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APRN launches book on food and climate ahead of World Food Day PDF Print E-mail
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Wednesday, 17 October 2012 12:29

Reference: Marjorie Pamintuan, APRN General Secretary-in-training | mpamintuan@aprnet.org

The Asia Pacific Research Network (APRN) launched its latest book entitled “Sowing Seeds of Hope and Change: Farmers Confronting the Food and Climate Crises” on October 15, 2012, a day ahead of World Food Day. The book launch was co-sponsored by the Andhra Pradesh Vyavasaya Vruthidarula Union (APVVU) and Asian Peasant Coalition (APC) in the People’s Food Biodiversity: Land and Food Sovereignty in Hyderabad, India. The event ran in parallel to the 11th Conference of Parties Convention on Biodiversity (COP CBD 11).

“The book discusses how farmers use local  agro-ecological food production systems and methods to cope with the food and climate crises and also how they use these to resist corporate agriculture from taking over their local food production,” said Ms. Marjorie Pamintuan, APRN General Secretary-in training.

The book is a compilation of APRN’s collaborative researches on food and climate implemented by four member-organizations in their respective countries: Coastal Development Partnership (CDP) in Bangladesh, China Association for NGO Cooperation (CANGO) in China, International NGO Forum for Indonesian Development in Indonesia, and IBON Foundation in the Philippines.

According to IBON Foundation, “climate change is wreaking havoc on food production but the 2008 world food crisis was caused by the speculations on oil and food prices by transnational corporations (TNCs) and financial oligarchs.”

Climate change is further used by TNCs to justify the corporatization of agriculture, i.e., to increase monoculture plantations, use more chemical fertilizers and pesticides, and develop and use more genetically modified crops that are ‘climate resistant’.

“These proposals from the architects of globalization are prescribing more of the same, and worse, presenting the two crises as merely consequences of each other, and by doing so, are evading responsibility. Agribusiness transnational corporations (TNCs) and even financial oligarchs who have joined the food and land bandwagon are saying through their commissioned researchers that increasing food demand is bringing about a hotter climate while climate change would triple food shortages in no time. However, it is corporate agriculture which uses high amount of fossil fuels in food production, storage, and distribution that contributes to climate change, not agriculture done small holder farmers,” said IBON.

According to Chennaiah Poguri of APVVU, “corporate agriculture is not only destroying food production and causing climate change, it also impoverishes the food producers themselves. TNCs collaborate with governments to systematically replace traditional food systems with policies supporting corporate agriculture. This destroys the local food productions systems of communities and also makes farmers dependent on chemical inputs that are sold at very high prices. Also, governments grabbing the lands to create special economic zones to please corporation displace communities depending on agriculture, including workers, artisans, and small marginal farmers.”

But the famers are fighting back. The impacts of climate change on their livelihood and price-crises created by speculation on food as well as on energy and fertilizer prices pushed farmers to look for solutions. They found out that they need not look further for solutions. The solution that they ‘rediscovered’ is to go back to the local agro-ecological knowledge and practices of food production that were pushed to the margins by agrochemical farming.

Some of the local agro-ecological practices that the researches documented were: (a) use of organic materials; (b)reliance on natural processes in maintaining soil fertility; (c) pest and disease control; (d)preservation of genetic resources through seed banking; (e) organic farming; (f) application of the system of rice intensification, and; (g) floating agriculture.

Unlike agrochemical farming that is heavily dependent on external, synthetic and chemical inputs that destroys the environment and are being used to exploit farmers, local agro-ecological food production systems and methods rely on natural processes, organic materials and readily available resources to grow food but at the same time, minimize the negative environmental and socio-economic impacts that modern agriculture usually results into.

Challenges faced by farmers in promoting their local agro-ecological food production

However, there is a need to guard against the co-optation of agro-ecological food production and farmers’ organizations for corporate interests.

The fundamental principle of biodiversity and agro-ecological processes is negated or undermined as ‘organic corporations’ grow thousands of hectares of monoculture crops that do not use chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Some corporations enter into contracts with organic food growers and ship the products to consumers far away, thus, the use of fossil fuels in processing and distributing these ‘organic food’ is not reduced. Therefore, it is also important to distinguish between smallholder agro-ecological food production systems and methods that are meant to produce for domestic or local consumption and the new approach that is still corporate in nature but makes use of schemes such as contract growing, leasehold and even de facto land­ grabbing to consolidate small landholdings into corporate farms.

According to Ms. Maria Theresa Nera-Lauron, APRN Chairperson, “The World Bank and its proponents are pushing for the adoption of ‘climate smart agriculture’ (CSA) as a ‘triple win formula’ that will supposedly address the need for increased food production while developing current agricultural production to mitigate contributions to climate change and at the same time adapt to its effects. Improved farming techniques will be introduced to small-scale farming communities and financing for the research and implementation will be sourced from the carbon markets.”

There are [also] strong indications that CSA will only open more doors for multinational corporations to control agricultural production and directly displace small-scale food producers, according to the People’s Coalition on Food Sovereignty (PCFS).

Ms. Pamintuan also pointed out that “that Food and Agricultural Organization’s promotion of agricultural cooperatives as its theme for World Food Day on October 16 will worsen the corporate takeover of agriculture in developing countries and will further undermine the farmer’s local food production systems. In its trade-centric analysis, FAO roots the problem of smallholder farmers to lack of access to markets, high-quality agricultural inputs, and tools which the agricultural cooperatives can facilitate. This does not address the structural roots of the problems faced by farmers such as landlessness, tenancy, and usury which stem from the feudal relations in the country sides of developing countries in which most of them live. Instead, FAO advocates for more liberalization of agriculture through investing in agricultural cooperatives that will link, or rather, will expose small holder farmers to the whims of the speculators in the world market. These investments will give corporate agriculture more venues for promoting their agrochemicals and monoculture farming. FAO’s brand of agricultural cooperatives will result into more exploitation of smallholder farmers by providing food companies cheap labour and cheap food products through contract farming.”

According to APC secretariat coordinator Ms. Rhoda Gueta, “October 15 is also the celebration of International Rural Women’s Day. Farmers, especially women farmers, should continue to encourage other farmers continue in defending their land, in protecting biodiversity and to use their local agro-ecological food production systems and methods. Organize and mobilize fellow farmers and link with CSOs to increase and strengthen the struggle against corporate control in agriculture and imperialist plunder of resources.”###

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Last Updated on Wednesday, 17 October 2012 12:50
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