Saturday, January 24, 2009

Indigenous Herders and Small Farmers Fight Livestock extinction

Trade BioRes, September 21, 2007 
Title: "Conference Agrees Steps to Safeguard Farm Animal Diversity" 
Author: The International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development

La Via Campesina, September 11, 2007 
Title: "Wilderswil Declaration on Livestock Diversity" 
Authors: Representatives of pastoralists, indigenous peoples, and smallholder farmers

Student Researchers: Maureen Santos, Andrew Kochevar, and Stephanie Smith

Faculty Evaluator: Nick Geist, PhD

The industrial model of livestock production is causing the worldwide destruction of animal diversity. At least one indigenous livestock breed becomes extinct each month as a result of overreliance on select breeds imported from the United States and Europe, according to the study, "The State of the World's Animal Genetic Resources," conducted by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). Since research for the report began in 1999, 2,000 local breeds have been identified as at risk.

The industrial livestock breeding and production system that is being imposed on the world requires high levels of investment in technology and receives subsidies and other resources that have distorted the market.

Consequences of the livestock industry's globalization include the threat to sustainable development and global food security, destruction of the livelihoods of over one billion people worldwide, smallholder bankruptcies and suicides, and the extinction of some of the world's hardiest breeds of animals.

The FAO report, which the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) contributed to, surveyed farm animals in 169 countries, and found that nearly 70 percent of the world's entire remaining unique livestock are bred in developing countries. The findings were presented to over 300 policy makers, scientists, breeders, and industrialized livestock keepers at the First International Technical Conference on Animal Genetic Resources, held in Interlaken, Switzerland, from September 3 to 7, 2007.

In response to these findings, scientists from the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research, ILRI's supporting organization, have called for the rapid establishment of gene banks to conserve the sperm and ovaries of key animals critical for the survival of global animal populations. Over the past six years, ILRI has built a detailed database, called the Domestic Animal Genetic Resoures Information System, containing research-based information on the distribution, characteristics, and statuses of 669 breeds of cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, and chickens indigenous to Africa and Asia.

Meanwhile, concurrent with the Interlaken summit, around 300 representatives from thirty organizations of pastoralists, indigenous peoples, smallholder farmers, and NGOs from twenty-six countries met in a parallel conference, to establish opposition to globalized industrial livestock production. The Livestock Diversity Forum to Defend Food Sovereignty and Livestock Keepers' Rights met in Wilderswil, Switzerland, and presented an alternative Declaration on Livestock Diversity on September 6, 2007.

The Wilderswil Declaration maintains that while the FAO report contains good analysis and squarely points to the industrial livestock system as one of the main forces behind destruction of diversity, the FAO Global Plan of Action contains nothing that addresses these causes.

The Declaration states:

It is totally unacceptable that governments agree on a plan that does not challenge the policies that cause the loss of diversity . . .

Defending livestock diversity is not a matter of [privatized] genes but of collective rights.

The social organizations of pastoralists, herders, and farmers have no interest in participating in a plan which does not address the central causes behind the destruction of livestock diversity, but rather provides crutches and weak support for a collapsing global livestock production system. Because the Global Plan of Action does not challenge industrial livestock production, we reinforce our commitment to organize ourselves to save livestock diversity and to counter the negative forces bearing on us.

This peoples' proposal asserts that it is not possible to conserve animal diversity without protecting and strengthening the local communities that currently maintain and nurture such diversity. These livestock keepers maintain that governments should accept and guarantee collective rights and community control over natural resources, including communal grazing lands and migration routes, water, and livestock breeds.

The Declaration further states:

Local knowledge and biodiversity can only be protected and promoted through collective rights. Collective knowledge is intimately linked to cultural diversity, particular ecosystems, and biodiversity, and cannot be dissociated from any of these other three aspects. Any definition and implementation of the rights of livestock keepers should take this fully into account. It is clear that the rights of livestock keepers are not compatible with intellectual property rights systems [i.e., gene banks] because these systems enable exclusive and private monopoly control. There must be no patents or other forms of intellectual property rights on biodiversity and the knowledge related to it.

The organization maintains that they want livestock keeping that is on a human scale, based on the health and wellbeing of humankind not industrial profit. They point out that the dominant model of production is based on a dangerously narrow genetic base of livestock that is propped up by the widespread use of veterinary drugs. Yet this risky and high-cost system is providing more and more of our food: globally, one third of pigs, one half of eggs, two thirds of milk, and three quarters of the world's chickens are produced from industrial breeding lines. 

Friday, January 23, 2009

Open Letter from Maputo: Peasant Agriculture and Food Sovereignty are Solutions to the Global Crisis

Peasant Agriculture and Food Sovereignty are Solutions to the Global Crisis

Maputo, Mozambique, October 19-22, 2008

The entire world is in crisis, a crisis with multiple dimensions. There is a food crisis, an energy crisis, a climate crisis and a financial crisis. The solutions put forth by Power – more free trade, more GMOs, etc. – purposefully ignore the fact that the crisis is a product of the capitalist system and of neoliberalism, and they will only worsen its impacts. To find real solutions we need to look toward Food Sovereignty as put forth by La Via Campesina.

How did we get to this state of crisis?

In recent decades we have witnessed the advance of finance capital and transnational corporations (TNCs) across all aspects of agriculture and the global food system. >From the privatization of seeds and the sale of pesticides, to buying the harvests, processing the food, transporting and distributing it, all the way to retail sale to consumers, everything is controlled by a handful of corporations. Food has gone from being a right of all people, to being just another commodity. Our diets are being homogenized, with food that is bad for you, is priced out of the reach of most people, and makes us lose the culinary traditions of our peoples.

At the same time we are witnessing an offensive of capital for the control of natural resources, the likes of which we have not seen since colonial times. The crisis of the rate of profit has led Capital to launch a privatizing war for the eviction of our peoples, peasants and the indigenous, the theft through privatization of our land, territories, forests, biodiversity, water and mineral resources. It is an aggression against both rural peoples and the environment. The planting of large-scale agrofuel monocultures is an aspect of this war of displacement. It is routinely justified with the false arguments that agrofuels are the solution to the energy and climate crisis. But the truth is that the current dependence on long distance transport of goods, and individual transport of people in automobiles instead of mass transportation, have more to do with these crises than anything else.

Now, with the food and financial crises, everything is getting worse. The food crisis and the financial crisis are linked through financial speculation on the prices of food crops and land, to the detriment of people. Now as the crisis grows, finance capital is more desperate every day, assaulting our government treasuries for their bailouts, which will only force more budget cutting in our countries, and make poverty and suffering even more widespread. Hunger is continuing to grow in our world. Exploitation and all forms of violence, especially directed at women, are on the rise. With the economic recession in rich countries, xenophobia is spreading, with more racism and repression, and the dominant economic model offers ever fewer options to our rural youth.

In synthesis, things are going from bad to worse. Nevertheless, we must recognize that like all crises, this one also generates opportunities. Opportunities for capitalism, which uses crises to reinvent itself and find new sources of profits, but also opportunities for social movements. Among the latter are the fact that the principal theses of neoliberalism are being stripped of their legitimacy in public opinion, and the fact the international financial institutions (World Bank, IMF, WTO) are proving to be incapable of administering the crisis (in addition being among the cause of the same crisis). This creates the opportunity to eliminate them, and create new institutions to regulate the global economy that serve public interests. It is clearer every day that the TNCs are our real enemies behind these other enemies. It is clearer every day that the neoliberal governments do not serve the interests of their peoples. And it is clearer every day that the global corporate food regime is not capable of feeding the great majority of people on this planet, while Food Sovereignty based on peasant agriculture is more needed than ever.

Facing this reality, what do we defend in La Via Campesina?

·         Food Sovereignty: getting speculative finance capital out of our food system, and re-nationalizing food production and reserves offer us the only real way out of the food crisis. Only peasant and family farm agriculture feed people, while agribusiness grows export crops and agrofuels to feed cars instead of human beings. Food Sovereignty based on peasant and family farm agriculture offers us a way out of this crisis.

·         As solutions to the energy and climates crises: the dissemination of local food systems, that are not based on long-distance transport nor on industrial agriculture, could eliminate as much as 40% of all greenhouse gas emissions. Industrial agriculture warms the planet, and peasant agriculture cools the planet. Changes in patterns of transportation for people and patterns of consumption are additional the steps needed to address the energy and climate crises.

·         Genuine integral agrarian reform and the defense of the territories of indigenous peoples are essential steps to roll back the evictions and displacement in the countryside, and to use our farm land to grow food instead of exports and fuels.

·         Sustainable peasant and family farm agriculture: only agroecological peasant and family farming can de-link food prices from petroleum prices, recover degraded soils, and produce healthy local food for our peoples.

·         The advance of women is an advance for all: the end of all forms of violence against women, including physical, social and other forms. Achieving true gender parity in all internal spaces and organs of debate and decision-making, are absolutely essential commitments to advance at this time as social movements toward the transformation of society.

·         The right to seeds and water: seeds and water are sources of life, and are the heritage of our peoples. We cannot permit their privatization, nor the use of GMOs or of terminator technology.

·         No to the criminalization of social protest, yes to the UN Declaration of Peasant Rights, proposed by La Via Campesina. It will be a key tool in the international legal system to strengthen our position and our rights as peasants and family farmers.

·         Rural youth: We urgently need to open ever more spaces in our movement for the incorporation of the creativity and strength of our rural young people, in their struggle to create their future in the countryside.

·         Finally, we are the women and men who produce and defend the food of all peoples.

All the participants in the V Conference of La Via Campesina commit ourselves to the defense of peasant and family farm agriculture, food sovereignty, dignity and life. We offer real solutions the global crisis we face today. We have the right to continue to exist as peasants and farmers, and we have the responsibility to feed our peoples.

We are here, the peasants and family farmers of the world, and we refuse to disappear.

Food sovereignty now! Unity and struggle of the people!

Globalize struggle! Globalize hope!

Where agriculture is a happy story

Savvy Soumya Mishra
Source: CSE/Down To Earth Feature Service
The New Nation, 23 January 2009

Ajith Kumar, an Air India executive posted in Hyderabad, India, does not linger over lunch on weekdays. Instead, he rushes to the agricultural cooperative store next to his office to buy vegetables. These vegetables are farm fresh and free of pesticides. Kumar's wife calls him to make sure he leaves office in time. "I don't mind the extra effort. These vegetables taste much better," Kumar said as he stood waiting in the queue outside the Hyderabad Agriculture Cooperative Association (HACA) store.

Kruppakar Reddy, the store in-charge, said the demand for vegetables, grown through non-pesticidal management, called NPM vegetables, is on a high. He said only one farmer is supplying NPM vegetables as of now. "We plan to provide him with exclusive space in the building. Refrigerated storage space will be given to other farmers as well," Reddy said.

The farmer who supplies the NPM vegetables to the cooperative store comes from Manchal village, 50 km away from Hyderabad. Srinivas Reddy, the 25-year-old farmer, started supplying pesticide-free tomatoes, okra, brinjals, gooseberries, chillies and leafy vegetables to the store five months ago.

"To meet the high demand other farmers send their produce through me. Many of them are switching to NPM in my village," he said. His increasing profits reflect the demand for the vegetables. From the initial Rs 1,500 a month, his profits have gone up three times.

Like Srinivas, other farmers are discovering that growing pesticide-free vegetables, grains and pulses is profitable. They have been able to cut the cost of cultivation by doing away with chemical pesticides-the costliest input in agriculture here. The yield remains more or less the same and the net profits go up.

In Manchal mandal, a women's self help group has cultivated a field with 29 varieties of vegetables and pulses. The state government's Society for Elimination of Rural Poverty (SERP) and the horticulture department have helped to set up these vegetable farm models in a number of villages. Farmers are provided seed kits at 90 per cent subsidy. Several earn profits up to Rs 50,000 a year. Farmers have been able to reduce the cost of cultivation by Rs 2,500 to Rs 5,000 per acre (0.4 hectare) by doing away with pesticides.

The trend of NPM farming has grown steadily since 2005. NPM started as a campaign of non-profits to get farmers to give up pesticides to earn better. The state rural development ministry took it forward through SERP, which is currently implementing NPM in 3,000 villages across 18 of the 23 districts.

With farmers saying no to pesticides, dealers of pesticides and fertilizers have had to shut shop or switch to alternate vocations. Twenty seven-year-old Krishna Reddy of Todalapalle village in Kadapa district is one of them. From a fertilizer and pesticide dealer, he switched to products made from neem and other bio-formulations used to control pests and improve soil fertility. Krishna now sells neem powder, seeds and pheromone traps (for luring and trapping pests) among other things to the villagers.

"Eighty per cent of the farmers in my village had stopped using chemicals and asked me to keep bio-products. Though my earnings from the shop have gone down from Rs 10,000 to Rs 8,000, I am able to cover up the deficit by selling my own farm produce grown without pesticides," Krishna said.

NPM has made entrepreneurs out of some women. There are those who sell bio-products used for NPM farming. K Keija, a 30-year-old mother of two, earns up to Rs 3,000 profit by selling bio formulations from the shop she set up in Kondapatturu, Guntur district, two years ago. She sells ghanajeevastra, neemastra and brahmastra, which she makes by sourcing raw materials such as cow dung, cow urine, milk, curd, chillies, garlic, neem. She can also afford the treatment for her daughter who has polio. "My husband works as a farm labourer and earns very little. I could not take our daughter to the government hospital in Guntur for treatment earlier, but things have changed," Keija said.

Khairunnisa Begum of Vattam village in Mahabubnagar district is another woman entrepreneur. She set up her shop to promote NPM farming in 2007. "I give my products free to poor and needy farmers," said the 45-year-old. She now plans to have two more shops in nearby villages. Khairunnisa was a treasurer of a women's self help group (SHG) in the area. Many such groups operate in the districts and they train farmers to set up NPM stores. Currently, there are 300 NPM shops across the state.

NPM farming has benefited from the centrally administered National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS) after the state government integrated the latter into NPM. Labourers were paid from funds for rural employment scheme to dig farm ponds to irrigate NPM fields.

Ramachandrapuram in Khammam district was the first village to introduce employment guarantee scheme in fields under NPM cultivation. The works taken up under the scheme included digging of farm ponds, making compost pits, land development and removing silt from dried water tanks and ponds that can be used for improving soil nutrients. Other villages like Punukula, Mulukallapalle and Vepakoyyaramavaram, in Khammam, followed suit.

G Subbalakshmi, a 40-year-old farmer from Chhinnarasupalli village of Chhinnamandem mandal had no irrigation facility till about seven months ago. She was cultivating dry land paddy and other crops that need very little water. After a farm pond was dug in her field under NREGS, she sowed paddy on her 0.6-hectare plot. She stopped using pesticides. "From 10 bags of paddy last year, my yield may go up to 25 bags this year. I have also saved Rs 2,500 by not using pesticides," Subbalakshmi said. Now she is planning to take up pisciculture to augment her income.

According to D V Raidu, the state project advisor for NPM, digging farm ponds helped farmers irrigate their fields and recharge groundwater. "About 400 farm ponds were dug in Nizamabad district and as a result, groundwater levels rose by 4.5 metres in Ellareddy mandal," Raidu said. He added that work orders to the tune of Rs 6.76 crore had been executed and funds totalling Rs 2.44 crore had been disbursed.

With NPM making agriculture profitable, there is a noticeable decline in suicide deaths in the state. "There were no debt-related suicide deaths in any of the 3,000 NPM villages in 2007," said G V Ramajaneyulu, executive director of Centre for Sustainable Agriculture, a non-profit spearheading the NPM programme.

Though there is no study to link decrease in farmers' distress with decline in suicide deaths, farmers said that debt drove many to consume pesticides readily available in all households. "Women constantly feared their husbands or sons would consume pesticides. But now, even if they want to, the only immediate choices are bio-pesticides made from cow dung and urine, which they won't drink," said Khairunnisa, the NPM shop owner of Vattam village.

The motive for discontinuing the use of pesticides may have been to cut cultivation costs, but farmers are realizing that their medical bills have gone down. Most farmers used to complain of giddiness, skin problems, breathlessness and burning sensation in the eyes while spraying pesticides. "Some even had to be admitted in hospitals for treatment," said P Lalitha of Chittapur village in Rangareddy district. Her family's health improved after use of pesticides was stopped. "Our visits to the hospital have ceased altogether," she said. Lalitha earned Rs 30,000 from paddy and Rs 20,000 from vegetables in 2007. She no longer worries about the health of her family and has enrolled her children in good schools.

Sixty-year-old Doodakule Ghousia, another resident of Chittapur village, said her husband used to complain of stomach problems, nausea and restlessness when pesticides were in use. "At times he would get fits during the spraying season. We had to go to the hospital every other day and each visit used to cost Rs 500.

That has stopped now," Ghousia said.

Official figures for Ramachandrapuram village say there were nine serious hospitalisation cases due to spraying of pesticides between 1994 and 2003. There have been none since. The farmers of all the six districts Down To Earth visited-Warangal, Guntur, Mahabubnagar, Khammam, Kadapa and Rangareddy-said they are leading healthier lives after discontinuing the use of pesticides.

A board with bold letters announces the chemical free and GM free status of Enabavi village in Warangal district. The village stopped using pesticides 10 years ago and adopted organic farming five years later, much before the state rural development ministry decided to officially recognize NPM.

Enabavi, with over 110 ha of farmland managed by 52 families, has now become a learning centre for neighbouring villages. Located 80 km from the state capital, it has become a mandatory stopover for members of non-profits, ministers, planning commission members and international organizations keen to gain firsthand knowledge of how organic farming is changing lives for the better. Enabavi made news in Delhi last month at the Indian Organic Trade Fair organized at PUSA Institute where Enabavi rice packets sold like hot cakes.

The fields in the village look unkempt as friendly weeds are allowed to grow. "Now we don't spray bio-pesticides as there are no pests," said Ponnam Mallaiah, a 60-year-old farmer who owns about 8 ha. He grows paddy, red gram, sesame, tobacco and vegetables in his fields.

The villagers used pest repellents for just the first two years. After that pest attacks stopped, said Narasamma, Mallaiah's sister. "We have also stopped using urea as it makes the plants grow faster and succulent, which attracts pests. Organic farming has created a balance between friendly and harmful pests," she said.

Twenty-year-old Ettaboina Mahender said only natural fertilizers are used. "Cow dung, cow urine and vermicompost is used while preparing the soil for cultivation." Demand for cow dung in turn has led to villagers increasing their livestock. "Now we use cattle for ploughing and have stopped using machinery," he said. Tractors used for ploughing charged Rs 2,000 per acre, but bullocks on lease charge Rs 1,000. Mahender is thus saving Rs 1,000 per acre.

In place of synthetic urea, farmers use azolla, a fern-like plant, as fertilizer in their paddy fields. "Azolla spreads rapidly. It helps to suppress harmful weeds. Panchagavya, prepared by combining cow dung, urine, milk, ghee and curd, is used as a growth enhancer. It improves the taste, colour and texture of vegetables and fruits," Mallaiah said. The paddy fields have a one-foot-wide gap after every three metres to help aerate the plants and also prevent snakes, rodents and the brown plant hoppers from destroying the crops. The pests use the alleys to move about and leave the crops alone. The savings per acre of paddy by creating alleys is over Rs 5,000, said SERP officials. The villagers ensure seed quality through mutually beneficial arrangements. The farmers who grow good quality grains are offered incentives for preserving their harvest as seed. "A farmer gets Rs 900 for a quintal of paddy. If his grain quality is good, he is asked to keep the yield as seeds for the next
and offered Rs 1,200 per quintal," Narasamma said. This saves money as buying seeds from the market would cost Rs 2,000 per quintal.

One of the driving forces behind Enabavi's success story is R Lingaiah, secretary of the Centre for Rural Operation Programmes Society (crops), a non-profit. The village has become famous in the neighbouring districts and people travel miles to buy Enabavi produce, Lingaiah said.

Organic farming has helped the villagers repay their debts. "If the farmers had continued to use chemicals, their debts would never have got cleared," Narasamma said.

Ramachandrapuram is another success story. The village has over 120 ha of farmland and nearly half of it was mortgaged by 2005. The farmers of the Koya tribe who were growing cotton, the most vulnerable of all crops, started mortgaging their land after yields started decreasing and farm input prices went up.

"Within two years of switching to NPM farming, the villagers were able to free their mortgaged land," said Lakshmi, who along with her husband M Rajulu, was the first to take up NPM. Besides reclaiming their mortgaged land, 10 farmers in the village have also taken about eight ha on lease.

Rajulu has been recognized as the best farmer in the district for growing high yielding non-Bt cotton using NPM methods. "I have managed to grow eight to 10 quintals of cotton along with a quintal of green gram and 15 kg of pulses and millet in just one acre of land," he said. Rajulu expects to net Rs 15,000 on an investment of just Rs 1,500. His paddy yield has also gone up to 18 quintals per acre as against six quintals an acre when he was using pesticides.

Ramachandrapuram was nominated by SERP this year for the Citibank's change makers award given out by US based Ashoka Foundation after it became completely debt free.

The farmers of Ramachandrapuram now send their children to private schools for education. Lakshmi's son, Ramesh Babu, is the first postgraduate in the village. From debt-ridden status to a debt-free society; the villagers of Ramachandrapuram have made their own destiny through hard work.

See also:


Organic Cotton Beats Bt Cotton in India

Getting Clean: Recovering from pesticide addiction

"Is ecological agriculture productive?"