The following is similar in approach to Farm for the Future,
but in print format.
Save Climate and Double Food Production With Eco-Farming
IPS, March 8 2011
UXBRIDGE - Eco-farming could double food production in entire regions
within 10 years while mitigating climate change, according to a new
U.N. report released Tuesday in Geneva.
An urgent transformation to 'eco-farming' is the only way to end
hunger and face the challenges of climate change and rural poverty,
said Olivier De Schutter, U.N. Special Rapporteur on the right to
food, following the presentation of his annual report focusing on agro-
ecology and the right to food to the U.N. Human Rights Council.
"Agro-ecology mimics nature not industrial processes. It replaces the
external inputs like fertiliser with knowledge of how a combination of
plants, trees and animals can enhance productivity of the land," De
Schutter told IPS, stressing that, "Yields went up 214 percent in 44
projects in 20 countries in sub-Saharan Africa using agro-ecological
farming techniques over a period of 3 to 10 yearsŠ far more than any
GM [genetically modified] crop has ever done."
Other recent scientific assessments have shown that small farmers in
57 countries using agro-ecological techniques obtained average yield
increases of 80 percent. Africans¹ average increases were 116 percent.
"Today¹s scientific evidence demonstrates that agro- ecological
methods outperform the use of chemical fertilisers in boosting food
production in regions where the hungry live," De Schutter said.
Agro-ecology applies ecological science to the design of agricultural
systems. It enhances soil productivity and protects crops against
pests by relying on the natural elements.
Eco-farming doesn¹t require expensive inputs of fossil-fuel- based
pesticides, fertilisers, machinery or hybrid seeds. It is ideally
suited for poor smallholder farmers and herders who are the bulk of
the one billion hungry people in the world. Efforts by governments and
major donors such as the 400-million- dollar Alliance for a Green
Revolution in Africa (AGRA) to subsidise fertilizer and hybrid seeds
will produce quick boosts in yields but are not sustainable in the
long term, De Schutter said.
Malawi is touted as an AGRA success story by funders such as the Gates
Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation who have massively
subsidised fertilizer and created a corresponding improvement in food
production. However the country simply cannot afford to continue those
subsidies and is shifting its strategy to agro-ecology. "The [Malawi]
government now subsidises farmers to plant nitrogen-fixing trees in
their fields to ensure sustained growth in maize production," he said.
De Shutter says AGRA is looking for quick results and is getting them.
He has found it difficult to overcome AGRA proponents¹ suspicions
about the effectiveness of agro-ecology, despite the mounting
evidence. "I expect countries to express scepticism towards these
solutions because they are not in accord with the dominant paradigm,"
De Schutter said.
The dominant view of agriculture is the industrial approach - of
maximising efficiency and yield. However that system is utterly
dependent on cheap fossil fuels and never having to be held
accountable for environmental degradation and other impacts. (END)
That statement is ridiculous.
No amount of additional production will "end" hunger.
Not with an ever increasing demand for food.
All of these political types are afraid to admit the truth.
There are limits.
We may be talking past each other at this point. The carnage to the land
and the indigenous inhabitants. I don't know their quality of life is,
but I suspect that it would be better, for them and the land, if
auslanders hadn't come there, or here. The destruction of cultures in
Africa by Europeans in quest of treasure (King Leopold's Mine).
Agreed the land has been mistreated, we are learning better now. I am
mildly optimistic that agricultural land management will improve
considerably in the next generation as many farmers are trying quite hard to
do better in the long term. I am not so sanguine about the common practice
of ruining good land (which is in short supply) to build McMansions on it or
to extract minerals from it. You can say that this was a consequence of
colonialism but I think ignorance is simpler and more apt.
The aboriginals' quality of life is not good, what it would have been like
if they had been left alone in a time warp we can only speculate on. This
is a huge and continuing problem which leaders of all political colours have
made little impact upon. Time does not permit me to go into detail but in
brief we have major conflicting requirements and not all can be met at once.
One of those conflicts is, it is now impossible for the aboriginals to live
as semi-nomadic hunter gatherers but there is no practical way for most to
join the modern way of life without giving up their relationship to the land
which is extremely important to them and their culture. There are very few
jobs in the outback and without jobs there is only slow death by welfare.
There have been a few success stories where aboriginals run their own
enterprises while maintaining their relationship to the land. These are
mainly in the arts, tourism or pastoralism but that isn't possible in all
Here it is much more clear cut. The Europeans had the weapons, but the
native had the culture. Sadly, the weapons won.
(Amazon.com product link shortened)
A People's History of the United States: 1492-Present by Howard Zinn
20 A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES
In the villages of the Iroquois, land was owned in common and worked in
common. Hunting was done together, and the catch was divided among the
members of the village. Houses were considered common property and were
shared by several families. The concept of private ownership of land and
homes was foreign to the Iroquois. A French Jesuit priest who
encountered them in the 1650s wrote: "No poorhouses are needed among
them, because they are neither mendicants nor paupers. . . . Their
kindness, humanity and courtesy not only makes them liberal with what
they have, but causes them to possess hardly anything except in common."
Women were important and respected in Iroquois society. Families were
matrilineal. That is, the family line went down through the female
members, whose husbands joined the family, while sons who married then
joined their wives' families. Each extended family lived in a "long
house." When a woman wanted a divorce, she set her husband's things
outside the door.
Families were grouped in clans, and a dozen or more clans might make up
a village. The senior women in the village named the men who represented
the clans at village and tribal councils. They also named the forty-nine
chiefs who were the ruling council for the Five Nation confederacy of
the Iroquois. The women attended clan meetings, stood behind the circle
of men who spoke and voted, and removed the men from office if they
strayed too far from the wishes of the women.
The women tended the crops and took general charge of village affairs
while the men were always hunting or fishing. And since they supplied
the moccasins and food for warring expeditions, they had some control
over military matters. As Gary B. Nash notes in his fascinating study of
early America, Red, White, and Black: "Thus power was shared between the
sexes and the European idea of male dominancy and female subordination
in all things was conspicuously absent in Iroquois society."
Children in Iroquois society, while taught the cultural heritage of
their people and solidarity with the tribe, were also taught to be
independent, not to submit to overbearing authority. They were taught
equality in status and the sharing of possessions. The Iroquois did not
use harsh punishment on children; they did not insist on early weaning
or early toilet training, but gradually allowed the child to learn
All of this was in sharp contrast to European values as brought over by
the first colonists, a society of rich and poor, controlled by priests,
by governors, by male heads of families. For example, the pastor of the
Pilgrim colony, John Robinson, thus advised his parishioners how to deal
with their children: "And surely there is in all children ... a
stubbornness, and stoutness ot mind arising from natural pride, which
must, in the first place, be broken and beaten down; that so the
foundation of their education being laid in humility and tractableness,
other virtues may, in their time, be built thereon." Gary Nash describes
No laws and ordinances, sheriffs and constables, judges and juries, or
courts or jails‹the apparatus ofaudiority in European societies‹were to
be found in the northeast woodlands prior to European arrival. Yet
boundaries of acceptable behavior were firmly set. Though priding
themselves on the autonomous individual, the Iroquois maintained a
strict sense of right and wrong. . . . He who stole another's food or
acted invalourously in war was "shamed" by his people and ostracized
from their company until he had atoned for his actions and demonstrated
to their satisfaction that he had morally purified himsell.
Not only the Iroquois but other Indian tribes behaved the same way. In
1635, Maryland Indians responded to the governor's demand that if any of
them killed an Englishman, the guilty one should be delivered up for
punishment according to English law. The Indians said:
It is the manner amongst us Indians, that if any such accident happen,
wee doe redeeme the life of a man that is so slaine, widi a 100 armes
length of Beades and since that you are heere strangers, and come into
our Countrey, you should rather conform yourselves to die Customes of
our Countrey, than impose yours upon us. ...
So, Columbus and his successors were not coming into an empty
wilderness, but into a world which in some places was as densely
populated as Europe itself, where the culture was complex, where human
relations were more egalitarian than in Europe, and where the relations
among men, women, children, and nature were more beautifully worked out
than perhaps any place in the world.
They were people without a written language, but with their own laws,
their poetry, their history kept in memory and passed on, in an oral
vocabulary more complex than Europe's, accompanied by song, dance, and
ceremonial drama. They paid careful attention to the development of
personality, intensity of will, independence and flexibility, passion
and potency, to their partnership with one another and with nature.
The Vegetarian Myth: Food, Justice, and Sustainability by Lierre Keith
<(Amazon.com product link shortened)
(Available at better libraries near you)
Currently, the deer are overrunning the northeast's forests, eating
the saplings out of existence. In fifty years there may not be a forest,
and that will mean an end to the deer as well. That's because, through
human interference, there aren't enough predators, and to survive, the
deer need their predators. Pollan explains, "[H]owever it may appear
to those of us living at such a remove from the natural world, preda-
tion is not a matter of morality or of politics; it, too, is a matter of
symbiosis... Predation is deeply woven into the fabric of nature, and
28 The Vegetarian Myth
that fabric would quickly unravel if it somehow ended, if humans
managed to 'do something about it.'"23 In the case of the northeastern
United States, humans have managed to do something about it, and
without wolves and mountain lions, without predation, the results are
getting grimmer by the year. The deer population has exploded past
any possibility of sustainability. Writes Ted Williams:
In a 10-year experiment, the US Forest Service found that
at more than 20 deer per square mile you lose your eastern
wood pewees, indigo buntings, least flycatchers, yellow-billed
cuckoos, and cerulean warblers .... At 38 deer per square mile
you lose eastern phoebes and even robins. Ground nesters like
ovenbirds, grouse, woodcock, whippoorwills, and wild turkeys
can nest in ferns, which deer scorn, but these birds, too, are
vastly reduced, because they need thick cover.24
He describes Crane Estate, a barrier-beach north of Bos-
ton, completely stripped of native plants, its bare dunes lost to
the wind, and the rest of [he wildlife along with them. The deer
themselves were starving, having long overshot the land's carry-
ing capacity, and were in the process of permanently degrading
it. Without predators, the land dies. In this case, those predators,
mainly cougars and wolves, were killed off by the early European
settlers. "This behavior flabbergasted the Indians." writes Williams.
"After much arguing and theorizing, they decided it was a symp-
tom of insanity."
In Africa it was no different, the Europeans came, and imposed their
will. Organizing the locals into groups and activities that suited the
You presume a fixed birth rate and a declining death rate, neither of
which is assured.
According to a report from the United Nations Population Fund, based on
1998 analyses (see The State of World Population 1999), projections for
the future global population are being revised downward. The projection
for 2050 now is 8.9 billion (medium variant), substantially lower than
the 1996 projection of 9.4 billion.
The major reason for the lower projection is good news: global fertility
rates have declined more rapidly than expected, as health care,
including reproductive health, has improved faster than anticipated, and
men and women have chosen to have smaller families. About one-third of
the reduction in long-range population projections, however, is due to
increasing mortality rates in sub-Saharan Africa and parts of the Indian
subcontinent. The most important factor is HIV/AIDS, which is spreading
much faster than previously anticipated.
Joel Cohen's recent book on human carrying capacity summarizes the
continuing lack of scientific consensus on the subject. Estimates of the
number still vary widely according to the specific assumptions used. In
fact, the estimates are more scattered than before - indicating a
quantitative field still very much in its infancy. One strand of
thought, represented by the author Julian Simon discards the notion of a
human carrying capacity altogether, claiming that the additional people
will provide sufficient creativity and innovation to break through any
possible natural barriers to human population growth. Most of the
serious estimates of K (the carrying capacity, often symbolized as " K")
for humans, however, lie in the range 10 -20 billion people.
Mixed crops annuals can produce twice as much food as monocultures.
Perennial chestnut trees could replace wheat fields.
No, I'm taking the statement at it's face value.
Calls to produce more and more and saying it's "the only way" are
more than misleading. It's calling for disaster.
I know there are some trends to reduce population growth but
overall we're still growing at 1.1% world wide.
Very few countries have an official policy to limit growth.
Precisely the kind of magic thinking I'm talking about.
"We can break through any natural barrier". Great.
I understand if we get hungry enough we can eat each other too.
Great, double production and we can double the number of people.
That makes sense. There's not enough traffic in town yet.
There are still some plots of land that haven't been developed.
What a waste.
Why have a bunch of people living in single family homes.
Do you know how many people can live in a square mile if
we build vertically.
I brought my opinion. Deal with it.
I'm fine with increasing food production efficiency but someone
from the UN saying the only way we can deal with resource issues
is to produce more is just wrong.
We've built up quite a nice life style but the planet has finite
resources. A number of them are in short supply. Squeezing the
rock harder isn't going to work.
Some serious self control is called for.
The truth is that our present form of agriculture poisons the planet,
and is responsible for loss of topsoil. If we can get more food and a
healthier planet, I say go for it. Malthus may get us in the end, but
lacking a population control program such as they have in China, we can
hope that rising levels of "quality of life" will lead to lower birth
rates, such as exist in Europe, and apparently Australia.
Another take on Eco-Farming
Eco-farming can double food output by poor: U.N.
By Alister Doyle, Environment Correspondent
OSLO | Tue Mar 8, 2011 1:09pm GMT
(Reuters) - Many farmers in developing nations can double food
production within a decade by shifting to ecological agriculture from
use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, a U.N. report showed on
Insect-trapping plants in Kenya and Bangladesh's use of ducks to eat
weeds in rice paddies are among examples of steps taken to increase food
for a world population that the United Nations says will be 7 billion
this year and 9 billion by 2050.
"Agriculture is at a crossroads," according to the study by Olivier de
Schutter, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on the right to food, in a drive
to depress record food prices and avoid the costly oil-dependent model
of industrial farming.
"Agroecology" could also make farms more resilient to the projected
impact of climate change including floods, droughts and a rise in sea
levels that the report said was already making fresh water near some
coasts too salty for use in irrigation.
So far, eco-farming projects in 57 nations had shown average crop yield
gains of 80 percent by tapping natural methods for enhancing soil and
protecting against pests, it said.
Recent projects in 20 African countries had resulted in a doubling of
crop yields within three to 10 years. Those lessons could be widely
mimicked elsewhere, it said.
"Sound ecological farming can significantly boost production and in the
long term be more effective than conventional farming," De Schutter told
Reuters of steps such as more use of natural compost or high-canopy
trees to shade coffee groves.
Benefits would be greatest in "regions where too few efforts have been
put in to agriculture, particularly sub-Saharan Africa," he said. "There
are also a number of very promising experiences in parts of Latin
America and parts of Asia."
"The cost of food production has been very closely following the cost of
oil," he said. Upheavals in Egypt and Tunisia have been partly linked to
discontent at soaring food prices. Oil prices were around $115 a barrel
"If food prices are not kept under control and populations are unable to
feed themselves...we will have increasingly states being disrupted and
failed states developing," De Schutter said.
Among examples, thousands of Kenyan farmers were planting
insect-repelling desmodium or tick clover, used as animal fodder, within
corn fields to keep damaging insects away and sowed small plots of
napier grass nearby that excretes a sticky gum to trap pests.
Better research, training and use of local knowledge were also needed.
"Farmer field schools" by rice growers in Indonesia, Vietnam and
Bangladesh had led to cuts in insecticide use of between 35 and 92
percent, the study said.
De Schutter also called for a push to diversify global farm output from
reliance on rice, wheat and maize in diets.
Developed nations, however, would be unable to make a quick shift to
agroecology because of what he called an "addiction" to an industrial,
oil-based model of farming. Still, a global long-term effort to shift to
agroecology was needed.
Cuba had shown that such a change was possible after the collapse of the
Soviet Union in 1991 cut off supplies of cheap pesticides and
fertilizers. Yields had risen after a downturn in the 1990s as farmers
adopted more eco-friendly methods.
"Fascism should more properly be called corporatism because it is the
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