Friday, July 24, 2015

A food revolution

Organic farming abandons the use of agro-chemicals. Research has shown that agriculture is a major catalyst for climate change, second only to industrialisation. Climate change mitigation exponents point to the green revolution era which today is blamed for playing a key part in warming global temperatures. Climate change critics say since that time, human agriculture has supplanted about 70 percent of grasslands, 50 percent of savannas and 45 percent of temperate forests. As such, farming has become the leading cause of deforestation in the tropical regions and one of the largest sources of greenhouse gas emission in addition to being a perennial source of non-renewable groundwater mining and general water pollution.

The green revolution refers to a series of research and development and technology transfer initiatives that started soon after the Second World War in 1945, which increased agricultural production worldwide. The initiatives, led by one Norman Borlaung who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970, were credited as having saved over a billion people from starvation.

It involved the development of high-yielding varieties of cereal grains, expansion of irrigation infrastructure, modernisation of management techniques, distribution of hybrid seeds, synthetic fertilisers and pesticides to farmers. Though food production increased, agricultural biodiversity and wild biodiversity suffered as it relied on just a few high-yield varieties of each crop, brewing concerns about the susceptibility of a food supply to pathogens that cannot be controlled by agrochemicals, and permanent loss of valuable genetic traits bred into traditional varieties over thousands of years.

That effect is already being felt, with agricultural experts and ecologists warning of the threat from the shrinking number of pollinators as they are under siege from use of pesticides. Pollinators, comprising of mainly birds and insects such as bees and beetles, transfer pollen from one plant to another in order to fertilize them.

To restrain that impact, some have turned to organic farming techniques and, following the discourse today, support for organic farming is regularly part of a bigger social and political mindset -- one that holds the view that natural is best, and that current farming trends are part of a myriad of threats to the health of the earth and its people. This idea seems to have set the organic movement squarely against intensive farming and chemical-based agribusiness proponents. In the academia, the civic world and the media -- arguments rage more fiercely today than ever before.

But a convergence of views is taking shape, which places organic farming well on course to be the future. Already, elements of the organic philosophy are starting to be deployed in mainstream agriculture. Conventional agronomists too are increasingly getting troubled about the long-term sustainability of chemical use and the integrity of the soil. Could it be that both sides of agriculture's great divide now want the same thing? There are however questions about the feasibility of employing pure organic means on a large scale commercial farming. If we can embrace and scale up such initiatives as organic farming and other sustainable environmental management activities, this will lead to building resilience in vulnerable communities and promote sustainable development. Many years ago, crop yield was everything, but now there has been a major recognition of the need to maintain organic materials in soil

The United Nations and the government are encouraging a departure from conventional farming. The concept of ‘food sovereignty’ was coined in South America. Via Campesina or Peasant’s Movement, is largely responsible for making this concept popular. According to this notion, each nation has the complete right to formulate its agricultural policies including food-aid and food-trade. This policy of ‘food sovereignty’ evolved through a rather bitter experience of interventions from the corporate sector and the countries exporting food which eroded local capacity to produce food and failed to engage farmers in their traditional occupation.

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