ASIA RE-DISCOVERS ORGANIC AGRICULTURE
FOR POVERTY ALLEVIATION
Angelina M. Briones, PhD.
MASIPAG (Farmer-Scientist Partnership for Development), email@example.com
Asian culture in the past evolved farming in harmony with nature. Mystical traditions manifested people’s respect for nature; there was culture in agriculture. All these became practically extinct over vast lands put under modern farming for the last 50 years. But organic farming, as we know today, has built upon that age-old care for the soil and biodiversity. It is what we now call as concern for agroecosystem health. Respect for nature permeates the framework of sustainability of organic agriculture. Unknown to people in the past, their mystical traditions have been consistent with the necessity of maintaining environmental quality. But being rooted on tradition does not mean that organic agriculture is backward agriculture.
Organic agriculture has been imbibing selectively from discoveries and advances of science. Why merely imbibing? This is so because research agenda of public institutions have not addressed the needs of organic production. Without scientific breakthroughs, organic production cannot move up the extent of its contribution to world’s sustainable development. If so, why do we remain as peripheral watchers on the works of science? Why are we contented on selectively adapting what we perceive as relevant to organic production? This is a challenge that arose from a myth or false notion that organic agriculture (OA) is backward. Briefly, the following sections list two sets of myths: myths as false notions by those who neither practice nor appreciate organic farming and myths as expressions of the ideals of practitioners.
OA is backward agriculture.
OA depends on animal manures; farm produce are loaded with pathogens. OA is agriculture by neglect.
OA will impoverish and starve the nation.
OA needs no intensive research.
OA is restrictive agriculture.
OA came from the North; it is inappropriate for the South.
OA is exploitative; organic products are for the elite.
OA is export-oriented; it takes food away from the rural poor.
OA is ecological agriculture; it regenerates the land, regains biodiversity and restores productivity. OA is sustainable agriculture in practice.
OA produces quality food for society.
OA contributes to agroecosystem health.
OA alleviates rural poverty; it provides diverse sources of food and income to the farming household. OA is largely promoted by civil society; it comes along with capacity building, popular education, enterprise development, social awareness, and social cohesion. OA principles and practices are embodied in a guarantee system that has reached international recognition.
Obviously, the false-notion myths are obstacles that the Asian organic movement must overcome. The challenge is formidable because those are myths largely coming from agricultural workers and officials in government, from the expansive network of workers in agrichemical business, and from farmers addicted to agrichemicals.
Role of Civil Society
Notwithstanding the obstacles, nongovernment organizations (NGOs) quietly worked with farmers and farmer organizations in rural development projects anchored on sustainable or organic agriculture. Slow diffusion of their work received much needed impetus from the 1992 Earth Summit. In like manner, an impetus to organic farming came from of the formation of the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements in Asia (IFOAM-Asia) which had its first general assembly in South Korea in 1995. It was preceded by the second IFOAM-Asia conference (first conference was held in Japan in 1993).
The Asian participants in 1995 witnessed a strength demonstrated by the Korea Organic Farming Association (KOFA); it was an inspiring experience to them. Through KOFA’s persistence and hard work, it was able to draw...
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