UN Report: Ecological Farming Can Feed The World

At Eco WALK the Talk, the question “Can Organic Farming Feed the World? is a recurring one which we’ve tried to answer in the affirmative through our blogs and various facebook posts.

Photo by Purvi Vyas

Our Guest writer Karthik Kumar specifically answered this in his post ” Organic Farming – Can It Feed the World?” quoting an extensive study done by the University of Michigan, USA and the presentations at the FAO Conference in 2007.

Earlier this year, the WorldWatch Institute arrived at similar conclusions in “The State of the World 2011: Innovations That Nourish the Planet” report, quoting several examples from their teams’ travels to Africa. They called for moving beyond the narrow paradigm of increasing yield through seeds (e.g., through genetically modified ones), moving beyond farms (by improving storage and transport) and moving beyond Africa (by looking at agro-forestry as a climate change solution).

Other articles we’ve posted in the recent past are the excellent ones by Grist.org called, “Debunking the stubborn myth than only industrial ag can feed the world” and The Ecologist’s article, “10 reasons why organic farming can feed the world”

We are certainly pleased to share another pathbreaking report by the UN called “Agro Ecology and the Right to Food” released in March 2011 which concludes that Ecological agriculture is the only way forward to feed the hungry of the world.

Olivier de Schutter Photo by wn com

As Olivier de Schutter, the UN Special Rapporteur for Food says in the report and video below, that in the long run, it is not a question of ‘either’ large scale industrial agriculture ‘or’ smaller scale ecological farming – the transition has to be made, and is the only way forward for a sustainable future to ensure food security and to grapple with climate change.  It does not mean reverting to ‘subsistence’ agriculture, but using techniques such as agro-forestry and intercropping to increase yield and biodiversity, and scaling these up by teaching farmers.

Ecological agriculture is intricately linked to the “Right to Food” which goes beyond the right of every man, woman and child to be fed. “It is about being guaranteed the right to feed oneself, which requires not only that food is available (that the ratio of production to the population is sufficient), but also that it is accessible – i.e., that each household either has the means to produce its own food, or has sufficient purchasing power to buy the food it needs.”

According to the Press Release :

Eco-Farming Can Double Food Production in 10 Years, says new UN report

GENEVA – Small-scale farmers can double food production within 10 years in critical regions by using ecological methods, a new UN report shows. Based on an extensive review of the recent scientific literature, the study calls for a fundamental shift towards agroecology as a way to boost food production and improve the situation of the poorest.

“To feed 9 billion people in 2050, we urgently need to adopt the most efficient farming techniques available,” says Olivier De Schutter, UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food and author of the report. “Today’s scientific evidence demonstrates that agroecological methods outperform the use of chemical fertilizers in boosting food production where the hungry live –especially in unfavorable environments.”

Agroecology applies ecological science to the design of agricultural systems that can help put an end to food crises and address climate-change and poverty challenges. It enhances soils productivity and protects the crops against pests by relying on the natural environment such as beneficial trees, plants, animals and insects.

To date, agroecological projects have shown an average crop yield increase of 80% in 57 developing countries, with an average increase of 116% for all African projects,De Schutter says. “Recent projects conducted in 20 African countries demonstrated a doubling of crop yields over a period of 3-10 years.”

 Video link here

“Conventional farming relies on expensive inputs, fuels climate change and is not resilient to climatic shocks. It simply is not the best choice anymore today, De Schutter stresses. “A large segment of the scientific community now acknowledges the positive impacts of agroecology on food production, poverty alleviation and climate change mitigation — and this this is what is needed in a world of limited resources.  Malawi, a country that launched a massive chemical fertilizer subsidy program a few years ago, is now implementing agroecology, benefiting more than 1.3 million of the poorest people, with maize yields increasing from 1 ton/ha to 2-3 tons/ha.”

The report also points out that projects in Indonesia, Vietnam and Bangladesh recorded up to 92 % reduction in insecticide use for rice, leading to important savings for poor farmers. “Knowledge came to replace pesticides and fertilizers. This was a winning bet, and comparable results abound in other African, Asian and Latin American countries,the independent expert notes.

The approach is also gaining ground in developed countries such as United States, Germany or France,” he said. “However, despite its impressive potential in realizing the right to food for all, agroecology is still insufficiently backed by ambitious public policies and consequently hardly goes beyond the experimental stage.”

The report identifies a dozen of measures that States should implement to scale up agroecological practices.Agroecology is a knowledge-intensive approach. It requires public policies supporting agricultural research and participative extension services,De Schutter says. “States and donors have a key role to play here. 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.”

The Special Rapporteur on the right to food also urges States to support small-scale farmer’s organizations, which demonstrated a great ability to disseminate the best agroecological practices among their members. “Strengthening social organization proves to be as impactful as distributing fertilizers. Small-scale farmers and scientists can create innovative practices when they partner”, De Schutter explains.

“We won’t solve hunger and stop climate change with industrial farming on large plantations. The solution lies in supporting small-scale farmers’ knowledge and experimentation, and in raising incomes of smallholders so as to contribute to rural development.”

“If key stakeholders support the measures identified in the report, we can see a doubling of food production within 5 to 10 years in some regions where the hungry live,” De Schutter says.Whether or not we will succeed this transition will depend on our ability to learn faster from recent innovations. We need to go fast if we want to avoid repeated food and climate disasters in the 21st century.”


Further links you may be interested in:

YouTube: Olivier De Schutter, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food Speaking at the IIED and HIVOS Provocations Event in Stockholm in March 2011.

Video link here

Foreign Policy: Can the World Feed 10 Billion People? by Raj Patel

Non-GMO Report: Leading Scientist (Henn Herren) says acroecology is the only way to feed the world

EWTTVandana Shiva: Traditional Knowledge, Biodiversity and Sustainable Living

EWTTDr Vandana Shiva’s Sydney Peace Prize Lecture: Time to End War on Earth

EWTT: Vandana Shiva speaks at Right2Know March


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Posted by on May 2 2011. Filed under Agriculture, Organic Farming. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

2 Comments for “UN Report: Ecological Farming Can Feed The World”

  1. [...] fact of the matter is that world hunger could be easily solved, poverty eradicated and the transition to a global renewable energy grid achieved with present [...]

  2. [...] fact of the matter is that world hunger could be easily solved, poverty eradicated and the transition to a global renewable energy grid achieved with present [...]

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