Thursday, November 13, 2014

Dialoguing on the Future of Livestock by Dr Sagari Ramdas

Dialoguing on the Future of Livestock:

Participation of Social Movements from IPC, in the Livestock Multi-Stake holder Dialogue Platform on the Global Agenda for Sustainable Livestock, FAO. Cali, Colombia. Oct 7-10 2014.

IPC Livestock Dialogue Team
from Asia, Latin America,
and Europe
October 7-10, 2014 in Cali, Colombia, I participated in the Livestock Multi Stake-holder Dialogue platform on the Global Agenda for Sustainable Livestock (FAO). I am based in Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh with the Food Sovereignty Alliance and I participated in the meeting on behalf of LVC South Asia. This is LVC’s first time participating in the Livestock Dialogue, through the International Planning Committee on Food Soveriengty (IPC). In this article, I will first lay out the myths of the Livestock Revolution and its threats to small-holding agriculturalists and pastoralists. Then I will report the critique of these notions by social movements present and give a summary of our experience in the meeting.

The dialogue, began with a series of presentations on October 7th and 8th, by scientists, government officials, researchers both from within and beyond FAO who set out the context of global livestock production and described future projections and recommendations to transform livestock production systems, so as to meet a projected demand of growing consumption within a declining natural resource and fragile environmental context. The presentations re-iterated a narrative that has been constructed over the last 2 decades; a narrative, which in our analysis spells the death of peasant, pastoralist, and indigenous peoples livelihoods- with livestock.

 "Livestock Revolution" Narrative
The narrative began in the early 2000s- with a code word “Livestock Revolution”, wherein international livestock sector analysts projected a massive growth in demand for animal protein (milk and meat) globally, with the majority of this demand coming from the low-income and emerging economies (such as India and China). This demand, they argued is largely driven by increasing urbanization, increasing incomes and increasing populations, and it can only be met through economies of scale. 

If “smallholders” are to be part of meeting the demand, then the only option suggested is to “move up the value chain”, “vertically integrate into higher value chains”, and intensify production with technologies and “better management”, to participate and be “integrated” into the expanding and emerging markets for meat, milk, and other livestock products. The International Food and Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) scripted the Livestock Revolution narrative.

Livestock grazing in sugarcane fields at
275-acre agroecological farm El Hatico near
Cali, Colombia
In 2007, this international narrative added another dimension through a report known as “Livestock’s Long Shadow”, where scientists from FAO concluded that the Livestock Sector contributes significantly to Climate Change impacting land, water, air and biodiversity. It pointed to how livestock contribute 18% of Green House Gas emissions in CO2 equivalent, with 3 primary sources: methane from enteric fermentation, nitrous oxide from manure management and carbon dioxide from deforestation. Diabolically, the report singled out extensive grazing based systems followed by mixed systems, as the source of highest intensity of carbon emissions, with the least emissions emerging from intensive industralised systems. 

Finally the report identified South Asia, East Africa and Latin America as the geographic areas with highest mitigation potential – as these have high emission intensities per unit of protein and high emission intensities per unit of area. These are areas, they said, with high cattle densities and low animal productivity. They conclude that mitigation can be achieved by :

i) Improving animal performance (improved genetics and health )
ii) Improving feeding practices (enhancing digestibility of ration and protein content),
iii) Improving  herd structure management (reducing animals which are non-productive),
iv) Improved manure management (storage, application, bio-digestion)
v) Improved land management (improved pasture management).

The solution to these two seemingly irresolvable and opposing drivers namely: meeting increased consumption needs within a declining natural resource base,  whilst reducing GHG emissions, translates into key policy recommendations to farmers of our region : further intensify and specialise as intensive systems are more efficient than traditional peasant-pastoralist- indigenous peoples livestock production systems!  

The FAO proposes a supposed “win-win” scenario: If “small holders” (the term used to refer to us who feed the world) are to benefit from the growth opportunities and the climate change challenges, we must specialize in the commodity we hope to produce, vertically integrate ourselves into the intensive system, enter into contract farming arrangements so as to reduce transactions costs, and be open to technological changes in out production practices such as adopting so-called improved breeds (including GMO technological solutions), feeds, health services. Deforestation and soil degradation elements should be addressed by market mechanisms, such as recongnising grasslands as carbon sinks which can be regulated and restored through payment of Environmental Services. FAO concludes by suggesting that governments and regions frame policies that will shape the above, and that such policies emerge through livestock dialogue platforms such as this 5th one being held in Cali, Colombia.

We must remember:  the reference to South Asia-directly implicates indigenous peoples, peasant and pastoralist livelihood systems (which constitute the bulk of the livestock production of the region), for being the source of high intensity levels of carbon emissions. In turn, it is our livelihoods that will certainly be targeted with global and national policies geared to force us to comply with the intensification package of mitigation strategies. 

Critique from IPC Social Movements
i) There is sufficient and more global evidence, of “intensification and specialisation” triggering the exit and exodus of millions of peasants, pastoralists and indigenous people from rearing livestock, and a facade of “equity” amongst those who remain as livestock producers. The FAO meeting in 2012 in Bangkok on Asian Livestock: Challenges and Opportunities, succinctly illustrates how in China, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia etc, small holders began to “specialize, enlarge their herd sizes, and take up new technologies, and vertically integrate themselves into supply chains”,  got trapped into complex and chronic debt cycles, and were forced to leave production altogether. 

ii) The FAO approach to "Livestock's Long Shadow" has ignored the critical multifunctional role of livestock reared by peasant, pastoralists and indigenous people, in calculating “intensity”. The contributions or “output” of the animal, cannot be simplistically reduced to a kg of meat or a litre of milk. The animals contribute to soil health, biodiversity, life security, cultural integrity, spiritual well being, food security within the home, community and further beyond, energy through transportation and agriculture operations, fibre, and as a bank on hooves, in times of need. They are also an adaptation response to climate change. Assess the carbon emissions across these multifunctional contributions and then let us get a realistic representation of intensity of carbon emissions across different production categories. 

Increased soil fertility and diversity
iii) A large number of peasants and pastoralists who were already pushed by global and national economic policies to intensify their production, are today making concerted efforts to de-intensify and revert to agro-ecological livestock rearing practices. This is being done as a strategy to respond to climate change (local indigenous breeds are more resilient and adapted, require reduced quantities of fodder and water and care, are more resistant to diseases), to adapt to scarce natural resources, and to be economically resilient and protection from unreliable global trade policies and regimes, that distort prices in national markets.

iv) The big lie of demand: the projected demands of animal protein in the global south,  that form the basis of the argument of an urgent need to augment production of milk and meat industrially, need to be questioned. The issue is not of production, but of access and distribution. In the Indian case, the current consumption levels of the rich Indian cannot be used as a parameter/ thumb rule to project national demands. Nor can one use the completely unhealthy and medically inadvisable meat and milk consumption patterns of the global north to project future demands. Similarly peasant, pastoralist, indigenous and working class India, have the right to enjoy milk and meat (including beef) consumption according to their cultural and traditional customs and norms. In India, the existing milk produced in the country is infact more than sufficient to meet the national milk average per-capita intake. 

Finally, even if we accept the projections of increasing protein consumption demand, there are two issues to be affirmed:

a) The protein needs can be met in diverse ways, including meat and milk. In India the huge protein deficiencies we witness today amongst an overwhelming number of citizens, has been directly attributed to declining cultivation and availability of staple pulses (dals), which have always been our primary source of protein. 

 b) Peasant, pastoralist, and indigenous people’s production systems through their decentralized and local “LEISA” (low external input systems of agriculture) of production, and networks of local markets, are well positioned to meet these increasing protein needs  (be they from plants or animals). 


At El Hatico a variety of agro-eco practices, 
have helped to raise the stock under 
extremely water scarce conditions. 
Even the agro-silvipastoral systems of 
livestock rearing were similar to our 
traditional systems of grazing: between 
forests, fields and grazing grounds, 
through which animals feed on tree 
leaf fodder, natural grasses, harvested 
crop residue, shrubs, climbers and 
creepers.  The impact of all these 
practices: increased biodiversity 
(insects, plants, wild life, birds etc), 
healthy soils, diverse micro-bacteria in 
the soils, increased work generated 
for people, soils rich in nitrogen and 
other nutrients and above all a spiritual 
relationship that the people share 
with their land, and the conviction 
to share this with future generations. 
We participated and spoke. It was often extremely difficult to get our points recorded. Other times when we spoke, our points got lost or diluted in the process of these being summarized as outputs from group discussions. When we felt these did not get reflected in the smaller group summary presentations, we raised the points once again in plenary sessions. A large number of participants applauded our views and the points we raised. A large number were distinctly uncomfortable, and possibly viewed these as a threat to industry/ corporations, or to the emerging global consensus amongst national governments.

The third day of the workshop: the most significant part of the dialogue was the visit to a large Family Farm Business near Cali. 9 generations, of the Familia Molina Durken, have been farming at the Natural El Hatico. Today they rear cattle, sheep, buffaloes, and grow sugarcane across nearly 275 acres... The family has pioneered agro-ecological production practices on their farm. The best part: the impacts of agro-ecological practices are being recorded and data analysed by the research institution CIPAV.  As one of the family members shared: “ for us it is the sacred relationship we share with the land and people, over and above the monetary income.” 

We shared how this visit, re-enforced in our minds the strength and the power of our peasant, indigenous and pastoralist food webs based on agro-ecological practices. The difference was the practices here were being documented and evidence of their impact generated by research institutions, whereas our agro-ecological production systems and practices were systematically marginalized and undermined. We were being asked to intensify, whereas the farm demonstrated they had moved from intensive chemical systems to our practices: the practices of the people.

On the final day, we were able to draw strength from the previous day to constantly re-iterate the importance of agro-ecological production practices and the power of people’s indigenous knowledge. 

The struggles continues. Jai Bhutalli ! (In praise of mother earth) .

Interview of Chukki Nanjundawamy, farmers’ leader from Karnataka, by Sabina Yasmin LVC Youth Exchange activist from Bangladesh.

Sabina: Hi Chukki, thanks for answering my questions. You are doing amazing work at Amritha Bhoomi and are also a role model for young women in the movement. First could you tell me about Amritha Bhoomi and your activities there?

Chukki:  Amritha Bhoomi is an agroecology school in Chamrajnagar, Karnataka. We are the Agroecology School of the South Asian region of La Via Campesina. We have 80 acres under organic cultivation and a training center, auditorium, and mess. We are working on the revival of traditional agriculture practices and opening a space to bring agroecological innovation from around the world.

Sabina: What are your future plans?

Amritha Bhoomi (Sabina, Mythri, Luca, Puneet, Narendra)
Chukki: In my work I focus on three main issues: women, youth, and agroecology. I want to put my energy and time here.  I see agroecology as an area where we can engage both women and youth and create a space for them to work. Though women are involved from seed to cultivation to processing, most landholding is in the hands of men and only men have market access. Youth (both men and women) can be engaged in building a solidarity economy, which would reduce migration to cities. We can build direct markets, cooperatives, and provide necessary trainings to activate women and youth in rural communities.

Sabina: You have been involved in KRRS since you were 14 years old. Do you have any message for young people in the movement?

Chukki: When we are young we are always very enthusiastic. We think: I want to do this! Revolution today! Very active. We always dream and we want to see a change immediately.  Dreaming is really important – something that is possible or impossible, that’s secondary.

Sabina: I think that dreams are the first step.

Chukki: Yes, they are. We observe: My village is dirty, poor, no sanitation. So I imagine my village in another way. Very good toilets. Everybody is clean. Everybody is friendly, happy. They bring smiles on others faces. But to reach that dream you can spend all your life.

What I have learned over the years is that you have to have a lot of patience.

People who are working for social change, this is a lifetime project. This is not a project for 2 or 5 years, not like an NGO which has a target and so on. This is a continuous process. It’s our life. This is not a profession – 9 to 5 and then I have my personal life. Our personal life is the movement.

Sabina: How do you tackle the challenges and problems you face?

Chukki: Courage.

You get courage only if you are honest with yourself. If you are saying something, and doing something else you won’t have any courage. If you are doing what you are saying, you are not afraid of anything.

I’m not afraid of anything. Whoever will come, I will take it on. Because I believe in truth. I think my life is based on truth. I don’t believe in God, religion – nothing. But my path is clear. I know it is a difficult path, no? lots of obstacles will come. Always people are pulling you back. But you just see your goal, which is a common goal.

Not your personal goal, a common goal. It’s not about your career.
To reach that goal you need a lot of capacity. You have to go on evaluating yourself. Why did I make this mistake? Why did this happen like this? Maybe we should have done it in another way. It’s very important not to make the same mistakes. Learn from mistakes, this is how you grow.

Nobody’s born with all the capacities. You learn a lot in life. Life teaches you.

Sabina: Experience and nature.

Chukki: Just go on learning. Learning never ends. That’s how you evolve and grow.
And always keep your hope. Sadness and disappointment are normal, but you have to always have the capacity of waking yourself up. Nobody will wake you up. Nobody will say – Hey, Sabina, come on! You have to motivate yourself.

It’s true we have lot of people. We are in a movement. We have fellow activists, and family. But it’s like a bonus. You have to work based on your own capacity. We can’t think of doing something based on the other’s capacity. We have to think of doing something based on our own capacity.

Even if I’m alone, nothing will stop me – you have to think. If you reach that stage, any problem will come, you will face it.

Sabina: Thank you for your time, Chukki.

Chukki Nanjundaswamy is a Working President of Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha and former ICC member of La Via Campesina. She is heading the project at Amritha Bhoomi.

Sabina Yasmin is a youth activist from Bangladesh Krishok Federation. She participated in a 3-week learning exchange to India visiting agroecological farms Karnataka, Kerala, and Tamil Nadu. 

See more photos from her time in India here.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Climate Justice, Gender, and Food Sovereignty Caravan hits the road!

Setting the Stage for the Climate Caravan

The inaugural function of Bangladesh-India-Nepal caravan on Climate Justice, Gender and Food Sovereignty took place yesterday at 11 am on 10 November 2014 at Shahid Reshel Manch in the capital city of Dhaka,
Bangladesh. Bangladesh Krishok Federation President Badrul Alam inaugurated the caravan with the introductory presentation on the objectives of the caravan while other leaders such as, Bangladesh Kishani Sabha Organizing Secretary Asma Begum, Bangladesh Adivasi Samity President Sree Biswnath Singh, Bangladesh Agricultural Farm Labor Federation General Secretary Abdul Majid, Friends of Bangladesh(Australia) Member Emma, Ekattra-An Urban Youth OrganizationPresident Meghna Alam spoke in the meeting. 

Emma from Friends of Bangladesh, with Asma Begum
and Badrul Alam seated at the panel
In the inaugural meeting Mr. Badrul Alam emphasized the question  of agro-ecology as an alternative to the industrial agriculture. "The earth's future is alarming due to climate change. We need a deep cut in carbon emissions from developed countries, as they are responsible for climate change. They need to pay their historical and ecological dues to the Global South who are most affected by the climate crisis!" he told. 

He also said  that the main objectives of the caravan is to reach out the grassroots people and communities  who are facing the serious impact of the climate change. Furthermore, it aims at building awareness among the people on the climate change and building solidarity in South Asia in order to realize the climate justice. 

The declaration to be formulated with opinion of the grassroots people with regard to alternatives at the end of
caravan will be put forward to Lima, Peru where the next UNFCCC takes place in December this year. He urged the policy makers to give away the false solutions to climate change like CDM, REDD+, agro-fuel, GMOs, green economy, etc. The alternative is the proposal coming out of the Mother Earth's Right conference held in Bolivia in
2010 and the proposal of La Via Campesina, an international network of peasants' organizations. 

Bringing Bt Brinjal into Focus
The caravan is now in Gajipur district which is 80 kilometers away from the capital Dhaka. Today in the morning session there was a plenary on issue of GMOs and its impact on environment, ecology and women at
Bangladesh Rice Research Institute(BRRI) where the test field of Bt brinjal (Egg plant). Presided over by Bangladesh Krishok Federation President Badrul Alam, the plenary meeting was addressed by Dr. Jiban Krishna Biswas who is Director General of BRRI and Dr. Ansar Ali who is Director (Research) of BRRI, Debika of Pesticide Action Network from USA and others. In the plenary the speakers criticized  the authority for the introduction, approval and commercialization of Bt.brinjal in the country. They expressed concern with environmental, ecological and health risk of Bt, brinjal. They rejected the optimism around Bt. brinjal as an answer to climate change. Already people witnessed the crops failure. They are of the opinion for local seeds of brinjal which is protected, conserved and restored by the peasant women in the country. They said that the promotion and commercialization of Bt. brinjal would make the peasant women unemployed in the rural areas.

It can be mentioned that Bt. brinjal is banned in India whereas it has been introduced in Bangladesh  with the help of Mahico-Indian Pesticide Company and Monsanto. In the afternoon, four workshops took place simultaneously on
GMOs issue. The outcomes of the workshops were coordinated, reported back to the plenary. In the workshops all participants were able to participate in and contribute to the discussion.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Vatican: World Meeting of Peoples' Movements

October 27, 28 and 29th

Various movements representatives of the most excluded, along with the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, with the explicit support of Pope Francis, impulse the World Meeting of Popular Movements to be held from October 27 to 29th, 2014 in Rome.

100 delegates from different backgrounds came together for this meeting: a) the precarious workers, temporary workers, migrants, and those involved in the popular sector, informal and/ or self-employed, without any legal protection, workers rights or recognized union; b) landless peasants and indigenous people or those at risk of being expelled from the countryside because of agricultural speculation and violence; c) people living in slums and informal settlements, the marginalized, the homeless, the forgotten without adequate urban infrastructure. 

The meeting concluded with an international body promoting coordination between popular movements with the support and collaboration of the Church.

The work was divided in three days:
a)     The objective of the first day was to know today´s reality, struggles and thoughts of popular movements.
b)    The objective of the second day was to appreciate Pope Francis´ teaching on how to move forward and together towards an authentic human development. 
c)     The third and final day was devoted to taking concrete commitments to coordinate the excluded organizations and their collaboration with the Church.

The main objectives were:
·      To share Pope Francis social thought, especially items that he bring in his Apostolic Exhortation "The Joy of the Gospel" and discuss it from the perspective of popular movements.
·      To develop a synthesis of the vision of popular movements around the causes of the growing social inequality and exclusion, increasing deeply worldwide, mainly the exclusion of land, labor and housing.
·      To reflect collectively on the organizational experiences of popular movements as forms of solution for the above injustices dialoguing through our practices, forms of interaction with institutions and future prospects.
·      To propose popular alternatives to address problems -war, displacement, hunger, poverty, unemployment, insecurity, exclusion- generated by the financial capitalism, military arrogance and the immense power of transnational companies from the point of view of the poor, with the prospect of building a peaceful society, free and fair.
·      To discuss the relationship of Popular Movements with the Church, and how to move forward in creating an instance of articulation and ongoing collaboration.

Local Solidarity building
Organized by the Autonomous Movement of Rome, LVC delegates visit a self-directed market (photos below), met with producers, visited an urban self-managed occupied Social Center and squatted apartment building (houses about 100 people). Each was a good example of the spread of social struggles in European cities.

Together with KT Gangadhar, other delegates from Bolivia, Egipt, Kenya and other country were present.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Down to Earth: India gains support for its stand against WTO at food security meet in Rome

Author(s): Jitendra @jitendrachoube1 Date:Oct 26, 2014

India presents its case on potential damage posed by WTO’s trade facilitation agreement; civil society groups support India

India had refused to endorse WTO’s Trade Facilitation Agreement in August this year, saying it would hamper food stockpiling for its food security programme to feed 800 million people (Photo by Jyotsna Singh)

India made a strong pitch for food stockpiling for public food security at the 41st session of the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) earlier this month at the FAO headquarters in Rome. 
The meeting of the intergovernmental body, attended by representatives of governments, UN food agencies, civil society and private sector, was meant to chalk out a common strategy to fight global hunger. Trade-related matters were not on the meeting agenda. Nonetheless, India used the platform to raise the issue of trade affecting food security and to tell the world how the skewed policy of the World Trade Organization (WTO) will affect the food security of India.

Two other countries, El Salavador and Jordan, also spoke in a similar vein about the unjust WTO trade agreement. India had refused to endorse the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) of WTO in August this year since there had been no progress made on food-related issues. At that time India was blamed for the collapse of TFA, which is meant to “ease” worldwide customs rules.

Civil society roped in to present India’s case

India was well prepared for the meeting. For once, the government of India roped in civil society and ensured coordination between ministries to present India’s case in the international forum.

India’s Ministry of Food and Consumer Affairs presented the highlights of the National Food Security Act and in coordination with Ministry of Commerce it showed the potential damage posed by the WTO agreement to India’s commitment to provide food security to more than 800 million of its total population.

India stated at the CFS meet that the WTO agreement must not be allowed to hamper its food security programme. "A fair amount of criticism has come from the international arena, which has challenged our public stockholding policy which is the foundation on which the Food Security Act rests. We strongly feel that trade rules must be shaped around food security policies that developing countries need, rather than policies having to tiptoe around trade rules. Developing countries such as India must have the freedom to use food reserves to feed their poor without the threat of violating any international obligation," the Indian representative said.
Dipak Kumar, joint secretary with the Union ministry of food and public distribution presented India’s case. With help of audio-visual communication, he pushed the India’s case of food security.

“We are one of three countries who were asked for presentation on status of food security. I highlighted the National Food Security Act, 2013, (NFSA’s) high points and challenges before it because of continuous WTO pursuance over India’s public stockpiling of foods,” Kumar told Down To Earth after his return from Rome.
“I also showed a three minute film on NFSA made by Directorate of Advertising and Visual Publicity. This time, the Ministry of Commerce helped in pointing out issues related to trade and how it is going to impact food security commitment of the government of India,” he added.

Another international non-profit La Via Campesina came in support of India’s stand at WTO and termed the hue and cry raised by developed countries about it as “West’s hypocrisy”.

“Civil Society endorses the stance that India has taken here today on the public stock holding issue. We, as civil society believe in the principle of coherence of human rights, which is enshrined in the UDHR. Human rights are indivisible and inter-dependent. We cannot have a right to adequate food in practice only by ensuring minimalistic entitlements and by negating the principle of policy coherence,” said Kannaiyan Subramaniam at the CFS meet. He is an activist with the South Indian Coordination Committee of Farmers Movements (SICCFM), a member group to La Via Campesina,  La Via Campesina is an international peasants’ movement started in 1993 and is headquartered in Zimbawe. It comprises about 164 local and national organisations in 73 countries from Africa, Asia, Europe and the Americas. Altogether, it represents about 200 million peasants, small and medium-size farmers, landless people, women farmers, indigenous people, migrants and agricultural workers from around the world.

“The complete hypocrisy of the developed countries, particularly the US and the EU needs to be thoroughly exposed. Whilst protecting the interests of their farmers and agri-business, they are using the blatantly unjust WTO rules to arm-twist India and other developing countries” he said.

Subramaniam said if any unjust policy violated human rights, it should be held void. “The principle of human rights should over-ride any trade negotiation or agreement that comes in the way of food security of our constituent groups,” he said.

Another food rights activist from India, Biraj Patnaik, spoke about WTO TFA hampering Indian food security at a side meeting with Hilal Elver, UN special rapporteur on right to food, and Flavio Valente, secretary general of FIAN International.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

People's Movements in Maharashtra declare a Jan Andolan against GM field trials

      Authorities refuse to heed to concerns and scientific evidence -

People's Movements in Maharashtra declare a Jan Andolan against GM field trials

October 29, 2014, Rahuri/Ahmednagar/New Delhi: The opposition to open air field trials of Genetically Modified (GM) crops in Maharashtra, the only state in the country where such controversial experiments are being undertaken, reached a new height with representatives of numerous people’s movements from across Maharashtra assembling at the Mahatma Phule Krishi Vidyapeeth (MPKV), Rahuri, demanding a dialogue on why it continues to do the controversial open field trials of Genetically Modified corn in its campus here. The people’s movements representing farmers, farm labourers, consumers, environmentalists, scientists and other social activists reached Rahuri after repeated communications with the university over the concerns with GM crops had failed to get any response.

“It is the silence of the University to respond to the great amount of scientific evidence that we have provided on the adverse impacts of GM crops in general and the GM corn of Monsanto that is being field trialed which brought us here” said Tanmay Joshi of Shetkari Sanghatana and a member of Coalition for a GM Free Maharashtra. He further stated that “We are here to engage MPKV in a dialogue to get them to explain to us the reason why they refuse to acknowledge the mounting scientific evidence as well as public opposition to these experiments”. The Coalition had earlier in a letter to the Vice Chancellor as well as the District collector who is supposed to be the chairperson of the District Level Committee, a statutory monitoring body that has been non-functional, urged that the trials should be halted immediately.

A delegation from the gathering once again submitted to the university authorities various scientific evidences establishing that GM crops are unneeded, unwanted and unsafe.

Speaking on the occasion, Subhash Lomte Convenor, National Rural Workers Committee, reminded the university that public sector institutions have been set up in the country to benefit the citizens of this country. “It is unfortunate that our SAUs are taking the side of Multi-National Corporations  like Monsanto whose bottom
line is only profit, to the point where they have not hesitated to sue and jail farmers elsewhere in the world, and in the process harming the interest of citizens”, he said.

Dr Suhas Kolhekar, a molecular biologist by training and the convenor of NAPM Maharashtra, pointed to the fact that it is not just people's movements who have been saying No to GM crops. She stated that “the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Agriculture as well as the Supreme Court-appointed Technical Expert Committee had already recommended against open field trials owing to the inherent risks that GM technology poses as well as the inadequacy of the regulatory system in our country. The University conducting these field trials against all such directions by credible agencies is uncalled for and unacceptable”.

The GMO being tested in Rahuri is Monsanto's herbicide tolerant, insect-resistant maize, which has multiple genes inserted in it to produce a pesticide inside the plant and tolerate sprays of a patented herbicide of Monsanto (glyphosate/Roundup). Such crops/foods have been shown to be seriously detrimental to our health and environment. Media reports about the trial have already indicated that the trial violates laws and guidelines laid down. Senior scientists from within the establishment have also conceded that the situation of monitoring is unsatisfactory.

Rajesh Krishnan, Convenor, Coalition for a GM Free India stated, “Field trials of GM crops constitute a deliberate environmental release of unknown, untested and presumably unsafe organisms that are new in Nature. GMOs released into the environment in the garb of field trials pose various risks including contamination of wild gene pool,contamination of other crops,undetected entry into the food chain and jeopardizing trade security. In India, time and again, it has also been established that field trials have happened and are happening in violation of the meagre biosafety norms laid down. Hence any field trials being permitted is unscientific and a threat not just to the people of the state but the nation itself.”


Thursday, November 6, 2014

The Role of Agroecology in the fight for Food Sovereignty By KS Nandini Jayaram (KRRS)

KRRS Delegation at LVC Regional Meeting (Nandini on right)
If the world’s 500 million small farmholding families adopt the agroecological (AE) system, it can transform the food system, bring profit to farmers and nutritious food to consumers, and mitigate climate change. In many developing countries agroecology is spreading, and at the same time in developed countries farmers are shifting to agroecology. In September 2014, I attended a two-day symposium at the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) as part of the International Year of Family Farming. This meeting focused on the role of agroecology in feeding the planet, and I went as a representative of La Via Campesina, the International Peasants’ Movement. I myself am a natural farmer based in Mandya, Karnataka, India. It is impressive to see an organization which has promoted industrial and conventional farming take a turn towards agroecology. Millions of small farmers support an agroecological food system, why can’t the FAO? And it is high time for the change.

In the past 20 years, life has become increasingly hard for peasants and the poor (as well as for members of other species.)

In the 1950s and 60s, the Green Revolution stepped into many countries with the mission of a zero-hunger world. Chemical fertilizers, pesticides, advanced technology, and hybrid seeds did bring a temporary increase in crop production. But what about long-term reduction in hunger? Even after fifty to sixty years, a huge proportion of the world’s population suffers from hunger, and this proportion is rising. It is currently estimated that 870 million people are suffering from severe hunger. Since the global population is estimated to reach 9.2 billion (from our current 7 billion people) by 2050, the demand for food will obviously increase. By 2050 we need to produce 70% more food for the world without collapsing the ecosystem.[1] The challenge is to increase food production for an increasing population along with conserving resources and reducing negative impacts on the environment. This has to happen along with social justice, and economically viable and culturally supportive methods of production.

Unfortunately, the Green Revolution has not only left us hungry but also in a precarious state ecologically. The method of agriculture that came into practice under the Green Revolution has depleted the soil. Soil (“mother earth”) is a precious resource: if the soil is spoiled, nothing will be left healthy on earth. Today most of the agricultural land that was exposed to the Green Revolution is producing below its capacity due to carbon depletion.[2]
LVC South Asia visit to natural farm in my district. Discussing Jeevan Amrutha,
natural fertilizer
Moreover, now food crops like maize, soya, and wheat are used not only for food but for agro fuels. The use of wheat to produce ethanol in the EU is said to increase 12 fold to reach some 18 million tons by 2016. Maize use in the US for the same purpose is expected to increase from 55 million tons in 2006 to 110 million tons in 2016. By 2020, industrialized countries may be consuming 150 kg of maize per head per year in the form of ethanol (a similar amount to cereals’ food consumption in developing countries). [3] Production of biofuels from food crops will definitely affect the access of have-nots to affordable, healthy food.  High crop prices will push more and more people to malnutrition and hunger, especially in developing countries. Along with this, cereals will also be used increasingly to feed livestock for meat production. A question arises: If crop prices are high, will farm income increase accordingly? Definitely not. Cost of production is becoming higher and higher after the Green Revolution.

Above all, the Green Revolution has contributed to climate change in all stages of production, processing, and distribution, which are now in the hands of a few MNCs who focus on profit rather than equality. In a country like India, where there is a huge population, it is a serious threat to food sovereignty if the food system goes into the hands of a few. A day may come where food becomes a weapon to control this democratic country!

The Green Revolution was never needed. What we have always needed is an Evergreen Revolution through Agroecology.

in FAO at the Agroecology meeting
At the FAO meeting, a lot was debated on agroecology as an alternative. The word “Agroecology” was defined, analyzed, and debated from many aspects. As a farmer, I felt that agroecology is the same system that traditional farmers adopted over centuries. Even today the majority of the smallholding farmers in developing countries where agriculture is providing the majority of the livelihoods are on the agroecological method of farming, which is under threat from the so-called advanced method of farming. Agroecology is a knowledge and skill set from experiences that are transferred from generations to generation. Now this knowledge is getting replaced by machines (for example climbing a coconut tree is getting replaced by machines, ploughing is replaced by tractors). Biodiversity played a fundamental role in ecosystem services, which is now threatened by mono cropping. The traditional agroecological system was the whole food basket for the family with very less dependency of purchasing food crops from the market. The diversity in crops gave food sufficiency.  Now the cash-oriented commercial crop is making farmers grow very few types of crops and purchase more from the market.

Kitchen garden at the farm and natural coconut cultivation
Soil management is one of the main concepts of agroecology. A review of development projects in 57 low-income countries found that more efficient use of water, reduced use of pesticides and improvement in soil health had led to average crop yield increase of 79%. In an agroforestery system with less capital, agroecology has kept farmers out of debt. Agroecology reduces the cost of production and negative impacts on environment. On the whole, with local market and self-sufficiency, agroecology was a model of agriculture that had not put the whole rural community to hunger and poverty. Farmers were and are leading a dignified life with all confidence and respect by this agroecological method of farming. What ever the definition may be given to agroecology as it is a "science" "sustainable," "model", "need of the day " (which was all discussed in FAO symposium) the ultimate truth is that only agroecology can keep the human being and all the other beings on earth healthy along with the health of the Mother Earth.

In our farm
But in order to support this pro-farmer policies are key. Ecological farming must continue traditional knowledge with modern technology for which the policy makers must give balancing preferences to farmers adopting agroecology. Over the past century, up to 75% of the crop plant genetic diversity has been lost and a third of today’s diversity could disappear by 2050. Strengthening the use of diversity in plant breeding must be given importance and preference in policies, and polices must encourage the agroecological producer's organization's linkages to markets and value addition to products.

Government actions and measures are urgently needed to bring agroecology to the mainstream and to spread the knowledge of science of agroecology from farmers to farmers through organizations! One by one if we change our mindsets to agroecology we will change the world, and feed it too.

Local variety of cow and biofuel system

[1] Empowering Farmers to Reduce Pesticide Risks, FAO Regional IPM/Pesticide Risk Reduction Programme in Asia, FAO-RAP Bangkok, November 2013
[2] Van Ittersum et al, 2013; Abstracts for the International Food Symposium on Agroecology for Food Security and Nutrition, Scientific Knowledge Session, 18 September 2014
[3] Save and Grow