Monday, June 27, 2011

Eco-farming, Organic Agriculture Solution to Hunger and Poverty

Save climate and double food production with eco-farming

Eco-farming could double food production in entire regions within 10 years while mitigating climate change, according to a new UN report released 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, UN 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 UN 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 years... 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. Africans' average increases were 116 percent.

"Today's 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 doesn't 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 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 proponents' 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. One the most under-acknowledged but astonishing impacts is on the global climate. "It is fair to say that between 45 and 50 percent of all human emissions of global warming gases come from the current form of food production," De Shutter says.

Climate-damaging emissions from industrial agriculture are more than just carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels. They include massive amounts of the super-heating greenhouse gases like methane from animals and nitrous oxide from chemical fertiliser. Add in deforestation - which is mostly done to increase farmland or plantations - and that's around a third of all emissions. Now, add on the emissions from food processing and the long distance transport of foods around the world and it comes close to half of all human emissions.

The food system doesn't have to be a major source of emissions, the problem is just the way we have designed it around cheap fossil fuel energy, he said. Eco-farming can produce more food for the world's poorest people, while also resulting in a fraction of the emissions. It can even store carbon in the soil.

"The evidence is irrefutable. If we can change the way we farm and the way we produce and distribute food, then we have a powerful solution for combating the climate crisis," said Henk Hobbelink, coordinator of GRAIN, an international non-governmental organisation that produced a report in 2009 showing that industrial agriculture was by far the biggest source of climate-disrupting emissions of greenhouse gases.

"There are no technical hurdles to achieving these results, it is only a matter of political will," Hobbelink told IPS. Trade, economic and agricultural policies are all skewed in favour of the current industrial food production system. And many of those policies are pushing small farmers - the ones who are by far the most efficient in terms of carbon emissions and energy use, according to GRAIN - off the land.

De Shutter says the techniques and benefits of agro-ecology are now well established, so his role is to push governments to change policies and support the transformation of food production. His report offers policy-relevant recommendations for countries, such as increasing public funding for research and training.

"Private companies will not invest time and money in practices that cannot be rewarded by patents and which don't open markets for chemical products or improved seeds," De Shutter said. "If we don't radically transform the direction of the global food system, we will never feed the billion who are hungry," De Shutter warns. "Nor will we be able to feed ourselves in the future."

Filipinos concerned about nuclear emergency in Japan

Filipinos concerned about nuclear emergency in Japan:

Revival of Bataan nuke plant should be junked

Following reports that the nuclear plant in Japan around 250
kilometers northeast of Tokyo had explosions and vented smoke to the
environment, Philippine activist groups under the No to BNPP Revival!
network reminded the Aquino administration of the dangers of reviving
the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP) here in the Philippines.

The two affected nuclear plants are in the Fukushima plant owned by
the Tokyo Power Electric Company. Although the nuclear plants went
onto automatic shutdown, problems after the event such as the failure
of cooling systems caused the nuclear emergency. People have been
evacuated around a 10-km radius of the plant. The reactor was already
leaking radiation eight times the normal levels outside the facility
and 1,000 times normal inside Fukushima 1's control room.

"Japan should issue a full disclosure of the status of their nuclear
plants and immediately implent protocols to contain the potential
meltdown. The affected communities should be protected and nearby
countries such as the Philippines should also ready in case the
emissions affect our surroundings," said Dr. Giovanni Tapang, convenor
of the No to the BNPP Revival!

Dr. Tapang said that this unfolding precedent in Japan should serve as
an ample warning to the Philippine government to not rush headlong
into the BNPP's revival.

"Issues concerning the safety, viability and environmental risks
associated with the Bataan nuclear plant are still unresolved and yet
the Department of Energy and the National Power Corporation seem to be
hell bent on pushing through with plans to privatize the operations of
the BNPP," explained Dr. Tapang.

Similar problems such as falling barrels containing radioactive
material thus releasing it to the environment were also observed in
previous accidents such as the 2007 Kashiwarazaki-Kariwa accident
caused by a 6.6 Mw earthquake near Niigata, Japan. There were
radiation leaks in the sea and 400 drums ng low-level nuclear waste
fell down during the earthquake. Fourty of these barrels opened and
emitted traces of radioactive Cobalt 60 and chromium 51 in the
environment. The Kashiwarazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant was one of the
largest plant in the world.

"There are chances of having a similar accident if the government
operates the BNPP. The Philippines is vulnerable to earthquakes, being
near the Manila Trench and is sitting on the slopes of Mount Natib",
added Dr. Tapang.

"Things also become problematic if the operations of a facility like
the BNPP will be handed over to a private foreign firm like the Korean
Electric Company (KEPCO) which had conducted feasibility tests on the
plant," said Dr. Tapang. Other firms from Russia, Japan and South
Korea were reportedly interested in operating the BNPP.

"The reopening of the BNPP is just one of the plans of the Aquino
administration that is no different from his predecessor. It would not
benefit the Filipino people and instead expose us to unncessary risks
to its recommissioning," Dr. Tapang added.

"What should be done is to reverse the privatization of the power
industry and build safe and reliable sources of electricity. The
country has vast indigenous energy resources from fossil fuels to
alternative energy that we can use if only the government stops
selling these to private investors," said Dr. Tapang

Program Officer Job Hiring in the Philippines

The Local Governance Support Program for Local Economic Development (LGSP-LED) is seeking applications for a LED Initiatives Coordinator/Program Officer to be based in the LGSP-LED Office in Manila. The Terms of Reference (TORs) detailing the background, scope of work, roles and responsibilities and qualifications is provided.

LGSP-LED is a collaborative, eight-year Program of the Governments of Canada and Philippines, funded by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) and implemented through the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG). Its purpose is to reduce poverty by strengthening local governance and supporting sustainable local economic development (LED).

Interested applicants must submit the following:

1. Letter of Intent addressed to the Field Director, Local Governance Support Program for Local Economic Development
2. Comprehensive CV, not to exceed 4 pages detailing the following:

a. Name and citizenship
b. Education and pertinent dates and degrees received
c. Language(s) spoken, read and written, and degree of proficiency in each category
d. Length of service with current employer, position and status (permanent, temporary, contract employee, associate, etc.)
e. Pertinent experience: A summary of the skills and experience that would be valuable and applicable to this project
f. A history of employment and assignments (in reverse chronological order)
g. List of publications/presentations, if applicable
h. Membership in associations

Please send applications via email to not later than April 29, 2011. Only short-listed applicants will be called for interview.

We encourage you to share this information with your colleagues and partners who might be interested and are qualified to apply for this position.

LGSP-LED is an equal opportunity employer. Women are encouraged to apply.

Bury Marcos in Batac, Ilocos where he is truly loved

A people is only as strong as their memory. A country without memory has no history.

We are a peace-loving, forgiving, "maawain" people. Ferdinand E. Marcos is forgiven, although as far as we shall ever know, he died mute and unrepentant. But his legacy is not forgotten – the hypocrisy and violence of his "New Society," the rapine by his cronies and sycophants, his hidden loot, his deception with his fake medals and phony guerrilla unit; the repression, corruption, and injustice; the ruin of our country's economy; the military abuse, torture and "salvaging"; all these throughout his Martial Law dictatorship. To the very present, we suffer from that bitter legacy.

I say this without sarcasm or irony: "Bury Marcos in Batac where he is truly loved."

As for the Congress of 2011 and those 262 so-called people's representatives, let them look to a time ago when a crowd screamed at Pilate for him to release Barabbas to them, and Pilate acquiesced, had a Man crucified, and then washed his hands.

My earnest prayer for those 262 amnesiac Congress(woe)men: May they not follow after Anatole France's "Procurator of Judaea" who lost his memory of ever having met the Man he had crucified because, listening to a vociferous mob of fanatics, opportunists, and bootlickers, he was afraid of losing his power and influence with the Roman emperor.

Gemino H. Abad
University Professor emeritus
Department of English & Comparative Literature, UP Diliman