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Regeneration International lanza Agricultores y ganaderos de EE.UU. para un Nuevo Acuerdo Verde

“Hoy, decenas de miles de jóvenes con el Movimiento Sunrise están uniendo las armas con las decenas de miles de agricultores y ganaderos en esta coalición histórica para exigir un Nuevo Acuerdo Verde que reinvierta en nuestras granjas familiares y les permitan ser los héroes que necesitamos para detener la crisis climática “. – Garrett Blad, Movimiento Sunrise, 18 de septiembre de 2019

 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – El 18 de septiembre, Regeneration International, con la Asociación de Consumidores Orgánicos (OCA) y Movimiento Sunrise, lanzó oficialmente la coalición nacional de agricultores y rancheros de EE. UU. para un Nuevo Acuerdo Verde.

Cinco miembros del Congreso de los Estados Unidos se unieron a la conferencia de prensa frente al Capitolio de los EE.UU. en Washington, D.C., para pedir un Nuevo Acuerdo Verde para los agricultores y ganaderos. (Lea el comunicado de prensa en inglés aquí).

Más temprano en el día, la coalición entregó una carta a cada miembro del Congreso, firmada por más de 500 granjas individuales y 50 organizaciones que representan a más de 10.000 agricultores y ganaderos, pidiéndole al Congreso que apoye la Resolución del Nuevo Acuerdo Verde y prometiendo trabajar con el Congreso para reformar la política alimentaria y agrícola de los Estados Unidos.

Representantes de Women, Food & Agriculture Network, Indiana Farmers Union y American Sustainable Business Council se unieron a la conferencia de prensa, que fue cubierta por varios medios de comunicación, incluidos Politico, The Hill, Civil Eats y FERN AgInsider.

 

La coalición se centrará en una reforma de políticas muy necesaria

Como el agricultor y escritor de Ohio, Gene Logdson, escribió en su artículo, “El mito del pequeño terrateniente hecho a sí mismo:”

Ninguna figura es más entrañable y duradera en la agricultura que el labrador solitario que se encuentra en el horizonte y que se alza con sus propias botas para el éxito financiero. El único problema es que no hay ocupación más dependiente de la cooperación de la sociedad y la naturaleza para lograr el éxito que la agricultura.

La “cooperación de la sociedad” debe incluir el apoyo político. Sin embargo, es difícil obtener apoyo político en los EE. UU. para los agricultores y ganaderos orgánicos y regenerativos, cuando la gran industria agrícola gasta más en hacer presión para conseguir políticas que apoyan sus prácticas degenerativas de monocultivos y fábricas de OGM que los grupos de presión para el sector de defensa, según informa Truthout .

Los esfuerzos de presión de los agronegocios generan subsidios por valor de miles de millones de dólares, que se destinan principalmente a los agricultores más grandes y ricos, cuyas prácticas contaminan nuestras vías fluviales, producen comida chatarra y destruyen la salud del suelo. De hecho, el 15% más grande de las empresas agrícolas recibe el 85% de los 25 mil millones de dólares gastados anualmente en subsidios agrícolas.

Como dijo el representante Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) en la conferencia de prensa de lanzamiento de los agricultores y rancheros de EE. UU. para un Nuevo Acuerdo Verde:

“Estamos pagando demasiado a las personas equivocadas para que cultiven los alimentos equivocados en los lugares equivocados”.

 

Empoderar a los agricultores para que trabajen para todos nosotros

¿Cómo compiten los agricultores y ganaderos regenerativos y orgánicos independientes con los grandes bolsillos de la gran industria agrícola por políticas que los ayuden y, por extensión, nos ayuden a todos? ¿Políticas que los capaciten para la transición a prácticas que mantengan limpia nuestra agua? ¿Políticas que nos den a más de nosotros un mejor acceso a alimentos más saludables? ¿Y políticas que restablezcan la estabilidad climática?

Esperamos que sea mediante la formación de una coalición de pressión de base que trabaje junto con, no solo en paralelo con, los movimientos de alimentos y salud natural, los movimientos de justicia social y económica, los ambientalistas y los activistas climáticos para presionar al Congreso para que apruebe un Nuevo Acuerdo Verde para los agricultores y ganaderos.

La semana pasada fue solo el comienzo. Ahora comienza el trabajo. La coalición trabajará para hacerse más grande y poderosa: desde su lanzamiento en septiembre, la coalición ha crecido para incluir 600 agricultores / ganaderos individuales y 52 organizaciones que representan un total de aproximadamente 20.000 agricultores.

Los miembros de la coalición ahora están organizando actividades de divulgación de agricultor a agricultor. Se desplegarán en sus comunidades para conectarse con consumidores, ambientalistas, grupos eclesiásticos y activistas climáticos, cualquiera que se preocupe por el futuro de nuestra comida y nuestro medio ambiente.

En última instancia, la coalición utilizará el poder de base que construye para trabajar con el Congreso, especialmente el Comité Asesor del Congreso de la coalición, para ampliar rápidamente el cambio en las políticas alimentarias y agrícolas de Estados Unidos. Los planes incluyen organizar sesiones informativas y audiencias del Congreso e invitar a los miembros del Congreso a visitar granjas regenerativas para ver por sí mismos cómo la agricultura regenerativa restaura la salud del suelo, incluyendo el potencial del suelo para secuestrar carbono y revitalizar las economías locales.

Siga estos enlaces (en inglés) para obtener más información sobre los agricultores y ganaderos de EE. UU. para un Nuevo Acuerdo Verde:

Cobertura de la prensa de los agricultores y ganaderos de EE. UU. para un Nuevo Acuerdo Verde

¿Qué son los agricultores y ganaderos de EE. UU. para un Nuevo Acuerdo Verde?

¿Cuáles son los objetivos políticos de la coalición?

¿Cómo puedo apoyar a los agricultores y ganaderos de EE. UU. para un Nuevo Acuerdo Verde?

Los agricultores y ganaderos estadounidenses pueden unirse a la coalición firmando esta carta.

 

Katherine Paul es directora de comunicaciones de Regeneration International. Para mantenerse al día con Regeneration International, suscríbase a nuestro boletín.

 

En suelo dorado: Regeneration International se asocia con el proyecto de Myanmar Golden Ground para ayudar a los agricultores a cultivar sin químicos

ESTADO DE SHAN, Myanmar – En 2018, fui a Myanmar después que me asignaran una tarea de relaciones públicas para documentar un proyecto de prueba de un prototipo de dron que dispara vainas de semillas de manglar. Poco sabía entonces que esta tarea me llevaría a descubrir historias desgarradoras de agricultores expuestos diariamente, sin ropa protectora, a productos químicos no regulados altamente tóxicos, una tendencia que se está documentando en toda Asia, particularmente en los países limítrofes de China, donde la mayoría de estos productos químicos se originan.

 

La historia comenzó mientras trabajaba en la campaña de comunicación de mi tarea asignada en la oficina de mi compañero en Yangon, Myanmar. Allí tomé un libro titulado “Manual de agricultores orgánicos”. Escrito en birmano, este manual de agricultores está lleno de fotos e incluso dibujos que explican cómo evitar los riesgos de la agricultura convencional mediante el uso de insumos gratuitos y fácilmente disponibles que se encuentran en materiales orgánicos, cómo implementar diferentes técnicas de compostaje y cómo diseñar combinaciones de cultivos.

El “Manual de agricultores orgánicos” de Myanmar ha publicado cinco ediciones y vendió 5,000 copias a través de Golden Ground, uno de los pocos centros de capacitación orgánica del país. Golden Ground, fundada en 2014, está dirigida por Hlay Myint, quien escribió y publicó la guía completa.

Mientras hojeaba las páginas con ávido interés, una voz desde la parte de atrás de la oficina dijo: “Es a causa de estos químicos peligrosos”.

La voz pertenecía a una mujer local que trabajaba para la ONG involucrada en el proyecto de drones.

“¿Qué productos químicos peligrosos?”, le pregunté.

“Vienen de Tailandia, creo”.

“Entonces, ¿hay agricultores que ahora se están convirtiendo en orgánicos debido a los riesgos para la salud?”, pregunté.

Sí, ella dijo.

“¿Le gustaría que le presentaran al Sr. Hla Myint, el fundador de Golden Ground?”, preguntó.

“Sí”, le dije, “estaría muy interesado en conocerlo”.

“Él estará aquí mañana”, dijo la mujer. “Apoyamos su centro de capacitación hace un tiempo”.

 

Al día siguiente, un humilde caballero llegó vestido con un Loungyi, un vestido tradicional masculino de Myanmar, y masticando nuez de betel, una especie de nuez de palma que muchas personas consumen como el tabaco de mascar en algunas partes de Asia.

Me presenté como miembro de Regeneration International y la Asociación de Consumidores Orgánicos y expresé mi interés en su trabajo ayudando a los agricultores.

Parecía tener prisa, en una visita rápida para recoger algunos papeles. Sí, debes venir, dijo. Me dio su número de teléfono. “Debo irme ahora o perderé mi autobús para ir al estado de Taunggyi Shan, donde está Golden Ground”.

“Antes de que te vayas”, le dije, “escuché que estás ayudando a los agricultores a alejarse de los agroquímicos tóxicos”. Se rió. “Sí”, dijo, “¡cientos! ¡En diez pueblos ya!”.

“Debes venir, debes venir”, dijo, mientras avanzaba rápidamente para tomar su autobús de 10 horas.

Yo estaba intrigado. Mis instintos me instaban a conocer a las personas en las 10 aldeas y crear reportes de prensa sobre los agricultores que se alejan de las prácticas nocivas en una región remota de la que la mayoría del mundo nunca escucha.

El estado de Shan es conocido por ser una zona de conflicto y es la región productora de opio y metanfetamina más grande del mundo. El tipo de lugar que invalida la cobertura del seguro, pensé. Pero afortunadamente esas historias solo suceden en los territorios del norte, bastante lejos de Golden Ground. La mayor parte del estado de Shan representa un granero para el país, con hectáreas y hectáreas de tierras agrícolas que producen, entre otras cosas, maíz, café, té, legumbres, jengibre y viñedos. Sí, tienen buen vino.

Entonces, decidí visitar el estado de Shan y reunirme con el Sr. Hla Myint. Pero no estaba solo: mi compañero birmano, Hsu Zin, estaba conmigo. Conocí a Hsu en Yangon, gracias a un hilo de redes sociales sobre mi trabajo. Hsu coordinaba el programa de empresas sociales del Consejo Británico para Myanmar y había vivido y estudiado en Londres. Naturalmente, habíamos hecho clic, convirtiéndonos en mejores amigos y luego, poco después, para mi gran fortuna, socios. Habíamos descubierto una pasión común por la educación, la agricultura orgánica y muchas otras cosas.

Hsu estaba encantada cuando le pregunté si estaría interesada en visitar Golden Ground y ayudar a traducir las discusiones con los miembros de la comunidad rural.

Así que ambos nos dirigimos a Shan State para encontrarnos con Hla Myint y visitar el centro de capacitación Golden Ground.

Fuimos recibidos primero en el centro de capacitación por uno de los colegas de Hla Myint, quien nos llevó a conocer a Hla Myint en uno de sus campos de papa, legumbres y jengibre.

Hla Myint es un hombre ocupado. Enseña cursos de una semana a docenas de agricultores y también proporciona seguimiento en las tierras de sus aprendices recién calificados, para garantizar que sus períodos de transición se realicen sin problemas. Así que no perdimos el tiempo. Le preguntamos si podíamos entrevistarlo sobre lo que hace y por qué.

“Los agricultores aquí son engañados”, dijo Hla Myint. “Primero se les promete alta productividad, pero en cambio se enferman y se endeudan. Estamos a pocas millas de China, donde los productos químicos no regulados que son muy perjudiciales para la salud de los agricultores se introducen de contrabando a través de la frontera con China. Hemos visto cánceres, abortos espontáneos y malformaciones de nacimiento en niños, todos los cuales se cree que fueron causados ​​por el uso de productos químicos no regulados ”.

Muchos agricultores compran estos productos porque son 10 veces más baratos que los químicos regulados por el gobierno de Myanmar. Y los agricultores no siguen ninguna de las instrucciones de dosificación. Incluso hemos visto a personas usar sus brazos desnudos para mezclar cócteles peligrosos de herbicidas y pesticidas altamente tóxicos. Por lo tanto, promovemos prácticas de agricultura orgánica para ayudar a cambiar algunas de estas prácticas.

¿Podemos conocer a algunos de los agricultores con los que trabaja?, le pregunté.

Hla hizo algunas llamadas telefónicas y en pocos minutos dijo que sí, hay un pueblo cercano donde podemos conocer a personas que han sufrido los efectos de estos venenos.

Mientras nos dirigíamos del campo de papas al vehículo de Hla, Hla notó algunos contenedores vacíos que habían sido arrojados cerca de su tierra. Su rostro se puso triste y confundido. “Mira esto”, dijo. “Aquí hay dos botellas de plástico con etiquetas marcadas en tailandés y chino. Esto es con lo que estamos lidiando. Está en todas partes. Me preocupa mucho que nuestros campos se hayan contaminado sin que lo sepamos.”

Cuando llegamos al pueblo fuimos recibidos por una familia de campesinos. Nos invitaron a tomar el té en su casa, una humilde casa de madera sin ventanas, sin muebles y con solo unos pocos cuadros en las paredes.

La familia se ofreció amablemente a cocinar arroz para todos, una forma de hospitalidad que fue directa al corazón. Habiendo viajado a muchos lugares remotos, no puedo evitar notar cómo los corazones más grandes y la hospitalidad incondicional siempre se encuentran con las personas más pobres. Siempre compartirán lo poco que tienen (té, arroz, su pedazo de carne único para ese día especial de la semana) y nunca pedirán nada a cambio. Es un placer dar la bienvenida a un extraño, especialmente si los visitantes han viajado lejos para honrarlos con su presencia.

Aquí nos encontramos con Ma Mya, una campesina de 35 años que había estado trabajando desde los 11 años. Su sonrisa era generosa. Nos hizo sentir como en casa. Nos sentamos y ella habló de su profunda experiencia como agricultor. Nunca solíamos usar productos químicos, dijo, pero un día fuimos empleados por terratenientes ricos y nos dijeron que los usáramos. Al instante me sentí enferma al usarlos. Afectaron mi visión y me desorienté mucho. No podía hacer la diferencia entre hombres y mujeres.

Luego entrevistamos a Maung Hla, su hermano. Las sustancias químicas lo enfermaron durante tres meses. “Al principio trabajaba normalmente”, dijo Maung, “pero con el tiempo comencé a sentirme mareado hasta que experimenté una parálisis parcial y no pude trabajar”.

Ma May y Maung Hla nos llevaron a conocer a su capacitadora de agricultores en una aldea vecina que estaba trabajando con su equipo en una gran plantación de pulso. Estaban ocupados cosechando, pero ella accedió a hablar con nosotros.

“Los productos químicos hacen que el suelo sea duro y degradado”, dijo. “En la época de mi padre, nunca necesitábamos usar productos químicos. El día que comenzamos (a usar los químicos), el trabajo se volvió costoso y, cuando se aplican, estos químicos nos queman los ojos y la piel ”.

No queriendo quitarle el precioso tiempo de cosecha de los agricultores, les agradecimos por hablar con nosotros y seguimos con Hla Myint. “Quiero llevarte a nuestras oficinas y conocer a nuestro equipo”, dijo.

Su equipo de oficina eran todos jóvenes y dinámicos defensores de las prácticas orgánicas. Nos dieron una presentación completa de sus actividades en el centro de entrenamiento Golden Ground y las 10 aldeas. Luego preguntaron sobre la agricultura regenerativa. “Queremos aprender más. ¡Estamos listos para capacitar a muchos más agricultores! ”

Luego les di algunos ejemplos de prácticas de agricultura regenerativa que les serían útiles, como las de los biorreactores de David Johnson y Main Street Project. Preguntaron si Regeneration International podría organizar un taller aquí algún día. Eso era posible, dije.

De vuelta en Yangon, llamé por teléfono a Andre Leu, director internacional de Regeneration International. Andre tiene una historia de amor con el estado de Shan, ya que estuvo allí en 1976 con Julia, su esposa. Se conocieron en el norte de Tailandia en 1976 y emprendieron una aventura para descubrir variedades locales de frutas en el estado de Shan. Andre y Julia luego continuaron un viaje de por vida y desarrollaron una próspera granja y negocio de frutas tropicales orgánicas en Australia.

Andre estaba muy entusiasmado cuando le conté toda la historia. Me encantaría volver al estado de Shan y conocer a los agricultores allí, dijo. Después de unos meses de coordinación, Andre, Julia, Hsu Zin y yo volvimos al centro de capacitación Golden Ground. Golden Ground movilizó a cientos de agricultores para asistir a un taller dirigido por Andre, y el Ministerio de Agricultura, Ganadería e Irrigación también asistió con docenas de estudiantes y algunos de sus mejores agrónomos.

Andre impartió un taller de un día sobre el manejo regenerativo de plagas y malezas, y produjimos este breve video para Trails of Regeneration (Caminos de regeneración):

Pronto habrá más información sobre esta historia, junto con un lanzamiento en video de todo el taller de Golden Ground y Regeneration International sobre control regenerativo de plagas y malezas.

 

Oliver Gardiner es el productor y coordinador de medios de Regeneration International para Asia y Europa. Para mantenerse al día con las noticias de Regeneration International, suscríbase a nuestro boletín.

 

Leaders at Summit of Asian Local Governments for Organic Agriculture Highlight Progress, Identify Future Needs

GOESAN, South Korea – Lush green mountains, farmed valleys, high standards of organic farming, hi-tech energy-efficient housing developments, decentralized renewables, solar roofed cycling paths, zero-waste food policies and strict closed-loop waste management schemes.

This is Goesan county, South Korea, home to Hansalim, one of the largest organic farming cooperatives in the world.

Hansalim nourishes 1.6 million people and employs over five thousand farmers. A multi-million-dollar organic hub managed entirely by women, Hansalim is a buzzing social enterprise that has inspired the organic movement worldwide.

It’s here that Regeneration International  took part in the 5th Summit of the Asian Local Governments for Organic Agriculture +4 (continents), the first intercontinental summit on organic policy, organized in September by the International Federation of Organic Agricultural Movements (IFOAM) Asia.

The summit drew more than 200 local, regional and national policymakers from five continents who strive to address multiple crises in today’s food production systems, such as the widespread use of toxics and their impacts on public health.

The scene was set by His Excellency, Lee Cha Yong, mayor of Goesan County, the president of Asian Local Governments for Organic Agriculture (ALGOA) and Louise Luttikholt, executive eirector of IFOAM, who told the Summit: “We are facing changes so big that we can’t even imagine what the future holds for us.”

Outgoing IFOAM Vice President Frank Eyhorn, spoke to the Summit about “the coherent policies driving sustainability in agriculture.”

Eyhorn stressed the importance of agricultural policies and how they can do one of two things: perpetuate unsustainable practices and systems, or support the building of sustainability.

Eyhorn recommended focusing on policies that lift up mainstream systems by raising the bar of what is acceptable—in other words, by raising the minimum standard.

Andre Leu, international director of Regeneration International, IFOAM-ALGOA ambassador and former president of IFOAM Organic International, addressed the summit on why policy change is urgently needed.

Andre gave a reality check: Stopping emissions won’t be enough to prevent catastrophic climate change. He reminded the audience of all the major cities in the world that will be affected by sea level rise: New York, Beijing, Lagos, Kolkata, London, Bangkok and many other megacities. This could, Andre said, cause mass forced migrations of unimaginable proportions that would result in full a breakdown of the rule of law.

Andre said we need to draw down and capture carbon fast. How? By implementing regenerative organic agricultural practices, which as the potential to draw down enough CO2 to prevent severe climate change.

Andre concluded that policy change is urgently needed to support a widespread transition to regenerative systems so that we don’t merely stop climate change, but instead reverse it.

Andre gave a second keynote address in which he explained that to implement policies aimed at regenerative development, consumers need to be fully on board, and they need to demand political action that scales up regenerative farming practices that restore the environment.

Andre said product labeling research shows the greatest pull for consumers is health. It is health that drives 95 percent of consumers to invest in buying organic. And this brings us to the need to focus on better communicating the health impacts of synthetic agrichemicals, food additives and genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

Andre went on to make a number of points, including:

  • We have found no scientific evidence showing there is any safe level of pesticide use.
  • Regulatory bodies test the main ingredients of agrichemicals but never perform tests on the petro-chemical additives that make agrichemicals more efficient—and more toxic.
  • Independent studies have shown that these additives are hundreds of times more toxic than the chemicals’ original active ingredients. This is how big ag gets away with the use of these agrichemicals.
  • The World Health Organisation has declared a global epidemic in non-communicable diseases such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease and chronic respiratory disease, all of which have become main causes of mortality in humans. And the increase in these diseases parallels increases in pesticide use.
  • Independent studies have shown that lifetime exposure to the herbicide Roundup causes tumours, memory disorders, kidney damage, liver damage and hormonal dysfunctions in rats.
  • There is no evidence whatsoever of any safe level of pesticide exposure for children. Out-testing on young rats shows they are vulnerable to the smallest amounts of exposure. In the U.S., babies are being born with as many as 232 chemicals in their placental cord. “Our children are being poisoned before they are even born. To me this is a crime,” Andre said. “The harm inflicted by pesticides is passed down through generations and everybody is concerned.”

To support these declarations, Nakhyun Choi, director of Environmentally Friendly Agriculture Department of the Ministry of Agriculture of South Korea gave a presentation that acknowledged the build-up of harmful agrichemicals in the human body and how babies that breast feed are particularly vulnerable, as these poisons find their way out of women’s bodies through breast milk.

In an interview after his presentation Choi said we know about bio-enrichment of the body—what goes in stays in. Therefore, by eating food sourced from conventional farming methods we all have an accumulation of harmful chemicals in our bodies. Toxic agrichemical accumulation can cause infertility, cancer and depression, Choi added.

Choi said research in Korea has shown that farmers who practice conventional farming using pesticides are 2.4 times more likely to have dementia as farmers who practice eco-friendly farming. Everything we eat in our lifetimes accumulates in our systems, Choi said, and it is important to protect consumers.

Choi went on to make a number of other points, including:

  • The more contaminated food you eat, the more it will accumulate with the potential of creating serious health issues.
  • Infertility and dementia are on the increase in Korea and represent serious issues for an aging Korean society.
  • To solve some of these problems it is important to promote widespread eco-friendly agriculture and sound management of natural resources such as soil and water, and to increase biodiversity and sequester carbon.
  • In Korea, only 4.9 percent of agriculture is eco-friendly and this is a big problem. The biggest demand for organics comes from school meals but we need for this to become more mainstream.
  • The eco-friendly market in South Korea is worth about USD$1.1 billion, but this could significantly increase with the right policy measures in place.
  • South Korea provides health food packages for pregnant women and is currently working hard to protect all citizens and future generations.
  • Eco-friendly agriculture strategies and policies are needed and will be implemented in Korea.

This historic summit of local leaders also gave a worldview on some groundbreaking policies currently being developed at regional levels in developing nations where the so-called Green Revolution has wreaked havoc on soils and farmers’ well-being for decades.

Progress in the Mekong region of Vietnam includes:

  • In 2019, Vietnam enacted its first organic agriculture law, which is supported by a farmer union of 10 million members.
  • Neighboring Laos is working with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) to develop regional agroecological conversion programs for small-scale farmers, and Cambodia has become a leading example in Asia for scaling up agroecological policies and farming practices.
  • Pierre Ferrand, FAO Agroecology Officer for the Asia Pacific, said FAO is developing an analytical framework, a tool to assess the multidimensional performance of agroecology at the farm level in the Mekong region that can be used to shape future local, regional and national policies.

On progress in Africa:

  • David Amudavi, IFOAM world board member, explained the work of BIOVISION Africa Trust, of which he is director. BIOVISION Africa Trust is a branch of the Swiss organisation BIOVISION, whose founding father is the well-known Dr. Hans Herren, who is also cofounder of Regeneration International.
  • Recently Biovision Africa Trust, in partnership with Regeneration International, organised the first conference of Agroecology for Africa in Nairobi, Kenya. The conference was a huge success, with more than 400 participants from all over the world.
  • The Green Innovation centres that Biovision Africa Trust has been setting up with support from GIZ Germany, a German development aid agency, have given new life to agriculture extension in Africa. One of the great successes in 2019 was Uganda becoming the first country in Africa with an organic agriculture policy—a huge step for Africa, and it shows what is possible.

In an interview, Amudavi pointed out that policies are severely needed in Africa to protect human, animal and environmental health. He explained that most of the soils in Africa are dying due to the combined effects of chemically intensive agriculture and the climate emergency.

Amudavi hopes that Kenya, his homeland, might be the next African country to put forth an organic policy. A draft policy on organics is currently awaiting approval by parliament.

Other efforts in Africa are being made through the Ecological Organic Agriculture Initiative, which was created by African heads of state to gather knowledge from international organizations on improving agricultural systems.

The International Network of Eco-Regions (INNER) also participated in the IFOAM summit. Led by Salvatore Basile, INNER works with regions all over Europe where farmers, consumers and local governments have an agreement on the sustainable management of their lands by having organic agroecological farming practices at the heart of their decisions. This includes 49 regions in Italy, 14 in Portugal, and many more in France, Tunisia, Germany, Slovenia and other countries.

One of the main highlights of the IFOAM summit was the League of Organic Agriculture Municipalities, Cities and Provinces of the Philippines (LOAMCP). LOAMCP represents close to 200 local governments and is rapidly expanding. LOAMCP was a driving force in the creation of ALGOA. Regeneration International is currently working with LOAMCP to advise the organization on climate strategy and education around regenerative agriculture, and to promote LOAMCP’s initiatives around the globe. By the year 2022, LOAMCP hopes to certify 1.2 million hectares of organic agriculture.

Oliver Gardiner is Regeneration International’s media producer and coordinator for Asia and Europe. (With thanks to the cooperation of IFOAM Asia). To keep up with Regeneration International news, sign up for our newsletter.

On Golden Ground: Regeneration International Partners with Myanmar Project to Help Farmers Go Chemical-Free

SHAN STATE, Myanmar – In 2018, I went to Myanmar on a public relations assignment to document a test project for a drone prototype that shoots out mangrove seed pods. Little did know then that this assignment would lead me to discover heart-wrenching stories of farmers being exposed daily, without any protective clothing, to highly toxic unregulated chemicals—a trend that is being documented all across Asia, particularly in countries bordering China, where most of these chemicals originate.

The story began while I was working on my assignment’s communication campaign at my partner’s office in Yangon, Myanmar. There I picked up a book titled “Organic Farmers Handbook.” Written in Burmese, this farmer’s manual is rich in photos and even cartoons that explain how to avert the risks of conventional farming by using free, readily available inputs found in organic materials, how to implement different composting techniques and how to design cropping combinations.

The “Organic Farmers Handbook” of Myanmar has published five editions and sold 5,000 copies through Golden Ground, one of the country’s few organic training centers. Golden Ground, founded in 2014, is led by Hlay Myint, who wrote and published the comprehensive guide.

As I was leafing through the pages with avid interest, a voice from the back of the office said: “It is because of these dangerous chemicals.”

The voice belonged to a local woman working for the NGO involved with the drone project.

“What dangerous chemicals,” I asked?

“They come from Thailand, I think.”

“So, there are farmers now converting to organic because of health risks?” I asked.

Yes, she said.

“Would you like to be introduced to Mr. Hla Myint, the founder of Golden Ground?” she asked.

“Yes” I said, “I would be very interested to meet him.”

“He will be here tomorrow,” the woman said. “We supported his training center a while ago.”

The next day, a humble gentleman arrived wearing a Loungyi, a traditional Myanmar male dress, and chewing betel nut, a kind of palm nut many people consume like chewing tobacco in some parts of Asia.

I introduced myself as working with Regeneration International and the Organic Consumers Association and expressed my interest in his work helping farmers.

He seemed in a hurry, on a swift visit to pick up some papers. Yes, you must come, he said. He gave me his phone number. “I must go now or I will miss my bus to go to Taunggyi Shan State, where the Golden Ground is.”

“Before you leave,” I said, “I hear that you are helping farmers move away from toxic agrochemicals.” He laughed. “Yes,” he said, “hundreds! Across ten villages already!”

“You must come, you must come,” he said, while swiftly moving on to catch his 10-hour bus.

I was intrigued. My guts were urging to go meet the people in the 10 villages and create media about farmers transitioning away from harmful practices in a remote region most of the world never hears about.

Shan State is known for being a conflict zone and is the largest opium- and methamphetamine-producing region in the world. The kind of place that invalidates insurance coverage, I thought to myself. But luckily those stories only happen up in the northern territories, quite a distance away from Golden Ground. Most of Shan State actually represents a breadbasket for the country, with hectares upon hectares of agricultural land producing, among other things, corn, coffee, tea, pulses, ginger and vineyards—yes, they have good wine.

So, I decided to visit Shan State and meet with Mr. Hla Myint. But I was not alone—my Burmese partner, Hsu Zin, was with me. I met Hsu in Yangon, thanks to a social media thread on my work. Hsu was coordinating the British Council’s social enterprise program for Myanmar and had lived and studied in London. We had naturally clicked, first becoming best friends then soon afterward, to my great fortune, partners. We had discovered a common passion for education, organic farming and quite a few other things.

Hsu was delighted when I asked if she would be interested in visiting Golden Ground and helping to translate discussions with rural community members.

So we both headed up to Shan State to meet Hla Myint and visit the Golden Ground training center.

We were greeted first at the training center by one of Hla Myint’s colleagues, who drove us to meet Hla Myint in one of their potato, pulses and ginger fields.

Hla Myint is a busy man. He teaches week-long courses to dozens of farmers and also provides follow-ups on the land of his newly qualified trainees, to ensure their transition periods happen smoothly. So we didn’t waste any time. We asked if we could interview him about what he does, and why.

“Farmers here get duped,” Hla Myint said. “First they are promised high productivity, but instead they become sick and fall into debt. We are just a few miles from China, where unregulated chemicals that are very detrimental to farmers’ health are smuggled across the border from China. We have seen cancers, miscarriages and birth defects in children—all believed to have been caused by use of the unregulated chemicals.”

Many farmers buy these products because they are 10 times cheaper than chemicals regulated by the Myanmar government. And the farmers don’t follow any of the dosage directions. We have even seen people use their bare arms to mix dangerous cocktails of highly toxic herbicides and pesticides. So, we promote organic farming practices to help change some of these practices.

Can we meet some of the farmers you work with, I asked?

Hla made a few phone calls and within a few minutes he said yes, there is a village nearby where we can meet people that have suffered from the effects of these poisons.

As we made our way from the potato field to Hla’s vehicle, Hla noticed some empty containers that had been dumped close to his land. His face became sad and confused. “Look at these,” he said. “Here are two plastic bottles with labels marked in Thai and Chinese. This is what we are dealing with. It’s everywhere. I am very worried that our fields have become contaminated without us knowing.”

When we arrived at the village we were greeted by a family of farmers. They invited us to have tea in their home, a humble wooden house with no windows, void of furniture and with just a few pictures on the walls.

The family kindly offered to cook rice for everyone, a form of hospitality that went straight to the heart. Having traveled to many remote places, I can’t help but notice how the biggest hearts and unconditional hospitality are always to be found with the poorest of people. They will always share the little they have (tea, rice, their unique piece of meat for that special day of the week) and never ask anything in return. It is their pleasure to welcome a stranger, especially if visitors have travelled far to honor them with their presence.

Here we met with Ma Mya, a 35-year-old farmer who had been working since the age of 11. Her smile was generous. It made us feel right at home. We sat down and she talked of her in-depth experience as a farmer. We never used to use chemicals, she said, but one day we were employed by rich landowners and they told us to use them. I instantly felt sick using them. They affected my vision, and I became very disoriented. I was unable to make the difference between men and women.

We then interviewed Maung Hla, her brother. The chemicals made him ill for three months. “At the beginning I worked normally,” Maung said, “but over time I started to feel dizzy until I experienced partial paralysis and was unable to work.”

Ma May and Maung Hla then brought us to meet their farmer trainer in a neighboring village who was working with her team on a large pulse plantation. They were busy harvesting, but she agreed to speak with us.

“Chemicals make the soil hard and degraded,” she said. “At the time of my father, we never needed to use chemicals. The day we started (using the chemicals), work became expensive, and when applied, these chemicals would burn our eyes and skin.”

Not wanting to take away any of the farmers’ precious harvest time, we thanked them for speaking to us and moved on with Hla Myint. “I want to take you to our offices and meet our team,” he said.

His office team were all young dynamic advocates for organics. They gave us a full presentation of their activities at the Golden Ground training center and the 10 villages. They then asked about regenerative agriculture. “We want to learn more. We are ready to train many more farmers!”

I then gave them a few examples of regenerative farming practices that would be of use to them, such as those of David Johnson Bioreactors and the Main Street Project. They asked whether Regeneration International could organize a workshop here one day. That was possible, I said.

Back in Yangon, I made a phone call to Andre Leu, international director of Regeneration International. Andre has a love affair with Shan State, as he was there in 1976 with Julia his wife. They met in northern Thailand in 1976 and went on an adventure to discover local varieties of fruit in Shan State. Andre and Julia then continued a lifelong journey and developed a prosperous tropical organic fruit farm and business in Australia.

Andre was very enthusiastic when I told him the whole story. I would be happy to return to Shan State and meet the farmers there, he said. A few months of coordination later, Andre, Julia, Hsu Zin and I returned to the Golden Ground training center. Golden Ground mobilized hundreds of farmers to attend a workshop led by Andre, and the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Irrigation also attended with dozens of students and some of their best agronomists.

Andre gave a one-day workshop on regenerative pest and weed management, and we produced this short video for Trails of Regeneration:

 

More on this story will come soon, along with a video release of the entire Golden Ground – Regeneration International workshop on regenerative pest and weed control.

Oliver Gardiner is Regeneration International’s media producer and coordinator for Asia and Europe. To keep up with Regeneration International news, sign up for our newsletter.

Food Production is a Major Cause of Climate Change, but Farmers Can be Part of the Solution

Editor’s Note: This story was originally published on The Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting.

Farming, more than any other industry, might be the best hope for curbing climate change.

The global food production system, which includes agriculture, accounts for more than a third of man-made greenhouse gases, according to an August report from the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

And while past focus has been on industries such as fossil fuels and transportation, new attention is being put on agriculture’s role in the climate change solution. On Sept. 18, a coalition representing 10,000 farmers and ranchers delivered a letter to Congress supporting the Green New Deal, a congressional resolution to transition the United States to 100 percent clean energy by 2030.

“Farmers and ranchers are on the front lines of the climate crisis. Their livelihoods are put at risk by more intense droughts and storms and flooding, and extreme heat and humidity are endangering the health of farm workers,” said New Mexico Congresswoman Deb Haaland at a press conference announcing the coalition.

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Step Aside Agribusiness, It’s Time for Real Solutions to the Climate Crisis

This week’s UN Climate Action Summit will be tricky for agribusiness CEOs. With forest fires raging in the Amazon, a damning new report about the food system by the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and millions of young people out in streets clamouring to shut down fossil fuels and factory farming, it will be hard for the world’s largest food and agribusiness companies to get away with another round of voluntary pledges to reduce their gigantic emissions.

At the last UN summit on climate, held five years ago in New York, agribusiness dazzled everyone with two initiatives on deforestation and agriculture, both of which are now in shambles.

Their initiative on deforestation, a New York Declaration on Forests, championed by the world’s largest buyer of palm oil, Unilever, was supposed to put a major dent in tropical deforestation. Instead, rates of tree cover loss have soared, the Amazon is in flames, and those trying to defend forests from agribusiness companies are being killed in record numbers. Now we are learning that the Brazilian Cerrado, a biodiversity hot spot on par with the Amazon and one of the main frontiers for agribusiness expansion, is also burning at a record rate. Agribusiness is responsible, but so are the big global financial firms that having been buying up vast swaths of Cerrado lands and converting them to mega-farms, such as the Swedish national pension fundBlackstone and the Harvard University endowment.

The other initiative at the last summit, a Global Alliance for Climate Smart Agriculture, was the handiwork of Yara, the world’s top nitrogen fertiliser producer and one of the planet’s worst emitters of greenhouse gases. It was the fertiliser industry’s PR response to the growing movement for a real climate solution based on fertiliser-free agroecological farming. The trick worked, for a while. Global production of nitrogen fertiliser rose steadily over the next few years. But the most recent IPCC report pointed to nitrogen fertilisers as one of the most dangerous and underestimated contributors to the climate crisis, and new research is showing that the industry has vastly underestimated its own emissions.

Right now, climate activists are mobilising in Germany for the first mass climate action against Yara and the fertiliser industry. They are targeting Yara because of its multi-million euro lobbying efforts to green-wash industrial agriculture, which they say is one of the main drivers of the climate breakdown.

The big meat and dairy companies are also in trouble. These companies, such as Tyson, Nestlé and Cargill, have emissions levels that approximate their counterparts in the fossil fuel industry. The top 20 meat and dairy companies emit more greenhouse gases than Germany, Europe’s biggest climate polluter. But none of these companies have credible action plans to reduce their emissions and only 4 of the top 35 companies are even reporting their emissions! Instead of taking meaningful action to cut back on production, several companies have been making a lot of noise about their minor investments in plant-based alternatives. People are not being fooled. On the eve of last week’s global climate strike, more than 200 representatives of Indigenous Peoples, workers, academia, environmental and human rights groups adopted a landmark declaration that singled out the “fossil fuel industry and large-scale agribusiness” for “being at the core of the destruction of our climate”.

Big food and agribusiness companies are desperate to portray themselves as part of the solution. But there is no way to reconcile what’s needed to heal our planet with their unflinching commitment to growth. We cannot address the climate crisis if these companies are allowed to keep on sourcing, processing and selling ever more agricultural commodities, be it meat, milk, palm oil or soybeans. Their massive supply chains are what drives the food system’s catastrophic emissions—which the IPCC now says stands at up to 37% of global human-made GHG emissions.

Yet, if we look beyond the public relations of Big Food and Ag we will see that there are plenty of real solutions that can feed the planet perfectly well. All kinds of alternatives are flourishing, especially in the global South, where small farmers and local food systems still supply up to 80% of the food people eat. The industrial food system only exists today because of the support it gets from governments which march in lockstep with corporate lobbyists. Public subsidies, trade deals, tax breaks and corporate-friendly regulations are all designed to prop up the big food and agribusiness companies—and facilitate the growing criminalisation of affected communities, land defenders and seed savers resisting these corporations on the ground. We urgently need to send agribusiness out of the room and demand that governments shift support to small food producers and local markets which would actually save us from planetary collapse.

 

Posted with permission from Common Dreams

Listen to the Farmers

“If you want to know what creativity and courage look like in America, talk to a farmer . . . it is time we listen to them when they tell us that now is the time for creativity and courage and action.” – Rep. Jim McGovern, speaking at the launch of the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers for a Green New Deal press conference, September 18, 2019

Last month, a United Nations report prepared by more than 100 experts from 52 countries warned of a looming global food crisis if we don’t hurry up and address global warming by ending the exploitation of the world’s land and water resources.

The solution, according to the experts? Change the way we produce food and manage land.

But how do we do that? When the biggest exploiters of our resources—the agribusiness and chemical giants—have access to a bottomless pit of money they can use to influence the people who write our food and farming policies?

We do it by building a grassroots lobbying force too powerful to be ignored.

And we do it by putting the farmers and ranchers who are ready to produce food and manage land regeneratively in the driver’s seat.

Help us keep up the momentum. Your donation today will help power a national coalition of U.S. Farmers and Ranchers who will fight for a healthier food and farming system.

Last week, five members of Congress, along with several farmers, and members of Regeneration International, the Sunrise Movement, Organic Consumers Association and other farmer-rancher organizations stood in front of the U.S. Capitol to announce the formation of the national coalition of U.S. Farmers and Ranchers for a Green New Deal.

Earlier that day, we delivered a letter, signed by more than 525 individual farmers and ranchers, and about 50 organizations representing more than 10,000 farmers and ranchers, asking Congress to support a Green New Deal for farmers and ranchers. 

The press conference in Washington, D.C. was just the start. Now the hard work begins.

Help us keep up the momentum. Your donation today will help power a national coalition of U.S. Farmers and Ranchers who will fight for a healthier food and farming system.

Call these farmers regenerative, organic, biodynamic, agroecological . . . whatever specific practices they’re using to restore soil health, keep your water clean, build strong local food systems, and produce pesticide-free nutrient-rich food, these are the farmers who care about the land and water and animals they manage.

These farmers and ranchers aren’t looking for handouts.

They just want Congress to stop spending billions of dollars to subsidize corporate polluters who produce contaminated food.

They want a level playing field.

In the coming months and year, the farmers and ranchers in this coalition will form a speakers bureau. They will fan out into their local communities, where they’ll talk to consumers, to other farmers, to local and state lawmakers.

They will build powerful alliances with environmental and social and economic justice organizations.

They will invite members of Congress out to their farms and ranches, to see for themselves how regenerative farming and grazing restores wildlife habitats and builds healthy soils that store carbon and capture and hold precious rainfall.

And they will travel to Washington to hold hearings on Capitol Hill, to personally meet with members of Congress, to lobby for laws that will empower them to be good stewards of the land, while also allowing them to make a decent living.

And every law these farmers and ranchers will lobby for, will be a law that benefits you.

If you value clean air, clean water and healthy food, if you care about the environment, if you care about social and economic justice, these farmers and ranchers will be working for you.

But they’ll need your help.

Help us keep up the momentum. Your donation today will help power a national coalition of U.S. Farmers and Ranchers who will fight for a healthier food and farming system.

Don’t Go Vegan to Save the Planet. You Can Help by Being a Better Meat-Eater.

There are millions of self-described vegans in the United States; recent estimates suggest they are up to 3% of the population and possibly more. They have a host of reasons for justifying their animal-free diets. For one, they argue, animal husbandry is brutal and cruel toward animals; two, they claim that animal farming is ruinous to the environment.

Vegans are not precisely wrong about all of this, but they’re only half-right. It is true that industrial animal farming is ecologically destructive, that it is cruel and barbarous, and that many if not most of the animals unlucky enough to be a part of it suffer in ways that are difficult to comprehend. All of this is well-documented and undeniable.

But it doesn’t necessarily follow that you have to go vegan. If you’re uncomfortable with animal farming, but are unwilling to adopt the vegan lifestyle, you don’t need to stop eating meat. You just need to eat better meat.

 

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Corporate Agribusiness Is Blocking Important Action on the Climate

Climate change action plans often call for less fossil fuel usage, reduced carbon dioxide emissions and a shift toward renewable energy sources. But one area that hasn’t received the broader attention it deserves is industrial farming.

The latest report released by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) determined that the turning over of more and more land to commercial agriculture has resulted in increasing net greenhouse gas emissions, the loss of natural ecosystems and declining biodiversity. And so, “sustainable land management can contribute to reducing the negative impacts of multiple stressors, including climate change,” the report finds.

This IPCC offering followed on the heels of the National Academies of Sciences study into negative emissions technologies and carbon sequestration, which also found that efforts to store more carbon in agricultural soils generally have “large positive side benefits,” including increased productivity, water holding capacity and yield stability.

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$1M a Minute: The Farming Subsidies Destroying the World – Report

The public is providing more than $1m per minute in global farm subsidies, much of which is driving the climate crisis and destruction of wildlife, according to a new report.

Just 1% of the $700bn (£560bn) a year given to farmers is used to benefit the environment, the analysis found. Much of the total instead promotes high-emission cattle production, forest destruction and pollution from the overuse of fertiliser.

The security of humanity is at risk without reform to these subsidies, a big reduction in meat eating in rich nations and other damaging uses of land, the report says. But redirecting the subsidies to storing carbon in soil, producing healthier food, cutting waste and growing trees is a huge opportunity, it says.

The report rejects the idea that subsidies are needed to supply cheap food. It found that the cost of the damage currently caused by agriculture is greater than the value of the food produced. New assessments in the report found producing healthy, sustainable food would actually cut food prices, as the condition of the land improves.

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