THE REAL GREEN REVOLUTION*
Abandoning chemical farming that has been promoted for half a century as the so-called "green revolution" and turning to organic farming with traditional plus locally appropriate scientific methods has resulted in amazing increases in productivity and "the real green revolution," plus many other benefits including restoration of depleted soils, returning vibrant health for the farmers, who had been injured by the chemicals in the fertilizers and pesticides, and greater diversity of crops both within and between species. "Global industrial agriculture has led to a situation where the world’s population gets 90 percent of its food calories from a mere 15 species of crops." On the other hand, native farmers in the southern hemisphere like to grow many different crops and animals to meet their food needs and to provide their families with year-round food security. They are "intuitively aware of the dangers of monocropping."
Often agribusiness has encouraged farmers worldwide to plant just one particular variety of a crop, which has been developed by the so-called "green revolution" and which requires all sorts of agricultural chemicals. In one hand, under this system of monoculture, we are losing biodiversity. On the other hand, in striking contrast, on organic and agroecological holdings crop varieties can be amazingly diverse. For example:
Conventional cotton production requires the use of many pesticides which contaminate watercourses and impact human health. "In many areas cotton pests are becoming increasingly resistant to spraying and, despite increased frequency of pesticide applications, farmers face declining yields."
There are many examples of the advantages of "the
real green revolution"
Cotton yields average 20 percent higher than on neighboring conventional farms. "Sugar cane yields are 30 percent higher. Sugar mills also pay a premia for the organic cane as it has a higher sugar content. Other products, particularly wheat, attract local market premia because of its superior taste."
"Soils have become softer and more crumbly and do not crack as much in the dry season. Farmers attribute this to composting, which leaves residual fertility in the ground for the next year’s crop. Composting also reduces the need for weeding, as it reduces availability of weed seeds."
The natural predators have returned so "pest control is now one of the least important discussion topics at meetings." Labor requirements are less for producing the organic cotton and monetary costs are 30-40 percent less than for conventional cotton.
Thus, worldwide there are many hopeful signs and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) is beginning to recognize organic and agroecological agriculture. There are numerous Non Governmental Organizations (NGOs), especially in Europe, that are promoting organic and "Fair Trade" practices. Often the NGOs manage certification, which can be difficult and costly. Many governments are still hostile. They want to go on promoting the chemicals. However, some governments are no longer subsidizing the chemicals, which results in strong motivation for the farmers to give up the chemicals and change. Sometimes they have forgotten the traditional systems that worked where they live. Those who remember need to be encouraged and the scientists need to work with them and be sure to listen as well as teach.
These ecologically appropriate and amazingly productive systems often require NO inputs. Fertility is maintained and enhanced by biodiversity, often including trees, usually animals, sometimes fish and bees. Everything (that we call "yard waste") is returned to the soil. Thus, the organic and agroecological farmers have a wonderful and truly sustainable system, which is in starkest contrast to so-called "conventional" agriculture, which requires the huge inputs promoted and advertised by worldwide agribusiness. Consumers worldwide need to wake up and refuse to buy food that has been directly poisoned by pesticides and chemical fertilizers.
*The Real Green Revolution: Organic and agroecological farming in the South, by Nicholas Parrott and Terry Marsden, Department of City and Regional Planning, Cardiff University, published by Greenpeace Environmental Trust, London, United Kingdom, February 2002.
Article from NOHA NEWS, Vol. XXVII, No. 3, Summer 2002, pages 7-8.