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WSF2013 | More and Better workshop: A radical change is needed

by Alessandra Sgrò, More and Better International Secretariat
 
The World Social Forum was for More and Better a great opportunity to share experiences and debate around agricultural transition and other forms of unconventional agriculture.
Our successful workshop Agricultural Transition – into a viable future brought us many encouraging experiences from  different countries and diverse actors while confirming, once again, that the environmental and social costs of industrialized agriculture are no longer acceptable among the general public. 

Agroecology is more and more recognized as a viable pathway towards sustainable farming systems and as an increasingly important movement to tackle the transformation we need. The agroecological approach puts the farmers and their knowledge at the first place and restores the broken linkages between people, food and nature. 
 
As Aksel Naerstad, coordinator of the More and Better Network, pointed out, the Agricultural Transition implies a radical change. We all can be involved in achieving the changes we want, as farmers, as consumers, as activists,  as citizens, as politicians, as human beings.
Among the recent publications, the book Agricultural Transition – a different logic  provides us with successful stories and describes twelve possible steps for the transformation to happen. It was published by More and Better in the occasion of the Rio+20 Conference in four languages. You can find them all here

Across the world, however, several sustainable farming alternatives do coexist and are successfully opposing  conventional industrialized agriculture by increasing production, soil fertility, biodiversity and, at the same time, enhancing small scale agriculture. 
In this regard, Afsar Jafri from Focus on the Global South described a number of cases of increased rice production experimented in India through the Zero Budget Natural Farming.
The method is gaining much consensus among small scale Indian farmers because it does not require big investments or extra input such as purchased seeds, fertilizers and plant protection from the market. It involves locally produced natural bio-degradable materials; combines scientific knowledge of ecology and modern technology with traditional farming practices based on natural processes and, it only requires one cow.
The philosophy behind the Zero budget farming is to make the farmers self-reliant. 

Small farmers do often invest in their farms more of what they earn. They need to rely on policies that create a more favorable environment,  with a better access to credit and an adequate policy framework -  as Karim Akrout from the organization ADD (Association pour le Développement  Durable) suggested, after having illustrated constraints that Tunisian farmers have to cope with and the importance of the agricultural sector for the development of the Maghreb region.    
 
Mamadhou Goita from IRPAD (Institute for the  Research and the Promotion of Alternatives to Development)  shared with us experiences from Western African countries and, at the same time, he emphasized the need to push governments for translating into practice food sovereignty principles, with a special focus on natural resources.  Small scale farming should be given the chance to be proudly seen as an independent and rewarding way of life.   

Securing access to assets such as land and water, control over seeds are key points for strengthening family farming  and sustainable food system also for Patrick Mulvany, from the EuropeAfrica Campaign. Patrick suggested some necessary steps in this direction including: building on policies which do not undermine local food systems; securing agricultural investments to the benefit of local markets and - in doing so -give substantial value to the farmers knowledge and point of view. 

More generally, it is clear that the link between people, food and nature is a key. As a broken mechanism this linkage needs to be restored through a radical change.
To guarantee that food reaches all people in more and better quantity and quality we have no choice but to promote a new system that considers food as a human right rather than a commodity.  


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