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East Africa: green agriculture grows in leaps and bounds 0

NAIROBI – Organic agriculture using natural farming methods rather than fertilisers and pesticides has made significant gains in African countries not just among farmers but among consumers too.

According to the 2008 Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) report ‘International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development’, Africa needs to triple agricultural productivity by 2050 to keep pace with population growth, while small farmers and organic agriculture are the best way to ensure the continents food security.

But the new report ‘Climate Change Implications for Agriculture in Sub Saharan Africa‘ published by a FAO researcher of the Organic Agriculture section, Lim Li Ching, underlines also that green farming becomes increasingly important as an effect of climate change.

Some 52 countries were in agreement and adopted the 2008 report, while the new paper states that ecological agriculture is already practiced by many African smallholder farmers.

Africa has approximately 33 million small farms, representing 80 percent of all farms in the region.

The IAASTD seems to be largely forgotten, probably because it calls for a radical paradigm shift in agriculture. The report maintains that the world needs a new “green revolution” but completely different from the Asian one 40 years ago that increased agricultural productivity with mechanisation, pesticides and fertilisers.

That pathway has proven unsustainable. ”Agriculture is responsible for 32 percent of greenhouse emissions,” Hans Herren, co-chair of the IAASTD, pointed out. ”Today, with climate change and soil depletion and erosion, we cannot continue with business as usual. We need to turn to sustainable or organic agriculture.”

Eustace Kiarii, CEO of the Kenya Organic Agriculture Network (KAON), added that, “we must change the export-led, free trade-based industrial agricultural model of large farms to instead develop sustainable local, national and regional markets.” KAON is the national coordinating body for organic agricultural activities.

In a country where 99 percent of farmers own between a quarter and two hectares of land and cannot afford to buy pesticides and fertilisers, organic agriculture seems to be the way out.

Prof. Zeyaur Khan, an Indian scientist from the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology, believes this. To increase agricultural productivity he developed the “push-pull technology”, a technique to control pests. A plant called desmodium “pushes” straiga and stemborers outside the field where they are “pulled” (neutralised) by napier grass.

Explained Kahn: “The green revolution in Africa will come through the adoption of low-cost technologies like push-pull which exploit basic and applied science. These technologies will address food security and the livelihoods of smallholders without requiring extra resources for hybrid seeds, crop protection and soil improvement”.

But the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), an NGO funded by the Rockefeller and Bill Gates foundations, promotes fertilisers and seeds to produce more food rapidly.

“If food production increases too quickly, in two years time we will have too much food and prices will go down,” argued Herren. “We need the opposite: for farmers to get enough income, the prices of agricultural products must increase.”

Kahn believes that farmers must earn at least two dollars a day to stay in agriculture-revenue achievable through the “push-pull” technique.

AGRA’s Joan Kagwanja confirmed that her organisation “wants to increase the use of fertilisers in Africa.

Do they also promote genetically modified organisms (GMOs)?  “I cannot say yes or no… we are not opposed to GMOs but we would help countries or organisations that ask for assistance in this matter,” she replied.

But United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) spokesperson in Nairobi, Nick Nuttall, warned against a “one size fits all approach in agriculture.” ”One doesnt have to choose between small and big agriculture. True, sustainable or organic agriculture employs more people than intensive agriculture.

Continue reading on Cisa News

By Cisa News with staff’s further reporting

Download the report on climate change implications – pdf version

Download the full 2008 IAASTD report – pdf version

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Direttore Responsabile Giuseppe Frangi