Posts Tagged ‘agriculture’

Earth matters – Tackling the climate crisis from the ground up

Thursday, October 15th, 2009

Some things have not changed much since da Vinci’s time, 500 years ago. For many, soil is a mix of dirt and dust. But in reality soils are one of Earth’s most amazing living ecosystems. Millions of plants, bacteria, fungi, insects and other living organisms – most of them invisible to the naked human eye – are in a constantly evolving process of creating, composing and decomposing organic living matter. They are also the unavoidable starting point for anyone who wants to grow food.

Soils also contain enormous amounts of carbon, mostly in the form of organic matter. On a global scale soils hold more than twice as much carbon as is contained in terrestrial vegetation. The rise of industrial agriculture in the past century, however, has provoked, through its reliance on chemical fertilisers, a general disrespect for soil fertility and a massive loss of organic matter from the soil. Much of this lost organic matter has ended up in the atmosphere in the form of carbon dioxide (CO2) – the most important greenhouse gas.

The way that industrial agriculture has treated soils has been a key factor in provoking the current climate crisis. But soils can also be a part of the solution, to a much greater extent than is commonly acknowledged. According to our calculations, if we could manage to put back into the world’s agricultural soils the organic matter that we have been losing because of industrial agriculture, we would capture at least one third of the current excessive CO2 in the atmosphere. If, once we had done that, we were to continue rebuilding the soils, we would, after about 50 years, have captured about two thirds of the excess CO2 in the atmosphere. In the process, we would be constructing healthier and more productive soils and we would be able to do away with the use of chemical fertilisers, which are another potent producer of climate change gases.

Via Campesina has argued that agriculture based on small-scale farming, using agro-ecological production methods and oriented towards local markets, can cool the planet and feed the population (see Box 1). They are right, and the reasons lie largely in the soil.

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Putting the Last First – The Organic Answer to Food Security For All

Thursday, October 15th, 2009

International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements, October 12, 2009

On the occasion of the World Food Day, agro-industry proposes a second green revolution based on genetic engineering. This suits their interests but does not contribute to feeding the poor. Organic Agriculture based on its encouraging concepts, experience and examples proposes a paradigm-shift in food security policies to ensure that hunger is history by 2050.

In 2009, the number of undernourished people reached one billion, three quarters of them live in rural areas . This is more than ever before. Despite the fact that the world produces 125% of the required food for all, 15% of people are hungry; and most of them are women and children. Global agriculture production today fails to feed the world’s poorest people since they lack access to income and resources such as fertile land, water, seeds and knowledge for a farming system adapted to local conditions and the demands of markets. The green revolution accomplished a lot but failed to combat hunger. It focused only on technology and relied on huge quantities of climate damaging inputs such as agro-chemicals.

Putting the last first IFOAM advocates for a paradigm shift in agricultural policies and offers its practices and systems to policy makers for adoption especially in the global south and for regions with food insecurity. Organic Agriculture puts the needs of rural people and the sustainable use of natural resources at the centre of the farming system. Locally adapted technologies create employment opportunities and income. Low external inputs minimize risk of indebtedness and intoxication of the environment. It increases harvests through practices that favor the optimization of biological processes and local resources over expensive, toxic and climate damaging agro-chemicals . Organic Agricultural practices bring land degraded by unsustainable farming practices, severe drought and soil erosion back into production . And in response to a frequently asked question: Yes, the world can be fed by the worldwide adoption of Organic Agriculture. The slightly lower yields of Organic Agriculture in favorable, temperate zones are compensated with approximately 10 – 20% higher yields in difficult environments such as arid areas .

For more information call Markus Arbenz, IFOAM Executive Director: +49 160 804 15 57