Fatou Batta looks at the key role women play in African agriculture.They do more than 70% of the work on the land, and are responsible for almost all processing activities. But do we understand clearly enough the roles of rural women farmers? How can we provide women with strategic support that can enable them to influence agriculture policies?
The System of Rice Intensification is a very good example of agro-ecology in action, argues Rik Thijssen.Some thirty years ago, near the town of Nagua in the Dominican Republic, small-scale rice farmers were experimenting with transplanting seedlings.Today, just like back then, farmers are taking the lead.
David Millar looks at some of the obstacles to tree-planting in northern Ghana and identifies other strategies for combating climate change.Better grassland management provides an opportunity for northern Ghana to participate in the global efforts to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, benefit from the Clean Development Mechanisms (CDM), provide income generation opportunities and efficiently contribute to the fight against desertification.
Eric Holt Gimenez argues the need for a pro-active movement based on land sovereignty to fight land grabbing.Farmers’ organisations, social movements and development NGOs need to find “common ground” to protect peasant farmers, forest dwellers, indigenous communities, family farmers and urban agriculture from the devastation of dispossession.
Eric Holt-Gimenez argues that there is a difference between producing more food and ending hunger.To end hunger we must end poverty and inequality. Conventional agriculture’s record on these issues is abysmal. To end hunger we need agro-ecological approaches and structural reforms that ensure that resource-poor farmers have the land and resources they need for sustainable livelihoods.
Farmer organisations represent the social capital needed in the rural areas, says Thomas Mupetesi.National policy makers should pay attention to the role that farmers’ organisations can play in tackling environmental issues, building on what organisations like ours are doing. What we need to do is to share the lessons learnt and show what these organisations are already doing to respond to climate change.
Farmers need to participate in the processes that shape all rules and regulations, argues Christian Gouët.An approach such as the Participatory Generation of Positions and Proposals (PGPP) can help link these organisations with policy makers.
The world's different food movements need to work together, argues Eric Holt-Giménez. The question facing them is “How can we, in all our diversity, converge to become powerful enough to transform the world’s food systems?” The answer is being forged daily, on the ground, as political alliances grow between producers, workers and consumers, and as social movements begin bridging North-South and urban-rural divides: “convergence in diversity”.
Honey bees are amazing creatures, but they are dying by the millions. John Wightman looks at our slow reaction to their disappearance, calling for someone to apply slow response thought processes so as to search for a global solutions. Quoting Einstein, if the bee disappears from the surface of the globe, then man would only have four years of life left.
“Investments” in southern India have very negative consequences, says Suprabha Seshan. "In my immediate neighbourhood, a tea farm sells at 1 million rupees an acre. A few years ago it would have been a fifth of this price. Of course this means that rural people are leaving the countryside. They are leaving independent and stable (though, not easy) lives to become consumers in the shanty towns around cities."
Eric Holt-Gimenez argues that “Wall Street has been occupying our food system”, and this has had disastrous results. In 2008 and again in 2010, prices for staple crops like rice, wheat, and corn doubled and tripled, extending the grip of poverty and deprivation to hundreds of millions of people.
While at the start of 2011 "a dangerous conspiracy of silence on the subject of land grabbing" seemed to be in place, more and more organisations are showing what’s really happening, says Robin Palmer. More and more information is coming from the ILC, GRAIN, ActionAid, ...
Peter Gubbels looks at the potential of food reserves. In the Sahel, increased food reserves and buffer stocks at the regional, national and local levels can be a valuable tool for improving access to food and for stabilising food prices. Purchasing locally produced foodstuffs when prices are low, and selling when prices are high, can keep prices in check, protect farmers’ incomes and mitigate the effect of steep price rises.
FAO’s new Director General won’t have an easy job, but still “we have hope”, says Francisco Caporal. Since FAO’s mandate is “to achieve food security for all and ensure that people have regular access to good quality food”, it would be great to see if José Graziano da Silva has read the reports of his future colleague at the UN, Olivier De Schutter, who recommends a profound shift in agricultural policies in order to ensure food security worldwide.
Young professionals need to be engaged in shaping the future of agriculture, says Courtney Paisley, at YPARD. The first step in attracting future young professionals is nurturing the ones we have now. Furthermore, we need to provide more young role models for future agriculturalists to look up to and so change their perceptions of agriculture.
Francisco Caporal argues against changes in the Brazilian Forest Code. Industrial agriculture is expanding in order to remain competitive, and this growth does not consider environmental concerns. But the biggest worry today is that many persons and organisations are pushing for changes in the existing legislation – especially those laws and regulations which have proved to be effective.
Scientists can be seduced by good examples when found on a large scale, thinks Anil Gupta. But we also need to work within global platforms to spread knowledge and experiences, and shame other institutions for neglecting local technologies.
This issue of Farming Matters contains many examples of people working together to manage their water resources in an efficient way. The message is important. We live in a world where the pressure on water resources is growing and where many of the surface water resources are overcommitted. Yet there are still many opportunities that are not utilised. It is this gap between crisis and opportunities that should concern us.
We have now reached a point in which negotiations to find any common ground for our shared resource use have become so difficult that wars seem the only alternative. Yet, Anil Gupta feels that peace is possible - through shared use patterns, and the creation of frugal cultures that impose an artificial scarcity on those who are used to wasteful resource use.
Anil Gupta wonders why, if biodiversity is so important, there is so much poverty in regions rich in biodiversity. How can we justify the billions of dollars that have been spent on inter-governmental panels with practically no change in the rights of, and opportunities for, the people in these regions? National governments and civil society must bear some responsibility for this situation and for changing it.