Fethi Thabet, Telecommunications Engineer, City Councillor for Ariana, Tunisia, Continue reading
An advanced, unedited text of the final recommendations of the UN Commission for Sustainable Development is now available on its website.
Gerda Verburg, Chairperson of the Commission and the Netherlands’ Minister of Agriculture, Nature, and Food Quality, said of the outcome:
Nothing less is needed than a revolution in ideas and a revolution in technologies, supported by a revolution in trade policies and market access and the financial means to implement.
The final plan stressed the central importance of farmers – particularly women farmers and rural communities – to deliver such a paradigmatic shift in the agricultural sector.
According to the final press release issued on the CSD-17 final text, This could be done by
employing science-based approaches and local indigenous knowledge; expanding investment incentives, in particular for small farmers; and encouraging and supporting safge integrated pest management.
The fertilizer company, PotashCorp (PCS) teamed up with the government of Trinidad and Tobago, where their largest ammonia-based fertilizer production facility is located, to build a demonstration farm and research centre. The PCS Model Farm and Agricultural Resource Centre is a 75-acre educational and demonstration farm designed to help teach Trinidadian farmers, extension workers, and students about the latest agricultural techniques.
Created with funding from PotashCorp, and run on land leased from the Government of Trinidad and Tobago, the farm will include:
– six greenhouses for cultivation of various crops;
– demonstration plots for introducing new technologies and management techniques to farmers;
– an Agricultural Resource Centre for training small farmers; and
– cultivated land for growing a broad range of agricultural products.
The farm is helping Trinidad bridge the gap between understanding how the fertilizer company uses the country’s vast natural gas resources to produce nitrogen and how the end-product, ammonia, contributes to food security by providing farmers with the plant nutrients they need to increase their yields sustainably.
Developing and sharing new agricultural technologies like this is one of the important contributions of the private sector in agriculture.
Watch the video here:
Farming First welcomes the endorsement of the World Federation of Engineering Organizations (WFEO).
According to its website, the WFEO:
is committed to the advancement of the world engineering profession for the benefit of mankind. It particularly works to assist development of the engineering profession, and in the sharing, exchange and transfer of technology from one country to another….
The organization has noted a particular need for sharing knowledge more broadly:
…in this era of globalization, engineering is becoming even more global, and global engineering practice will become more important. There are increased needs to harmonize global standards…. As population and economic growth place increasing pressures on our social and biophysical environment, engineers must accept increased responsibilities to develop sustainable solutions to meet community needs, overcome extreme poverty and prevent segregation of people.
They have also noted the need to help build infrastructure in the developing world:
There are special needs of the developing countries. The developed world can assist in the training of local engineers, in the generation of work opportunities for them in their own countries, and in the sharing of appropriate technologies. The developed world also needs new, efficient and cleaner technologies that do not adversely affect the environment and will help to cut down on their excessive consumption of the resources of the world.
At a recent side event at the UN Commission for Sustainable Development’s Intergovernmental Preparatory Session (IPM), over 85 people gathered together to brainstorm key challenges to achieving the Farming First plan.
Here are some of the top issues, organised according to each of the Farming First principles:
– Lack of education/awareness – The public needs to be educated on what sustainable agriculture is. The education of farmers on the sound use of resources also needs to see improvements.
– Framing the issue – Common definitions for “sustainability”, “natural resources” and other terms need to be reassessed.
– Lack of economic incentives – There is a need to incentivize farmers to use sustainable farming techniques, without adding additional costs which cut into their livelihoods.
– Application of knowledge – knowledge is not applicable to different regions or contexts.
– Dissemination of knowledge – the way in which knowledge is shared or passed on is not appropriate to some context or acts as a restriction
– Access to knowledge – availability of and access to resources, particularly the internet as a major resource for information, is limited.
– Agribusiness and local farmer competition – competition between agri-businesses and local farmers for resources and knowledge can be an impediment. Participants stressed the need for greater coordination among related, overlapping sectors and fields of study within agriculture, business, and science and technology to provide a more holistic approach to agriculture.
– The role of governments – Bureaucracy is a major challenge to the dissemination of knowledge, constituting a strong disincentive for farmers and other stakeholders. Additionally, food production and agriculture are often not priorities for governments, which limits the number of opportunities for knowledge sharing. Farmer-to-farmer learning should be strengthened in order to cope with this.
– Public image of agriculture – Agriculture does not generally have a positive image as an occupation, yet, as urbanization remains a growing trend, dependence on the remaining farmers is increasing. The public perception of agriculture needs to be improved and its importance shared with policy-makers and urban populations so that food production and food security are fully understood and made a priority for policy makers and investors. Agriculture as an industry also needs to coordinate with the technology sector in order to reach and educate younger generations with regards to this challenge
– Access to Microcredit/finance – is insufficient and limits farmers capacity to invest, grow and create real opportunities for themselves
– Access to knowledge – lack of access to education and/or research/knowledge is an impediment for farmers and impedes the adoption of best practices.
– Governance – poor governance, excessive bureaucracy and corruption are all major problems for farmers and limit their access to resources and to markets.
– A lack of education/knowledge among farmers – including inadequate knowledge post-production on food safety and on food storage
– A lack of local farmer coordination on crop growth – As markets are flooded with particular goods in each season or if sales do not occur rapidly enough, large parts of the crop can be damaged and farmers face adverse conditions because of the glut.
– Improving infrastructure – Insufficient transportation and poor infrastructure were common themes as to why farmers were unable to sell their crops once harvested.
– Trade barriers and access to foreign markets – Contributors agreed that constraints on access to markets were one of the most important challenges faced by farmer. It was agreed that farmers would gain far greater access to markets if tariff and trade barriers were eliminated, and they were able to compete on common ground in the global marketplace. Farmers have goods to sell – they just need the policy and practical supports to buttress their efforts.
– Participatory setting – greater participation is required in research activities. Despite the presence of integrated teams of researchers, it is believed that practitioners are being left out. Research should include more groups and start from a bottom up approach where more information is collected from farmers.
– Dissemination of research – information should be more widely spread so that the international community can benefit from it. More joint projects might encourage the sharing of research from advanced countries.
– Needs and resources of scientists and farmers – these two groups should play a bigger role in identifying research needs. A global source of funding should be established for use by scientists and farmers.
Google recently launched a beta verison of a new knowledge-sharing software called Google Noticeboard in India. Noticeboard can be installed on a shared computer which can be accessed by a village’s farmers.
Users can then either record a voice message or write a text message which they can publish for others to see at a later time. The software thus allows a relatively remote, distant, non-tech savvy group of people to share information that is relevant to all of them. This is how Google describes Noticeboard:
Typically each digital noticeboard carries publicly accessible messages. Compared to the notion of personal communication using email accounts, the Noticeboard metaphor allows user to engage in public communication with communities. Noticeboard is designed to be usable by all, even people with no prior computer experience. Since messages can be voice based, even literacy is not a pre-requisite.