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'Eco-Farming Can Double Food Production'

By Devinder Sharma

08 March, 2011
Ground Reality

In the mad rush to promote unwanted GM crops, the world had forgotten how China had demonstrated an increase in rice production by 89 per cent (and a reduction a rice blast disease by 94 per cent) when farmers grew a mixture of rice varieties rather than follow the mundane and destructive monoculture. This miracle was reported from Yunan province, and I still remember the report had donned the front page of New York Times. After several years, I am so delighted that Olivier de Schutter, UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food, has made a mention of this in an important report he submitted today.

The report "Agro-ecology and Right to Food" was presented to the UN Human Rights Council at Geneva on Tuesday.

Agro-ecology applies ecological science to the design of agricultural systems that can help put an end to food crises and address climate-change and poverty challenges. It enhances soils productivity and protects the crops against pests by relying on the natural environment such as beneficial trees, plants, animals and insects, the report states. “Today’s scientific evidence demonstrates that agroecological methods outperform the use of chemical fertilizers in boosting food production where the hungry live -- especially in unfavorable environments,” Prof Olivier said.

The 21-page report quotes a number of scientific studies that clearly demonstrate the performance of agro-ecological techniques in integrated farming. It quotes projects in Indonesia, Vietnam and Bangladesh which recorded up to 92 per cent reduction in insecticide use for rice. I still recall the former Director General of the International Rice Research institute (IRRI) Robert Cantrell saying that scientists now realise how wrong they were in promoting pesticides for increasing rice production. "Pesticides use in rice in Asia was a mistake," an IRRI press release had quoted him as acknowledging.

IRRI's realisation of its mistake has however failed to prompt the National Agricultural Research System in the Asian countries to phase out chemical pesticides in rice. In fact, I find that the NARS are not even aware of the IRRI finding. In India, for instance, the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) and the plethora of agricultural universities have never recommended removal of chemical pesticides from the package of practices for rice production.

"Agroecology is a knowledge-intensive approach. It requires public policies supporting agricultural research and participative extension services,” says the author. And rightly so. The biggest stumbling block in the promotion of agro-ecological farming systems is the lack of public support, and also equally importantly the 'business as usual' approach of the agricultural scientists and economists. I wonder when will agricultural research and education emerge free from the bonded thought process that does not (or dare not) look beyond the chemically intensive farming systems.

The world has suffered enough and for long. Farmers have paid the price with their blood and livelihood. It is high time the world abandons the highly destructive agricultural farming model, and tries to resurrect the farm lands and thereby save the planet. This report has spelled out the sustainable pathway towards food security for all.

You can read the complete report here: http://www.srfood.org/images/stories/pdf/officialreports/




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