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Naturland on World Food Day, 16th October

Green Net Michael Commons 350Small scale farmer from the co-operative Greennet, Thailand (Michael Commons)

In order to alleviate the world-wide food crisis, it is imperative that smallholders in affected regions be given all the support they need. According to the latest report issued by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), 795 million people are currently suffering from hunger. The majority of those starving or malnourished live in rural areas, of all places, where food is actually being produced. On the occasion of World Food Day on 16th October, Naturland therefore calls for a global change of agricultural policy.

In the words of Hans Hohenester, chairman of the board of directors of Naturland, the German organic association which for a good thirty years now has also been providing ground support to smallholders throughout the world, assisting them with conversion to organic agriculture, “We must take up arms to combat hunger on a local level, right there along with the farmers. They must be helped to adopt organic farming so that they can increase their agriculture yield in a sustainable manner and to guarantee them local food sovereignty.”

Helping smallholders with the intensification of organic agriculture

Smallholders throughout the world must have reliable rights to the use of land, be free to trade in, exchange and sell their seeds and have access to advisory services. Traditional farming methods can in many cases be improved by applying the latest findings of scientific research, and local strains can be bred to produce agricultural crops which, for example, are adapted to climate change. Fair trading relationships ensure that the farmers receive a reliable income and often go towards the establishment of important local infrastructure. At the same time, rural areas must be made more attractive by introducing measures to enhance the added value of the region.

At a summit meeting of the United Nations in late September this year, the UN member states committed to new SDGs (sustainable development goals). The second of the 17 development goals is “End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture”.

Only organic is genuinely sustainable

As Hans Hohenester put it, “The path is clear and now it is time to take determined strides forward”, whilst stating in no uncertain terms that only organic agriculture can be considered genuinely sustainable. Farming practices based on the application of agrochemicals only focus on increases in yields and are therefore massively dependent on external input such as pesticides, fertilisers and genetic engineering. This is all extremely energy-intensive and depletes the soil for generations to come. Besides this, the export of foodstuffs to the global south disrupts local markets and only serves to exacerbate the hunger crisis there.

According to the chairman of the Naturland board of directors, Hans Hohenester, “This system is a road leading nowhere. It is imperative that we therefore put a stop to current practices”. In contrast, organic agriculture makes smallholders independent of expensive fertilisers and pesticides and preserves the soil’s fertility for future generations. Giving support to smallholders converting to an organic management system is one way of making a considerable contribution towards guaranteeing global food security.


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