agroecology.
Agroecology as a strategy to restore soils and ecosystem stability
Agroecology applies specific strategies based on temporal and spatial diversity, which guarantee local, stable and diverse year-round production and income. These strategies include:
Polycultures and agroforestry systems: The design of appropriate crop mixtures is more stable than monocultures as polycultures build on diverse crop resistance to soil pests and diseases and complementary uptake of soil nutrients and water in order to facilitate recycling of biomass and nutrients. The complementary traits of trees and crops enhance the efficiency of the whole systems, while litter mulch and the position of the trees along contour lines reduce erosion and soil degradation potential.
Sloping Agricultural Land Technology (SALT) is a specific agroforestry strategy in which annual and perennial crops are grown between contoured rows of leguminous species. SALT has been extensively tested and implemented in farmers’ fields and experimental plots in Southeast
Asia and has proven effective for reversing soil degradation while improving crop yields and farm’s profitability.
Cover crops: Cover crops are usually leguminous crops grown to improve soil health by guaranteeing permanent soil cover, adding organic matter to soil and fixing atmospheric nitrogen. These help reverse soil degradation even in densely populated areas where long term fallows are simply no longer possible.
The use of Mucuna spp. as a cover crop in different African locations has increased soil organic matter, improved nitrogen availability in soils and positively affected yields.
Crop-livestock integration: Integrating livestock with crop production can tighten up nutrient cycles and diversify production, especially for smallholder family farms. In mixed farming systems, crop by-products are fed to livestock while manure is applied to cropland to sustain benefits from soil organic matter and nutrients availability.
In Ethiopia and Tanzania the design of mixed farming systems, which include multi-purpose legume species such as Cajanus cajan (pigeon pea)–a drought tolerant multi-purpose legume–or Faidherbia albida –an indigenous leguminous nitrogen–fixing species with pods palatable for livestock, and leaves used as fertilizers-are well known to be effective in reversing soil degradation by controlling erosion, providing nitrogen-rich residues and increasing soil organic matter.
Time for action
The design of diverse agroecological systems rooted in local ecological knowledge and based on system diversity and ecological synergies can significantly improve soil quality and reverse soil degradation while increasing the production of nutritious food.
Agroecology has already proven to be an effective strategy to address the global challenge that agriculture is facing as it accommodates the socio-political characteristics of food security with the need for restoring ecosystem functions.
Agroecology is part of the Strategic Framework of FAO, in particular the Strategic Objectives of making agriculture, forestry and fisheries more productive and sustainable, increasing the resilience of livelihoods and reducing rural poverty. To facilitate a dialogue about Agroecology, its benefits, challenges and opportunities focusing at regional and national level, FAO is involved in regional conferences (held in 2015 in Latin America and the Caribbean, sub-Saharan Africa and Asia and the Pacific). Furthermore, FAO supports farmers’ research networks to integrate scientific innovations with traditional farmers’ knowledge.
• 12 million hectares of agricultural soils are lost globally through soil degradation every year.
• Soils with soil organic matter content lower than 0.8 percent are unproductive and often abandoned.
• Agroforestry systems can reduce soil erosion by as much as 100 times in steep slopes.
• Growing Faidherbia albida in association with millet (Pennisetum glaucum) increased grain yields by 50 percent in Burkina Faso and Senegal.
• In Honduras, the adoption of soil conservation practices tripled or quadrupled maize yields for 1,200 families.
First let me wish you good health and happiness during 2016 and hope that the extraordinary effort being made by FAO (FSN) during 2015 to put in place 'Sustainable low cost low risk systems (Agro ecology) in the long term and farmer producer orgs/ company on top of the table and ensure their access to nutritious food at little or no cost, will hugely reduce the subsidy burden and contributing hugely to growth and development of the developping world.
An important step towards achieving the above is creating capacity among school children and college students by introducing this subject as part of their curriculum, thus ensuring that only those who are really interested apply for admission in Agriculture colleges, not because they are unable to get admission elsewhere, as is in most cases.
Prof Dr Amar Nayak has developped a curriculum for colleges/ universities, attached.
Here are links to courses for schools with a brief write up by Nyla Coelho, the author of the curriculum.
Our Land Our Life - An educational programme for children in India
Nyla Coelho, http://www.peakoilindia.org/resources/,
is the curriculum framework for an educational programme for children with specific emphasis on farming and farm related activities. It’s design provides a hands on approach to learning both academic and farm related topics. The document was prepared by the Organic Farming Association of India, Taleemnet and the Natural Farming Institute with other collaborators to serve the needs of the rural and the farming communities of India. Although the emphasis is on the above, others too, specially home schooling children and alternative schools will find the document useful. The programme is the outcome of a yearlong research based on inputs from pioneer educators, organic farmers and academicians from across the country.
Download PDF http://www.peakoilindia.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/Our-Land-Our-Life...
Also links to workbooks prepared by The Uttarakhand Seva Nidhi, with the same title as our book. These work books are teacher guides as well as student workbooks that can be used for teaching in India with modification/adaptation as applicable to the local soil and agro climatic conditions.
Our Land, Our Life, 6-8 class workbooks in English currently running in Government Schools of Uttarakhand
6TH CLASS: 7TH CLASS: 8TH CLASS:
CLASS 6 CLASS 7 CLASS 8
Our Land, Our Life, 6-8 class workbooks in English VI to X class
6TH CLASS , 7TH CLASS , 8TH CLASS , 9TH CLASS , 10TH CLASS
Tending a Schoolyard Garden: Nyla Coelho, is a teacher handbook that attempts to encourage educators to use available land for school gardens . Written in an easy to follow style with step-by-step instructions and plenty of illustrations, it offers teachers the necessary wherewithal as well as the confidence that it is doable. This book is the outcome of field tests of the Our Land Our Life curriculum (see above). Download PDF: http://www.arvindguptatoys.com/arvindgupta/schoolyard-nyla.pdf
For print copies of Our Land Our Life and Tending a Schoolyard Garden, write to:firstname.lastname@example.org
AGROECOLOGY – PUTTING FOOD SOVEREIGNTY INTO ACTION
This publication is not a technical guide to agroecology. It does not discuss or share the science behind agroecological farming, and it does not include examples of farming practices. This publication does not try to present agroecology as a new technological fix or as a set of farming practices that can be learned and replicated with a “how to” manual. Instead, this publication shares the perspectives of members of social movements and grassroots organizations that are building agroecology and highlights the social, political, cultural, nutritional, and spiritual meaning of agroecology to their communities.
La Via Campesina, a global social movement, says, “the origin of agroecology is the accumulated knowledge of rural people, systematized and further developed through a dialogue of different kinds of knowledge: scientific knowledge, knowledge of organizing communities, and the everyday practical knowledge of agroecology and food production.” This publication embodies the ongoing dialogue of grassroots knowledge and features peasant and indigenous men, women, and youth who are the stewards of agroecology in the US and the Global South. Agroecology belongs to communities, so we hope that the knowledge summarized here will help to generate dialogue in other communities and among consumers and food producers. And further we hope this publication will expand our collective struggle for justice and international solidarity and support the leadership of communities around the world facing the impacts of the commodification of food and the growing influence of international agribusinesses in our food system.
"Scaling Up" Agroecology
The question of how agroecology can make an impact at a greater scale has been at the center of the debates among NGOs, scholars, and policymakers at national and international levels. The question of how to increase the number of people and places impacted by agroecology everyday is important, and we must recognize that peasant and small farmer communities are at the center of agroecology, both as a science and as a way of life. Bringing agroecology to scale means both “scaling up” and “scaling out” agroecology — scaling up agroecology by increasing research, training, and supportive policies; and scaling out by supporting the dissemination of peasant-led agroecological practices through peasant-to-peasant exchanges and training. Specifically, scaling agroecology up and out needs:
· Increased funding for social movements’ priorities.
· Support for the rights to land, seeds, and water of local communities.
· Substantial government commitment, away from policies that subsidize international agribusinesses and toward significant funding for technical assistance for farmers; farmer-led research of agroecological practices; and basic infrastructure of roads, schools, and other services still lacking in many rural communities.
· Democratic reviews of free trade agreements and other international agreements that disregard and even curb farmers’ rights to multiply, store, and share seeds.
MNCs are Globally Controlling and Monopolising Seeds - A threat to nutritious food and health security as these are high cost high risk - not sustainable in the long term
Producer communities' seed systems are low cost, low risk and thus stand at the very centre of their agro ecology. Whilst producers' seed rights have been recognised by their governments in several international treaties, the same governments are signing new laws and regulations that negate their rights, allowing MNCs to monopolise the world’s seed supply, even though these are high cost and high risk and not sustainable in the long term.
This is explained in a primer by GRAIN on how farmers are affected by seed laws:
- plant breeders’ rights or plant variety protection legislation,
- patent laws for plants,
- certification laws,
- marketing regulations and
- food safety rules.
UPOV (the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants), which provides for plant variety protection has got WTO members to protect plant varieties and joining UPOV 1991 has become requirement in bilateral and regional trade agreements involving developed nations.
MNCs are pushing for ever more aggressive new laws and regulations that criminalise producer communities for sowing, keeping, exchanging, and taking care of their own seeds. These take effect through a variety of ways which include:
(1) bans or restrictions on using and exchanging privatised seeds;
(2) privatising farmers seeds;
(3) limits or bans on keeping, exchanging and selling seeds;
(4) fines and jail terms over seed saving and exchange; and
(5) reversing the burden of proof on to the farmers.
Producer communities' resistance has and is gatherring momentum around the world, managing to stop and repeal these new seed regulations. GRAIN calls for further support and strengthening of such action.
"UPOV 91 and Other Seed Laws Primer on How MNCs Intend to Control and Monopolise Seeds" can be accessed at:
Dear Danielle and Artur,
Bhaskar Save’s Low Risk Agro ecology vs MNC Agribusiness’ High Cost/ Risk Conventional Green Revolution/ Climate Smart Technology provides most of the answers you may be looking for in this discussion, also attached docs:
“We are being far too kind to industrialised agriculture. The private sector has endorsed it, but it has failed to feed the world, it has contributed to major environmental contamination and misuse of natural resources. It’s time we switched more attention, public funds and policy measures to agro ecology, to replace the old model as soon as possible.” Dr David Fig, Biowatch, South Africa
Based on the results on his farm in Gujarat, Indian farmer and campaigner Bhaskar Save demonstrated that by following the agro ecology, his yields were superior to any farm using chemicals in terms of quantity, nutritional quality, biological diversity, ecological sustainability, water conservation, energy efficiency and economic profitability.
Bhaskar Save: 1922 - October 2015, published in 2006 a famous open letter to the Indian Minister of Agriculture and other top officials to bring attention to the mounting suicide rate and debt among farmers. He wanted policy makers to abandon their policies of promoting the use of toxic chemicals that the ‘green revolution’ had encouraged and subsidized, even today .
According to Save, the green revolution had been a total disaster for India by flinging open the floodgates of toxic agro-chemicals which had ravaged the lands (paper attached) and lives of many millions of farmers (for example, read about the impact: http://www.deccanherald.com/content/309654/punjab-transformation-food-bowl-cancer.html, in Punjab). He firmly believed that organic farming in harmony with nature could sustainably provide India with abundant, wholesome food to the growing population.
India had for generations sustained one of the highest densities of population on earth, without any chemical fertilisers, pesticides, exotic dwarf strains of grain or ‘bio-tech’ inputs – and without degrading its soil. For instance, see this analysis which highlights better productivity levels in India prior to the green revolution. (If further evidence is required as to the efficacy of organic farming, see this report, based on a 30-year study, which concludes that organic yields match conventional yields, outperform conventional in years of drought and actually build soil fertility rather than deplete it; and see this report that says that low cost low risk organic and sustainable small- holder producer communities could double farm production in all parts of the world, especially India, ensuring access to their own requirements of nutritious food thus reducing hunger, mal nutrition, poverty, effects of climate change and suicides - the big issues.)
Save argued that numerous tall, indigenous varieties of grain provided more biomass, shaded the soil from the sun and protected against its erosion under heavy monsoon rains. But in the guise of increasing crop production, exotic dwarf varieties were introduced and promoted. This led to more vigorous growth of weeds, which were able to compete successfully with the new stunted crops for sunlight. The farmer had to spend more labour and money in weeding or spraying herbicides. In effect, farmers were placed on a chemical treadmill as traditional pest management systems were destroyed and soil degradation and erosion set in. This water-intensive, high cost external input model of the high risk economies of scale conventional green revolution technologies led to the construction of big dams, deep indebtedness, population displacement and a massive, unsustainable strain on water tables. Save noted that more than 80% of India’s water consumption is for irrigation, with the largest share hogged by chemically cultivated cash crops. Maharashtra has the maximum number of big and medium dams in the country. But sugarcane alone, grown on barely 3-4% of its cultivable land, guzzles about 70% of its irrigation waters.
For Save, in a country of farmers, it was essential to restore the natural health of soil by making required investments in Indian agriculture to solve the inter-related problems of poverty, unemployment and rising population. See his arguments in more detail here.
Save’s views may be out of step with global agribusiness interests and the international bodies, national governments and regulatory bodies they have co-opted or hijacked (see this, this, this, this, this and this), but there is an increasing awareness across the globe that the type of viewpoint put forward by Save and many others is valid and backed with evidence.
Millions of farmers across the world already knew that what Save had stated was correct and have for a long time been protesting and resisting the industrial conventional green revolution high cost high risk model, dependent external input of seed/ GMO, agro chemicals and increasing requirement of water each year and being imposed on producer communities across the planet. They are in step with what the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge Science and Technology (IAASTD) report (among others) advocates: a shift towards and investment in and reaffirmation of following the agro ecology of the area.
Likewise, botanist Stuart Newton’s notes that the answers to agricultural productivity do not entail embracing the international, monopolistic, corporate-conglomerate promotion of agro chemicals dependent hybrid/GM crops. He argues that India must restore and nurture its heavily depleted, abused and degraded soils and is endangering human and animal health by following the agro ecology. Newton provides good insight into the vital roll of healthy soils and their mineral compositions and links their depletion to the green revolution. In turn, these degraded and micro-nutrient lacking soils cannot help but lead to denitrified food and thus malnourishment: a very pertinent point given that the PR surrounding the green revolution claims it dramatically helped reduce malnutrition, hunger and poverty when the facts are otherwise.
Over the past few years, there have been numerous high level reports from the UN and development agencies putting forward proposals to support and invest in small holder producer communities and their agro ecology has not been put in their plans and budgets to ensure their access to own requirements of nutritious food and cash, if they are to be sustainable in the long term. Instead, the inaction of governments on the ground producer communities are increasingly being marginalised and oppressed due to corporate seed monopolies, land speculation and takeovers, rigged trade that favours global agribusiness interests and commodity speculation (see this on food commodity speculation, this on the global food system, this by the Oakland Institute on land grabs and this on the impact of international trade rules).
India has largely ignored he needs of the rural poor producer communities by continuing to follow the World Bank/ US Government advice on moving out 400 million out of agriculture livelihoods, thus capitulating to US agribusiness interests and in the process seeking to demonise those who criticise the Government line. The reasons given was that smallholder producers are not viable (policies behind making agriculture financially unviable) and the impacts are discussed in the article ‘Global Agribusiness Hammering Away at the Foundations of Indian Society‘. The urban-centric model of ‘development’ being pursued is unsustainable and is wholly misguided as about 20% of the population do not have jobs and thus the 70% of the population (rural) must be put to work gainfully in agriculture as they can contribute to growth and development and become sustainable in the long term.
United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Professor Hilal Elver:
“Empirical and scientific evidence shows that small farmers feed the rich world [see this]. According to the UN Food & Agrultural Organisation (FAO), 70% of food we consume globally comes from small farmers… Currently, most subsidies go to large agribusiness. This must change. Governments must support small holder producer communities.”
Despite the top down approach adopted by the National Agriculture Research & Education System (NARES) in India, it should be noted that a good deal of inspiring work is now being made to happen by the policies of the Ministry of Rural Development which may soon make the NARES redundant unless they start contributing substantially to facilitating and creating capacity in the producer communities to follow their agro ecology and having access to own requirements of nutritious food and cash, contributing to economic growth and development, becoming sustainable in the long term.
In Tamil Nadu (South India), for example, women’s collectives have been restored their agro ecology/ nutritious food systems and follow low cost low risk farming methods, resulting in lower costs, higher farm production and improved nutrition.
Before the green revolution India had 14,000 different varieties of paddy, but these traditional varieties were displaced by hybrid varieties developed based on the application on increasing quantities agro chemical and water use. Sheelu Francis is General Coordinator of the Women’s Collective of Tamil Nadu fighting back against the deleterious social, economic and environmental impacts of the conventional green revolution technologies. She states that by practicing agroecology, an increasing number of women farmers are now free from debt by growing many crops together – grains, lentils, beans, oilseeds each season thus have access to own requirements of nutrition and food, at little or no cost – creating biodiversity, producing most inputs on farm (seed, compost, plant protection formulations and plant growth promoters) not using the high cost external agro chemicals.
Government subsidies for high cost external inputs required for conventional green revolution systems, farmers gave up following their agro ecology/ traditional farming practices and agriculture systems. Francis says that farmers were encouraged to grow rice, wheat and other commodities because of government price support and subsidies which promoted growing, especially with hybrid/ GM seeds and agro chemicals. Rice and sugar cane use lots of water, so when it is the dry season or when there is drought, there is no production at all, putting producer communities into deep debt.
The use of agro chemicals harmed the health of the producers, according Francis, not just because of the chemicals but because people consume polished rice which is not very nutritious (she says 46% of children are malnourished in Tamil Nadu).
When you combine the effects of degraded soils depleted of nutrients, chemical residues many times the acceptable level, mono crops as food is a recipe for catastrophe. Little wonder then that producers are now going back to their agro ecological practices and growing multiple nutritious crops, thus ensuring access to own requirements of nutritious, balanced diet and maintain soil health.
However, it is an uphill struggle, as Francis notes:
“People who try to hold onto their ways of life are marginalised from their land, their seeds, and their way of farming. Now the industries are trying to make them workers on their own land and to a large extent they have succeeded. That is why we are strongly opposing Monsanto and Syngenta and the whole project of GM (genetically modified) seeds.”
Elsewhere, in Africa, while Monsanto and The Gates Foundation are trying to force through a corpoand rate-controlled GMO/green revolution, the Oakland Institute recently published research that highlighted the “tremendous success” of agro ecology across the continent. By combining sound ecological management, using on-farm inputs renewable resources and managing pests and disease with low cost low risk approaches that increase their net incomes/ purchasing power, improves livelihoods whilst reducing hunger, malnutrition, poverty, effects of climate change and suicides of producer communities, agro ecology embodies a social movement for positive change.
Anuradha Mittal, Executive Director of the Oakland Institute, says that the research provides irrefutable facts and figures on how agricultural transformation can yield immense economic, social, and food security benefits, while ensuring its contribution to growth, climate justice and restoring degraded soils and the environment. Frederic Mousseau, Policy Director of the Oakland Institute, who coordinated the research, adds that the research debunks the myths about the inability of agro ecology to deliver and highlights the multiple benefits of agro ecology, including affordable and sustainable ways to boost agricultural prodiction while increasing farmers’ net incomes/ purchasing power, food and nutrition security being resilient.
There are many successful farmer case studies and of different soils and agro climatic conditions from across the world and this needs wide replication by contracting the successful farmers. However, what is ultimately required is a level playing field at the national and international level to stop the use of high cost external inputs in dry, rain fed and hill areas, to stop handing out massive subsidies for external inputs and to get off the destructive and wholly unsustainable and poisonous chemical treadmill.
“Agro ecology is more than just a science, it’s also a social movement for justice that recognises and respects the right of communities of farmers to decide what they grow and how they grow it”, says Mindi Schneider, assistant professor of Agrarian, Food and Environmental Studies at the Institute of Social Studies (ISS) in The Hague.
As Mindi Schneider goes on to say, ‘agro ecology is essentially a system that prioritises local communities, smallholder farmers, local economies and markets. It is a system that the Rockefeller-backed green revolution is dismantling across the globe for the last 60 years or so. The green revolution is in crisis and has/ is causing massive damage to the environment and to farmers’ livelihoods to the point where ecocide and genocide is occurring and the cynical destructionof agrarian economies has taken place. The solution ultimately lies in challenging the corporate takeover of agriculture, the system of economies of scale ‘capitalism’ that makes such plunder possible and embracing and investing in sustainable economies of scope agriculture that is locally owned and rooted in the needs of communities.
An IFOAM book, as attached FYA extensively addresses all the 3 Qs of this discussion, 'Producers who follow their Agro ecology' are sustainable in the long term. The focus is on the poor producer communities (over 50% of the population all over the world do not have the money) who are prone to food and nutrition insecurity as they do not have access to own requirements of nutritious food, but who feed more than 80% of the world’s population, link at:
Food and nutrition insecurity resulted from a globally dysfunctional conventional green revolution agro-food system. The book addresses the question of how the poor producer communities need to be supported and funded to manage the conversion from high risk high cost conventional green revolution/ GMO (environmentally destructive, energy and agro chemical intensive market oriented commodity based systems) to low cost low risk producer oriented agro ecological systems, ensuring access to own requirements of nutritious food and long term sustainability. The authors examine aspects of agricultural policy, the role of livestock and crop/ nutrient cycles, climate change, international trade and certification schemes, the need for innovation and bring consumers closer to producers. They also highlight the main needs for further research and discuss impediments to the progress of agro ecology. Scaling up the use of agro ecological production systems requires Government support and funding for the development and improvement of the means of knowledge transfer mostly from successful farmer participation.
The book provides recommendations for the transformation of the global market oriented commodity agro-food system to a producer oriented economies of scope system, to make significant investment to follow the agro ecology of the area, conduct research and develop new economic paradigms that penalize business models contributing to environmental degradation while rewarding those that protect and promote biodiversity and eliminate environmental pollution and other harmful practices.
1. NOURISHING THE WORLD: THE ROLE OF SMALLHOLDERS AND VALUE CHAINS 10
2. POST-INDUSTRIAL AGRICULTURE: COMPETING PROPOSALS FOR THE TRANSFORMATION OF AGRICULTURE 12
3. RECLAIMING FOOD SYSTEMS: LOCAL FOOD SYSTEMS AND ACCESS TO MARKETS LINKED TO TERRITORIES 20
4. RECLAIMING FOOD SYSTEMS: AGROECOLOGY AND TRADE 22
5. THE ROLE OF PARTICIPATORY GUARANTEE SYSTEMS FOR FOOD SECURITY 26
6. THE ROLE OF LIVESTOCK IN AGROECOLOGY AND SUSTAINABLE FOOD SYSTEMS 30
7. AGROECOLOGICAL INNOVATION 34
8. SMALLHOLDERS, URBAN FARMERS AND NEO-RURALISM 40
ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTING AUTHORS 42
At this link:
is a report published on Dec 05, 2015, by the Sustainable Food Trust to mark World Soil Day, explains why soil degradation is one of the main causes of the agrarian crisis, increasing and calls for it to be recognised alongside climate change, as one of the most pressing problems facing the planet and humanity.
Soil degradation costs up to £7 or $10 trillion a year and poses a grave long-term threat to food and nutrition security and the environment. It reduces the ability of farmland to produce safe nutritious food at a time when more will be demanded of soils than ever before due to population increase and climate change.
More than 95% of the food we eat depends on soil, but half (52%) of all farmland soils worldwide are already degraded, largely due to inappropriate conventional farming methods dependent on agro chemicals.
Every year, 24 billion tonnes of soil is irrevocably lost to the world’s oceans due to wind and water erosion – that’s equivalent to 3.4 tonnes for every person on the planet or a 12 tonne lorry load for an average UK family of two parents and 1.7 children.
SFT policy director, Richard Young said, “Few people think about soil when they do their shopping, in part because most root vegetables have all the soil washed off them these days, but the reality is that for every trolley of food we wheel back to our cars, we are tipping three trolleys full of the same weight of soil into the river to be washed away.
“With continuing population growth and the relentless march of climate change, we need soils to produce more and nutritious food in the years to come, yet they are in a more depleted state than at any time in human history. Urgent action is now needed to develop common solutions which address climate change and soil degradation simultaneously”.
The problem, however, may be even worse than these figures suggest. In addition to the loss of soil itself, much of the soil that remains in the fields is losing organic matter. Organic matter is largely made up of carbon and nitrogen and these elements are being lost from soils as the greenhouse gases carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide, which increase global warming.
Soils with low levels of organic matter lack the ability to produce quality nutritious food and potential of crop yields, retain moisture during dry times or produce crops that resist pests and diseases. They are also unable to stand up to the physical impact of heavy rain, flooding and mechanisation.