Category Archives: Farming

India’s farmers prevail in national protest, Catholic sisters rejoice

Farmers come to the Indian capital on tractors to protest three controversial farm laws that were later repealed after a year of demonstrations outside Delhi. (Jessy Joseph)
Farmers come to the Indian capital on tractors to protest three controversial farm laws that were later repealed after a year of demonstrations outside Delhi. (Jessy Joseph)

New Delhi, India — Catholic nuns are rejoicing in the success of an historic yearlong protest by India’s farmers against federal reforms that deregulated crop prices and opened fields to corporate interests. Many hail the farmers’ stand as the country’s second freedom movement, the first being Gandhi’s.

Sr. Jyoti Pinto, former superior general of the Bethany Sisters in Mangalore and a social worker, applauded the victory of “the longest post-independent struggle in India with the weapon of non-violence.”

India won independence from the British in 1947 after decades of nonviolent protests led by Mahatma Gandhi.

Praising the farmers’ perseverance, Pinto told GSR, “It is an indication that democracy is still alive in India.”

Over the weekend of Dec. 11 and 12, the farmers began folding up their camps outside Delhi, the nation’s capital, after the legislature made good on the federal government’s agreement last month to repeal three controversial 2020 agricultural reforms, drop criminal proceedings against demonstrators and consider adopting minimum crop prices.

Thousands of farmers had camped on the borders of Delhi since Nov. 26, 2020, and more than 700 of them died from the effects of extreme heat, cold and COVID-19. A few took their own lives.

Welcoming the success of “the longest and greatest historical protest in the entire world,” activist and Presentation Sr. Dorothy Fernandes, says farmers “have given a loud and clear message of what is possible if we are united in purpose and not afraid to pay the price.”

Fernandes, the new national secretary of the Forum of Religious for Justice and Peace, an advocacy group for Catholic religious, told GSR that the farmers won because of their “clarity of thought and meticulous organization of people and resources.”

The farmers were led by the Samyukta Kisan Morcha, or United Farmers’ Front, a coalition of more than 40 farmers’ unions formed in November 2020.

Almost 60% of India’s 1.4 billion population works primarily in agriculture, which represents an estimated 20% share of the country’s economic output, national statistics state.

The protests began after the government hastily passed three farm bills claiming to overhaul the country’s agricultural sector and benefit the farmers. The farmers, on the other hand, saw the laws as a ploy to turn over farmland and markets to corporate interests, undermining their ability to make a living.

The protests began September 2020 in Punjab in the north and spread to other states in India. As the government refused to heed them, the farmers came to the national capital. After their entry was denied, the farmers camped at three main entry points to Delhi.

The government and the farmers had several rounds of futile discussions initially. Meanwhile, members of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and its supporters labeled the farmers anti-nationals funded by overseas Sikh secessionist groups.

The laws also favored corporate control of the production and distribution of the food crops. The traditional farmers, especially from Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, opposed them. The protesting farmers attracted national and international support for their demonstration.

The government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the farmers were sharply at odds for a year. Modi Nov. 19 surprised the farmers and others by announcing the repeal of the farm laws while addressing the nation. The parliament followed it up a week later by repealing the laws without debate.

Some state governments announced compensation to the relatives of the farmers who had died on the Delhi borders.

The farmers’ union leaders say they will review the situation Jan. 15, 2022, and relaunch the protest if the government fails to keep its promises.

Fernandes’ forum was among Catholic groups that had backed the farmers, although the official church bodies in India stayed away from the stir.

Fernandes and her forum members came to New Delhi to join the farmers. She says the farmers’ protest has helped highlight “the meaning and understanding of struggle in a peaceful democratic manner.”

She hails their determination and sense of purpose, saying, “Even the loss of lives of their brothers and sisters did not deter them from their goal. Instead, the deaths only strengthened them and encouraged them to keep going.”

Presentation Sr. Shalini Mulackal, a leading woman theologian in India, also had joined the farmers on the Delhi borders on several occasions, after realizing the farm laws were aimed at “changing the way agricultural produce is marketed, sold and stored across the country.”

She says she is convinced that the main purpose of the farm laws was to benefit a few corporate houses in India.

The farmers’ protest, she says, was against “the injustices embedded in the new farm laws” that would have harmed not just the farmers but millions of consumers with big business controlling production and supply.

“I look at the farmers’ protest as a sign of hope. They are the only group protesting against the present government and their policies, which are anti-poor, anti-minorities and anti-people,” says Mulackal, who labeled the dispute a “second independence movement” of India.

The farmers’ victory has enthused Holy Cross Sr. Vijaya Sebastian, a social worker and health care activist in a few northern Indian states and a supporter of the farmers’ actions.

“We have to wait and see if the government keeps its promises. We need the deliverables, not the promises,” says Sebastian, who directs the Holy Cross Consortium with nearly 2,000 members in eight provinces in India.

Another supporter is Sr. Ajitha Mathew, a social worker who manages a movement of women farmers in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. The member of the Sisters of the Queen of Apostles welcomes the farmers’ victory but remains skeptical about the government keeping its promises.

“I cheer the farmers’ victory after more than a year of protests in the open, fighting scorching sun and freezing winter, and the pandemic,” she told GSR.

Mathew plans to celebrate the victory with her women associates on Dec. 23, which is designated as Farmers Day in India.

Sr. Jofi Joseph in Kerala, southern India, welcomed the end of the farmers’ protest and called for pro-farmer legislation. The member of the Congregation of the Mother of Carmel made headlines in September after the Kerala High Court allowed her and 15 others to kill wild boars that destroyed crops. The wild beasts are as damaging to farmers as corporations, she told GSR, speaking in Malayalam.

Priests and brothers also supported the farmers.

“It is a big victory for the farmers, whatever may be the political compulsions for Prime Minister Modi,” says Indian Missionary Society Fr. Anand Mathew, who had joined the protesting farmers in Delhi with other priests and nuns.

The farmers’ victory “is an inspiration and tremendous encouragement for those of us who are on the path of Satyagraha [a form of nonviolent protest, propagated by Mahatma Gandhi],” said the activist priest, who organized a series of protests, rallies and meetings on the farmers’ issue in Varanasi, his base in Uttar Pradesh state.

“We Farm,” a farmers movement in Kerala, welcomed the end to the protest but hinted the farmers will wait for the actual implementation of government promises.

Mulackal says the present Indian government’s policies are “diametrically opposed” to the Gospel values.

“Showing our solidarity with a group that is clearly standing against anti-Kingdom values is the least we can do as Christians,” asserts the nun who said she was privileged to spend time with the protesting farmers.

https://www.globalsistersreport.org/news/politics/ministry/news/indias-farmers-prevail-national-protest-catholic-sisters-rejoice

‘Disastrous’ plastic use in farming threatens food safety – UN

Farmers cover a field with plastic films in Yuli county, Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, northern China.
Farmers cover a field with plastic films in Yuli county, Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, northern China. Photograph: Xinhua/Rex/Shutterstock

The “disastrous” way in which plastic is used in farming across the world is threatening food safety and potentially human health, according to a report from the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization.

It says soils contain more microplastic pollution than the oceans and that there is “irrefutable” evidence of the need for better management of the millions of tonnes of plastics used in the food and farming system each year.

The report recognises the benefits of plastic in producing and protecting food, from irrigation and silage bags to fishing gear and tree guards. But the FAO said the use of plastics had become pervasive and that most were currently single-use and were buried, burned or lost after use. It also warned of a growing demand for agricultural plastics.

There is increasing concern about the microplastics formed as larger plastics are broken down, the report said. Microplastics are consumed by people and wildlife and some contain toxic additives and can also carry pathogens. Some marine animals are harmed by eating plastics but little is known about the impact on land animals or people.

“The report serves as a loud call for decisive action to curb the disastrous use of plastics across the agricultural sectors,” said Maria Helena Semedo, deputy director general at the FAO.

“Soils are one of the main receptors of agricultural plastics and are known to contain larger quantities of microplastics than oceans,” she said. “Microplastics can accumulate in food chains, threatening food security, food safety and potentially human health.”

Global soils are the source of all life on land but the FAO warned in December 2020 that their future looked “bleak” without action to halt degradation. Microplastic pollution is also a global problem, pervading the planet from the summit of Mount Everest to the deepest ocean trenches.

The FAO report, which was reviewed by external experts, estimates 12.5m tonnes of plastic products were used in plant and animal production in 2019, and a further 37.3m in food packaging.

Plastic is a versatile material and cheap and easy to make into products, the report says. These include greenhouse and mulching films as well as polymer-coated fertiliser pellets, which release nutrients more slowly and efficiently.

“However, despite the many benefits, agricultural plastics also pose a serious risk of pollution and harm to human and ecosystem health when they are damaged, degraded or discarded in the environment,” the report says.

Data on plastic use is limited, it says, but Asia was estimated to be the largest user, accounting for about half of global usage. Furthermore, the global demand for major products such as greenhouse, mulching and silage films is expected to rise by 50% by 2030.

Only a small fraction of agricultural plastics are collected and recycled. The FAO said: “The urgency for coordinated and decisive action cannot be understated.”

Prof Jonathan Leake, at the University of Sheffield in the UK and a panel member of the UK Sustainable Soils Alliance, said: “Plastic pollution of agricultural soils is a pervasive, persistent problem that threatens soil health throughout much of the world.”Advertisement

He said the impact of plastic was poorly understood, although adverse effects had been seen on earthworms, which played a crucial role in keeping soils and crops healthy.

“We are currently adding large amounts of these unnatural materials into agricultural soils without understanding their long-term effects,” he said. “In the UK the problems are especially serious because of our applications of large amounts of plastic-contaminated sewage sludges and composts. We need to remove the plastics [from these] before they are added to land, as it is impossible to remove them afterwards.”

As a solution, the FAO report cites “the 6R model” – refuse, redesign, reduce, reuse, recycle, and recover. This means adopting farming practices that avoid plastic use, substituting plastic products with natural or biodegradable alternatives, promoting reusable plastic products and improving plastic waste management.

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/dec/07/disastrous-plastic-use-in-farming-threatens-food-safety-un

No end in sight for deforestation, as national goals and funding fall short

Smoke billows from a fire in this aerial view showing a deforested plot of the Amazon rainforest in Rondonia State, Brazil September 28, 2021. REUTERS/Adriano Machado

KUALA LUMPUR, – Countries are spending only a fraction of the nearly $500 billion needed each year to stop tree loss and restore forests worldwide to help meet climate and nature goals, researchers warned on Tuesday.

An annual report on the 2014 New York Declaration on Forests – backed by more than 200 countries, firms and green groups – found the sustained reductions in forest loss needed to meet its 2030 target to end deforestation are highly unlikely near-term.

This year’s report focused on finance and forestry in national climate action plans submitted for the 2015 Paris climate accord, finding that many governments have yet to set specific forest protection goals under that pact.

The progress report by 28 civil society and research groups also found that, since 2010, countries have invested only between 0.5% and 5% of the estimated $460 billion per year needed to conserve, manage and revive the planet’s forests.

Michael Allen Brady of the Center for International Forestry Research, which contributed to the report, said current funding was “only a drop in the bucket of what we need”.

“By ramping up investments in forest protection and sustainable management, the world could reduce emissions while securing clean air, water, fibre, food, livelihoods and biodiversity,” the scientist added in a statement.

Cutting down forests has major implications for global goals to curb climate change, as trees absorb about a third of carbon emissions, which they release if they rot or are burned.

In 2020, tropical forest losses around the world equalled the size of the Netherlands, according to monitoring service Global Forest Watch.

Under the Paris climate accord, about 195 countries agreed to limit the rise in global average temperatures this century to “well below” 2 degrees Celsius and ideally to 1.5C above preindustrial levels.

Researchers analysed the national goals set for that agreement by 32 countries with the most potential to reduce carbon emissions through halting deforestation, improving forest management and planting new trees – including Brazil, Indonesia, Russia, China and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The report found ambition was low, with only 10 nations having set quantitative targets, while about a quarter of the total said their targets could only be met if they received international financial support.

“What we can see from these national climate plans is that the ambition falls short of the potential,” said the report’s lead author Franziska Haupt, a managing partner at advisory firm Climate Focus.

Besides boosting funding, wealthy commodity-consuming countries should partner with developing nations to tackle deforestation and introduce legislation to clean up their supply chains, Haupt told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

She also called for public subsidies to be diverted away from activities that contribute to deforestation, such as commercial agriculture and fossil fuels, and into greener projects that empower indigenous and local communities.

The report did praise efforts to tackle deforestation in some countries, such as Vietnam’s streamlined land-use planning and regulation, and bans on illegal timber trading and clearing of old-growth forests in Laos and Indonesia.

In a separate report published in the journal Global Change Biology on Tuesday, researchers identified the lowest-cost solutions involving land that countries could adopt to cut planet-heating emissions and meet their climate pledges.

Roughly half of those cost-effective emissions reductions would come from protecting, restoring and improving management of forests and other ecosystems, such as mangroves and peatlands, they found.

Changes to farming practices, switching consumer diets to more sustainable and healthy foods, and reducing food waste could also play a major part, the study added.

https://news.trust.org/item/20211012045854-0146k/

Uganda helps farmers grow trees for money in bid to reverse forest loss

Women drying their beans on a tree plantation owned by Peter Kasenene in Mawojo, central Uganda, June 24, 2019. Thomson Reuters Foundation/Christopher Bendana

KAMPALA, – From tree-planting drives to tighter laws on illegal logging, countries worldwide are searching for a silver bullet to stop the loss of forests vital for nature and climate protection.

After decades of losing thousands of hectares each year, Uganda has found a way not only to slow deforestation but to reverse it – mainly by helping people grow their own trees to cut down instead of clearing ecologically valuable rainforest.

New data released by the state-run National Forestry Authority (NFA) in May showed the proportion of the country covered by trees rose from 9% in 2015 to 12.4% in 2017.

In a tweet about the figures, the NFA said its 2019 National Biomass Study, due out in December, will likely show that tree cover has increased further.

Stuart Maniraguha, the NFA’s director of plantations development, said the data – collected using remote-sensing equipment and researchers on the ground – suggests things could be looking up for Ugandan farmers struggling to grow mainly rain-fed crops in increasingly extreme weather.

“As an agricultural country, (more forests) means more reliable rainfall,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. “It indicates that we are on a positive journey towards economic and ecology restoration.”

Protection of the world’s forests is seen as vital to curbing global warming as they store planet-heating carbon and help regulate the climate through rainfall and temperature.

Those who live in and around Uganda’s Central Forest Reserves, more than 500 protected areas that cover about 15% of the country, say tree loss has exacerbated the often disastrous effects of erratic weather patterns for communities.

Last year, more than 700,000 Ugandans living near lakes and rivers were displaced from their homes after a year of unusually heavy rain caused the worst flooding since records began.

The NFA said that before the reversal of Uganda’s tree loss, the amount of land covered by forest had plunged from almost a quarter in 1990 to 9% in 2015.

In its 2016/2017 state of the environment report, the National Environment Management Authority attributed the sharp decline mainly to land-hungry farmers, noting that of the 1.9 million hectares of forest and wetland lost between 1990 and 2015, about 80% had been converted to grow crops.

SUSTAINABLE PLANTATIONS

To restore the forests, Maniraguha said the NFA has used a range of methods, including promoting agroforestry – growing trees and crops together on the same land – and running tree-planting programmes.

And to stop people felling trees in protected areas, the authority gives technical help to farmers growing tree plantations, backed by partners including the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and local charity NatureUganda.

The biggest gains in tree cover over the past few years have occurred in the southwest, where farmers grow trees for use as timber, firewood and electricity poles, Maniraguha said.

The NFA has a goal for 24% of Uganda’s territory to be covered with trees by 2040, he added.

Peter Kasenene, who owns a 200-hectare (500-acre) plantation in Mawojo, in central Uganda – 70 hectares of which he planted under the FAO programme – said farmers like him are helping drive sustainable development on a local level.

“You work only in the first year after planting. Then the trees grow on their own,” said the 75-year-old former university professor who served as a finance minister from 2001 to 2006.

“That one you see there is the third generation – I cut, I replant,” he explained, pointing to a patch of eucalyptus trees which, along with pine, make up most of his plantation.

Kasenene said the FAO pays him 800,000 Ugandan shillings ($225) for every hectare he plants and he also earns a healthy income from selling the wood from the mature trees.

“You get the buyers, they cut the trees and put money in my account – I am comfortable,” he said.

‘FORESTS ARE OUR JEWELS’

Achilles Byaruhanga, executive director at NatureUganda, welcomed the increases in tree cover but said he was concerned reforestation was only happening on tree farms, even though they do offer an alternative source of firewood.

“We need to stabilise the (natural) forest cover and then increase it. We cannot afford to lose more. Natural resources – especially forests – are our jewels,” he said.

For NFA head Tom Okello, growing more trees is not enough if Uganda is going to sustain its success – more needs to be done to stop the root causes of encroachment and deforestation.

“You can’t stop a desperate person looking for firewood from entering into a forest. We must provide an alternative for energy, improve agricultural productivity and fight poverty,” he said.

Nearly 95% of Ugandans rely on firewood or charcoal for cooking, according to the energy ministry.

In Buikwe district, which includes the Mabira Central Forest Reserve, tree farmer John Tabula urged the government to give communities more power to manage the rainforest in their areas.

Tabula belongs to a group of farmers who had an agreement with the NFA to manage a 3-km (2-mile) tract of forest inside the reserve where they grew eucalyptus to sell for electricity poles and terminalia, also known as Indian almond, for timber.

In return, they patrolled the forest looking out for illegal loggers, he said.

But the agreement expired in 2016 and the government has not renewed it, despite several requests, said Tabula, who also runs a private plantation with support from the FAO.

Okello said the NFA is grappling with a long-term budget crunch, which has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and has affected some conservation activities in the reserve, including the renewal of the agreement in Buikwe.

“We have to evaluate their performances before we renew their permits,” he said.

But Tabula said each day the government stalls on renewing the agreement is another day when the forest is left vulnerable to illegal loggers and encroachment.

“We, the community, would protect the forest,” he said. “But we don’t have legal backing.”

https://news.trust.org/item/20210708044831-audzi/

An Untapped Gem of the African Family-Farming System

The African economy is still mostly rural-based and informal, driven by family-holders farmers; primarily women. The improvement of the African family- farmers system will achieve the dual targets of addressing some of the poverty reduction and gender imbalance questions in Africa. It is in this vein that AEFJN considers agricultural development as an essential agenda in the mapping of the future strategy of EU-Africa partnerships or any partnerships with the African nations.

The quest for the development of African family-farmers does not suggest the industrialisation of agriculture in Africa. The stakeholders must clearly understand this, or else their development initiatives will be counterproductive and bring untold setback to the ecosystem and the African socio-economic system, which constitutes the very fibre of its identity and existence.  In general, family farmers function within the ambit of the principles of agroecology and they present potentials for sustainable food production and agriculture. Family farming is not necessarily averse to big size farms. Instead, it is opposed to farms that function outside the ambit of the principles of sustainable agroecology. The development of family farmers in this context could mean a shift from the chemical-dependent agriculture to the fold of family farmers or increasing the size of the family farmers’ farms without compromising the agro-ecological principles.

In one sense, the development of Africa’s agriculture points in the direction of building on the local innovations that are already in existence within the continent. There are already local innovations in African communities that would transform African agriculture and ensure food security if they are scaled up. The shade net system in Nigeria, for example, is an adaption of the greenhouse system. The shade net system uses agro nets or other woven material to allow entry of required sunlight, moisture and air. It creates an appropriate climate for plant growth and is a cheaper and better alternative to the greenhouse system, based on some conducted sample surveys. The shade net system also has higher acceptability, because it is cost-effective, well-suited to the African climate, and easily controlled by adjusting the intensity of the shade net.

One of the significant challenges facing Africa’s rural family is having real value for their produce. It is sad to see that after the farmers have laboured to till the soil and produced good quality foodstuff, unfavourable market forces compelled them to sell their produce at giveaway prices. The stories are told about the African farmers that highlight agriculture as their endeared way of life, but that is less than the whole truth. African farmers want good life lives just like every other human and the actual value their produce entitle them to that much. They need not live poverty-stricken when they labour sustainably and yield products of great importance. Their counterparts in Europe and elsewhere are the envy of other economic sectors and are recognised for their real worth. Agriculture is the business through which they can improve their living conditions, and that makes accessing market to have worth for their produce becomes imperative.

Scaling up the activities of the family- farmers may be what they need to realise their profitability. That would necessarily include access to market to ensure adequate marginal returns on their investments and to reduce the food loss and wastage that occurs at the farm gate. In this vein, creating an aggregation that connects smallholder farmers to access to market to enhance value for the family farmers’ labour will be a turning point in the life of the African family farmers.  Knowing that what they produce is fully utilised in feeding the people while at the same getting the worth for their labour will inspire and excite the average African farmer the more and the teeming African young people to embrace farming as dignified trade. Scaling up the activities of African family farmers is an achievable response to the unabating and perilous crossing of the Mediterranean. One of the lures that Europe holds for young Africans is the promise of dignified returns for just labour. The development of the family-farming system has the promise of an alternative to the dangerous quest for a better life. The first step, in this direction, is to take a hard look at the economic resources of the African continent; the family-farming system has remained unexplored, undervalued and exploited.

An overview on the UN Declaration of Peasants and Rural Workers Rights

The UN United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas was adopted by the United Nations (UN) at the end of 2018 by a large majority (121 votes in favour, 54 abstentions, 8 votes against). This Declaration marks the culmination of a historic process: it is the result of nearly 20 years of mobilization of La Via Campesina and its allies, and 6 years of negotiation at the UN Human Rights Council.

The Millennium Project Task Force on Hunger has shown that 80 % of the world’s hungry people live in rural areas. Seventy-five percent (75%) of the one billion people living in extreme poverty in the world today live and work in rural areas. The global food crises of 2008 and 2009 and the corona virus that has been shaking the world since the end of 2019 have worsened the situation. Half of the people suffering from hunger are smallholders who depend mainly or partly on agriculture for their livelihood. Some 20 % are landless families who survive as sharecroppers or as low-paid farm labourers who often have to move from one precarious and informal job to another; 10 % live in rural communities with traditional fishing, hunting and herding practices. Women account for as much as 70 % of the world’s hungry people and the vast majority of them work in the agricultural sector.

Despite the existence of several international instruments for the protection of the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of individuals, the above figures indicating the number of people affected by hunger in rural areas have been increasing steadily. Discrimination against this category of the population continues. Studies on human rights violations committed against rural populations show that existing human rights instruments are not sufficient to protect them and that certain specific aspects of the condition of peasants are not sufficiently taken into account. The UN Human Rights Council therefore considered the need for a specific legal instrument to explicitly strengthen the rights of people living and working in rural areas very important. The result of this consideration is the “Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Other people working in rural areas”.

In 2010, the Human Rights Council mandated the Advisory Committee to undertake a preliminary study on ways and means to further promote the rights of people working in rural areas, including women, in particular smallholders engaged in the production of food and/or other agricultural products.  In 2011 and 2012, the Advisory Committee presented this study identifying five main causes of hunger that particularly affect peasants and other people working in rural areas: Expropriation of land, forced evictions and displacement; Gender discrimination; Absence of agrarian reform and rural development policies, including irrigation and seeds; Repression and criminalization of movements protecting the rights of people working in rural areas Lack of a minimum wage and social protection. The recent phenomenon of global “land-grab” has added another dimension to these concerns as Governments and companies seek to buy and lease large tracts of productive land in other countries, for food to be exported back to their countries, or to grow biofuels to fill the petrol tanks of those in the global north. Supermarkets buy their products primarily from large producers who are able to supply larger quantities. Because of their market power, supermarkets often dictate discount prices. These low prices in turn lead to poor wages and a lack of protection for farm workers.

An important outcome of this declaration is a major step forward in the protections of the rights of peasants and other rural workers. The rights stipulated therein are conditions for the realization of the right to food of the target groups, including: the right to land; the right to seeds; the right to means of production such as water, credit and tools; the right to food sovereignty. Most of these rights are new and do not appear in any other human rights instrument. This is the case, for example, of the right to land, seeds and means of production.

States have a great responsibility to ensure that peasants and others working in rural areas fully enjoy their rights. In the context of the declaration, States have, inter alia, the obligation to respect and protect: they must not interfere with the realization of the rights of peasants; they must refrain from expelling peasants by depriving them of the resources they need to lead a dignified life; they must refrain from adopting laws that allow private actors to abuse the rights of peasants; they must avoid issuing environmental permits knowing that the authorized activity will pollute the land and water and affect the right to water or to food and nutrition. The declaration obliges States to adopt all necessary measures to prevent private persons, such as landowners or transnational and national companies, from interfering with the realization of these rights.

An overview on the UN Declaration of Peasants and Rural Workers Rights

IS UNDERGROUND FARMING THE FUTURE OF FOOD?

A subterranean farm deep inside a South Korean subway station may unlock the secret to food sustainability.

More than seven million passengers ride Seoul’s metro system every day. But since September 2019, those who descend underground at the city’s Sangdo Station and push through the ticket gate are met with an unusual site: behind a glass-panelled facade, leafy shoots, sprouts and microgreens have sprung up from under bright LED lights as part of a subterranean, organic farm.

The concept, known as Metro Farm, uses hydroponic growing trays and an automated tech network to control the underground ecosystem’s temperature, humidity and CO2 levels. The result is a highly productive “vertical” farm that produces some 30kg of vegetables per day at a rate that is 40 times more efficient than traditional farming. In the adjacent cafe, as many as 1,000 customers a day now purchase salads, smoothies and edible flowers grown next door in a full seed-to-table operation.

According to Farm8, the tech startup behind the underground venture, Sangdo Station is just the first of many sustainable urban farming ventures that the company hopes to introduce across South Korea. The company believes that by developing these high-tech ventures in high-density areas, consumers will spend less on food transportation costs, C02 emissions associated with food delivery will drop and people will have a sustainable, year-round alternative to crops increasingly affected by pollution and climate change.

Farm8 is hoping to expand its flagship farm to three more Seoul metro stations later this year. If successful, the innovative venture may not only offer a more sustainable solution to urban farming, but also has the potential to be rolled out in environments where traditional farming isn’t feasible, such as deserts and Arctic climates.

http://www.bbc.com/travel/story/20200723-is-underground-farming-the-future-of-food?referer=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.bbc.com%2F

Kenyan recycling firm mixes kitchen waste to boost urban farming

Ted Gachanga and Michael Kanywiria agronomists who co-own Sprout Organic company display samples of vegetables grown in a compost that is sold to urban farmers to grow food in squeezed spaces during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Nairobi, Kenya June 30, 2020. Picture taken June 30, 2020. REUTERS/Edwin Waita

NAIROBI, – Kenyan urban farmer Francis Wachira credits a soil recycling company with keeping him afloat financially during the coronavirus crisis: it helped him to start producing herbs and vegetables on his tiny Nairobi plot.

The locally-owned company, Sprout Organic, mixes animal bone meal, seeds, foliage, dry leaves, twigs and kitchen waste like banana peels, to concoct a composite that is then sold to urban farmers like Wachira to grow food in small spaces.

Wachira, 71, used to make a living by renting out tiny tin shacks he built, but the coronavirus pandemic meant his tenants could no longer pay him.

Now he sells the produce from his plot, such as kale, spinach and herbs, and says he earns around 1,000 shillings ($9.23).

“We are making good money out of this,” he said.

Ted Gachanga, an agronomist who co-owns Sprout, says their product resembles black cotton soil. Worms are usually added to the mixture to help it mature, a process that takes about four weeks.

A 20 kg bag sells at 3,500 shillings. Gachanga said demand had risen by 10% during the pandemic, which has cut incomes and impinged food supply chains.

“People are seeing the need to grow their own produce,” Gachanga said.

Close to 15,000 people in Kenya have been infected by the COVID-19 disease since the first case was reported in mid-March, official data showed. Economic growth has slowed down sharply, with many job losses in sectors like tourism.

Sprout employs three staff, and its owners say that although their technology is not new, they have patented the formula for the composite. They hope to expand production beyond Nairobi to cover other towns.

https://news.trust.org/item/20200724071329-q9hgm/

Urgency of Changing Food Systems

More than ever, covid 19 has created or deepened awareness of the importance and safety of producing and consuming locally. This awareness has increased a growing global consensus on the need to reform food systems to achieve sustainable development goals. From this perspective, agro-ecology is central to the fact that it contributes to the achievement of many sustainable development goals. It enables agricultural production to be increased where necessary and contributes to the fight against hunger, malnutrition and poverty in rural areas. It also helps to combat environmental degradation, reduce greenhouse gases and adapt agriculture to climate change.

There are many major social and environmental challenges related to the way we produce, process and consume food. Despite abundant food production, hunger and malnutrition in the world are increasing. Agroecological approaches can play an important role in ensuring food and nutrition security for all. In the dimensions of availability,[1] accessibility (poverty alleviation), stability (increasing resilience) and utilization (diversified diets), agro-ecology has significant potential to improve food security. Many studies have found strong relationships between diverse farming systems (one of the key principles of agroecology), diversity of household diets and nutrition.[2]

The covid-19 pandemic has reinforced this transformation imperative. First of all; scientists have in the past linked the emergence of epidemics such as the Covid-19 pandemic, to the loss of habitat and biodiversity worldwide. But more importantly, this particular pandemic reveals the importance of strengthening the resilience of food systems and the autonomy of agricultural producers. There is ample evidence that agro-ecological systems, which are less dependent on inputs and major globalized value chains, are more resilient to the shocks of the pandemic on food systems. Here is one farmer’s testimony:

« At a time like this when there is no more movement, I continue to thrive because most of the inputs I need are on my farm; otherwise it would be difficult, if not impossible, to get them.  We produce a variety of crops and animals on the farm, so that has helped to spread the risk. With COVID-19, I can get income from different businesses: banana prices are currently very low, but in the near future, I will get income from cowpeas, onions and garlic. Also, as a family, we have enough food.»

We urgently need to reform our food systems so that they become socially equitable and no longer harm the planet. According to many international institutions, scientists, farmers’ movements and NGOs, this can be done by supporting an agro-ecological transition of food systems. In contrast to the proliferation of large-scale investments in agriculture, developed countries must strongly support the necessary agro-ecological transformation of food systems in developing countries. Recently (March 2020), a study on ” The share of agroecology in Belgian official development assistance: an opportunity missed” by UCLouvain (M. Vermeylen & O. De Schutter) showed that agroecology is not a priority for Belgian development cooperation. Indeed, it devotes only 16% of its budget dedicated to agriculture to support agro-ecology. This is an interpolation for other countries that intervene in one way or another in the development of the countries of the South.

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Cash payments to cut poverty in Indonesian villages help forests too

Sumbanese villagers work on a field seeding peanuts in Hamba Praing village, Kanatang district, East Sumba Regency, East Nusa Tenggara province, Indonesia, February 23, 2020. REUTERS/Willy Kurniawan

KUALA LUMPUR, – A social protection scheme to help poor Indonesians living in rural areas by giving them cash also reduced deforestation by 30%, researchers said on Friday, fuelling hope that efforts to tackle poverty and protect forests can work in tandem.

The study analysed Indonesia’s national anti-poverty programme – which transfers money to poor households that follow health and education guidelines – looking at about 7,500 forest villages that received money from 2008 to 2012.

“No matter which way we looked at it, the anti-poverty programme on average leads to reduction in deforestation in the villages receiving it,” said study co-author Paul Ferraro, a professor of human behaviour and public policy at Johns Hopkins University in the United States.

Over the last two decades, Indonesia managed to cut its poverty rate by more than half to just under 10% of its 260 million population in 2019, according to the World Bank.

The Southeast Asian nation, which is home to the world’s third-largest tropical forests, is also the top global producer of palm oil – which generates millions of jobs but is blamed by environmentalists for forest loss and fires.

Indonesia, the world’s fourth-most populous nation, was named as one of the top three countries for rainforest loss in 2019, according to data published this month by Global Forest Watch, a monitoring service that uses satellites.

The new study on Indonesia, published in the journal Science Advances, looked at data on tree-cover loss for villages near forests, before and after the welfare programme began.

Cash-based schemes to tackle poverty are becoming increasingly popular in developing countries, with 16 tropical nations having adopted such methods, Ferraro noted.

The Indonesian programme – still being phased in across the archipelago – makes “modest” quarterly cash payments equating to about 15-20% of recipients’ household consumption, he said.

The 266,533 households analysed for the study were located in the 15 provinces that make up half of Indonesia’s forest cover and account for about 80% of its deforestation.

Researchers found that farmers in these villages typically cleared forest to plant more crops if they expected low yields, due to delays in the monsoon season or prolonged drought.

But when given cash payments, they switched to buying from markets rather than clearing forest, or were able to take out loans using the government handout as a guarantee, said Ferraro.

Before scaling up such cash schemes worldwide, Ferraro urged more research on their environmental benefits.

A separate study in Mexico, using different methods, found a small rise in deforestation as locals may have used the cash to keep more cattle, clearing forest for grazing, he noted.

“We’re not going to solve the rainforest problems with a conditional cash transfer programme,” he said.

“(But) it provides space for these two groups – the anti-poverty and pro-environment groups – to be more collaborative.”

https://news.trust.org/item/20200612171610-gro26/