|Directing our food future (20/4/2006)|
1.Re: Why Is Africa Hungry?
1.Re: Why Is Africa Hungry?
After 35 years experience in Zambia I am convinced that the way to increase agricultural production and improve the livelihoods of small-scale farmers is to promote organic agriculture and small or appropriate technologies.
Open pollinated varieties should be emphasized rather than hybrids. Low external input agriculture will double to quadruple production and leave more profit in the farmers pocket.
Organic agriculture does not mean not using any inputs. There is a need to improve the soil fertility. That is done with green manures, manuring, etc. A deliberate effort has to be made to improve the fertility of the soil. Indigenous Knowledge is another tool that is often ignored. The older people know a lot about trees, plants, etc. that are helpful medicines for humans and animals. Let us encourage the use of this knowledge by doing more research and promote this knowledge amongst our agricultural students.
Paul Desmarais S.J.
2.Consumers have power to direct food future
Re: Mr Lank's comments as published in Monday's edition (GM crops a win-win for all).
While I agree that pesticide use on crops should be eliminated, I do not believe that adopting genetic modification of our foods is a viable alternative.
Pesticide use and genetic modification are two sides of the same coin - they are both products of continued efforts to industrialize agriculture. This intense indulstrialization of food production has become the domain of big business and the demise of family farms and local markets. It is multi-national companies that will 'win' if we allow genetic-modification to go ahead, for they are the ones that are patenting these new crops
I question the foresight of accepting genetic modification of our foods based on the suggestion there is only a remote possibiliy that problems could emerge. Pesticides have been used in agriculture for over a half a century and we continue to debate the health implications of introducing these toxins to our diet, whilst spraying more and more each year. One need only recall the enthusasim with which DDT was marketed and accepted by the general public to realise the inherent dangers in accepting a new science simply on the basis that it's not yet proven to be harmful. Aside from the potential health risks from GM foods (some documented and some yet to be determined), I believe the greatest thing we stand to lose is biodiversity. The importance of diversity within any species cannot be overlooked
There is a viable alternative to spraying our crops with pesticides, but it is not GM foods. We need to trust nature's ability to protect crops from disease, to maintain biodiversity and to provide us with food that is rich in taste and nutrients. As consumers we have the power to direct the future of our food. Buying organically and locally, supporting local farmer's markets, eating in-season foods and encouraging our governments to support sustainable agriculture are some of the simple ways that we can take back control of what we eat, where we shop and how we support our local economy.
* some 223,000 farmers in southern Brazil using green manures and cover crops of legumes and livestock integration have doubled yields of maize and wheat to 4-5 tons/ha;
* some 45,000 farmers in Guatemala and Honduras have used regenerative technologies to triple maize yields to some 2-2.5 tons/ha and diversify their upland farms, which has led to local economic growth that has in turn encouraged re-migration back from the cities;
* more than 300,000 farmers in southern and western India farming in dryland conditions, and now using a range of water and soil management technologies, have tripled sorghum and millet yields to some 2-2.5 tons/hectare;
* some 200,000 farmers across Kenya who as part of various government and non-government soil and water conservation and sustainable agriculture programmes have more than doubled their maize yields to about 2.5 to 3.3 t/ha and substantially improved vegetable production through the dry seasons;
* 100,000 small coffee farmers in Mexico who have adopted fully organic production methods, and yet increased yields by half;
* a million wetland rice farmers in Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Vietnam who have shifted to sustainable agriculture, where group-based farmer-field schools have enabled farmers to learn alternatives to pesticides whilst still increasing their yields by about 10%.