Some of the most celebrated scientific ideas and books of the 20th century may not be useful for us in this century, while lesser-known works of the past acquire new relevance. Here, then, is a selection of such works, along with an invitation for readers to critique and contribute their own suggestions to this list.
Industrial farming, which gets all the attention (and most of the land), accounts for more than 80% of fossil fuel emissions and uses over 70% of the water supply in agriculture, actually produces only about 30% of the world’s food. It’s the diverse network of small-scale producers-the ‘Peasant Food Web’-that feeds 70% of the world.
Madhu Ramnath writes: Time and again we have heard that the Naxal insurgency is due to “under development” in areas like Bastar. Education is also supposed to deter Naxalism, according to some, but one may ask whose education? Fundamentally it’s about respect, dignity and trust in our behaviour towards others, in this case the Adivasi.
From Down to Earth Magazine: What does it take to design a permaculture kitchen garden? In this video, permaculture practitioners Rosie and Peter Fernandes, based in Assagaon, Goa, recount their experience of growing a food forest designed to meet their cooking needs round the year. They are now taking their model to the wider community.
From The Wire: With a predominantly tribal population, Barkheda is a typical central Indian village. A few years ago, the villagers took charge of their natural resources and established a village executive committee. The committee governs all the water bodies of Barkheda, which now has rules on water usage, based on the principles of equity.
From Modern Farmer: On the horizon of agriculture’s future, a 40,000-strong army is marching towards a shimmering goal. They see the potential for a global food system where pesticides, herbicides and fertilisers are but relics of a faded age. A peek into a treasure trove of latest research released by The American Society of Microbiologists.
From Infinite Windows/Eartha Mag: 23 years ago, the passionate conservationist couple Pamela and Anil Malhotra bought 55 acres of land in Coorg, which they have since converted into a beautiful forest of over 300 acres. This is the story of how SAI Sanctuary came to host animals like the Bengal Tiger, Sambhar and Asian Elephants.
In the 1960’s David Bamberger owned a successful fried chicken business with over 1600 outlets in the United States (For perspective, there are less than 400 KFC’s in India today.) Then he decided to sell off his business and put the capital into buying some 5500 acres of the most degraded land he could find
GRAIN.org reports: The world’s largest transnational food companies are rolling out a programme promising “market-based” solutions in agriculture. Vietnam’s highlands are the showcase for ‘GROW’, a global initiative under the World Economic Forum. A closer look reveals the programme’s real objective: to expand production of a handful of high-value commodities to profit a few corporations.
From VillageSquare.in: The residents of Hesatu village have successfully raised a thriving forest without any intervention from the state or civil society organisations. They have demonstrated how to create a sustainable economy from ecology by raising a forest of over 100,000 trees on what used to be 365 acres of wasteland barely six years ago.
Ariana López Peña writes: Costa Rica was the most environmentally advanced and happiest place on earth last year, followed by Mexico, Colombia and Vanuatu, according to the Happy Planet Index, which measures life expectancy, well-being, environmental footprint and inequality to calculate nations’ success– all areas where Costa Rica’s government has made significant effort and investment.
Pablo Tittonell is professor ‘Farming Systems Ecology’ at Wageningen University and one of the worlds most well known experts in the field of agriculture and ecology. In this TED Talk, he advocates intensification of agriculture by making optimal use of natural processes and the landscape to meet the worlds constantly growing demand for food.
Miguel Altieri writes: Cuba, which took to agroecology out of necessity when the U.S.S.R. collapsed, has become a leading example of ecological agriculture. If it does not deal carefully with U.S. agribusinesses, Cuba could revert to an industrial approach that relies on mechanization, transgenic crops and agrochemicals, rolling back the revolutionary gains of its campesinos.
There’s no such thing as ‘healthy food’ if it’s not produced by sustainable farming systems on living soils, Patrick Holden told the recent ‘Food: The Forgotten Medicine’ conference. But after 70 years of industrial farming, there’s a huge job to be done to restore depleted soils and the impoverished genetic diversity of seeds and crops.
“Producing qualities that may give excellent results in the laboratory may be advantageous for some, but have ruinous effects for others. And the principle of caution is not enough, as very often it is limited to not allowing something to be done, whereas there is a need to act in a balanced and honest way.”
Whitney Webb reports: Farmers in India’s poorest region are recording record rice yields by growing organically, debunking once and for all the myth that GMOs are necessary to feed the world’s growing population… In Bihar, Sumant Kumar and his family produced an astounding 22.4 tons of rice on only one hectare of land, in 2013.
Aurel Keller writes: The collapse of the Soviet Union, and resultant loss of imports crucial for the island nation’s industrial agriculture system left Cuba with a severe food crisis in the 1990s. Today, Cuba has become a regional leader in sustainable agriculture, and its practices and institutions a model for localized and small-scale urban agriculture.
Bjorn Lomborg, long known as a ‘contrarian’ environmentalist, recently triggered a heated media debate when he claimed that organic farming cannot provide food security for the world, and even asserted that it is bad for the environment. Here we present Lomborg’s original column in USA Today and a selection of voices that counter his view.
‘ From Uniformity to Diversity: A paradigm shift from industrial agriculture to diversified agroecological systems’, calls for breaking the chains that lock monocultures and industrial-scale feedlots to dominant farming systems in order to unleash truly sustainable approaches. In the accompanying video, Food MythBusters show why we really don’t need industrial agriculture to feed the world.
Colin Todhunter writes: Powerful corporations hold sway over a globalised system of food and agriculture from seed to plate. The narrative about farming has been shaped to benefit this handful of influential corporations. With major mergers within the agribusiness sector in the pipeline, power will be further consolidated and the situation is likely to worsen.