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March 2011, Week 2

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Tue, 8 Mar 2011 20:37:58 -0500
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Eco-Farming Could Double Food Output of Poor Countries, Says
UN

Report cites insect-trapping plants in Kenya and Bangladesh's
use of ducks in paddy fields, and resulting rise in crop
yields

Reuters via commondreams.org
March 8, 2011 

http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2011/03/08-2

A move by farmers in developing countries to ecological
agriculture, away from chemical fertilisers and pesticides,
could double food production within a decade, a UN report
says.

Insect-trapping plants in Kenya and ducks eating weeds in
Bangladesh's rice paddies are among examples of
recommendations for feeding the world's 7 million people,
which the UN says will become about 9 billion by 2050.

"Agriculture is at a crossroads," says the study by Olivier
de Schutter, the UN special reporter on the right to food, in
a drive to depress record food prices and avoid the costly
oil-dependent model of industrial farming.

So far, eco-farming projects in 57 nations demonstrated
average crop yield gains of 80 per cent by tapping natural
methods for enhancing soil and protecting against pests, it
says.

Recent projects in 20 African countries resulted in a
doubling of crop yields within three to 10 years. Those
lessons could be widely mimicked elsewhere, it adds.

"Sound ecological farming can signficantly boost production
and in the long term be more effective than conventional
farming," De Schutter said of steps such as more use of
natural compost or high-canopy trees to shade coffee groves.

It is also believed "agroecology" could make farms more
resilient to extreme weather conditions associated with
climate change, including floods, droughts and a rise in sea
levels that the report said was already making fresh water
near some coasts too salty for use in irrigation.

Benefits would be greatest in "regions where too few efforts
have been put in to agriculture, particularly sub-Saharan
Africa," he said. "There are also a number of very promising
experiences in parts of Latin America and parts of Asia.

"The cost of food production has been very closely following
the cost of oil," he said. Upheavals in Egypt and Tunisia
have been partly linked to discontent at soaring food prices.
Oil prices were around $115 a barrel on Tuesday.

"If food prices are not kept under control and populations
are unable to feed themselves ... we will increasingly have
states being disrupted and failed states developing," De
Schutter said.

Examples of successful agroecology in Africa include the
thousands of Kenyan farmers who planted insect-repelling
desmodium or tick clover, used as animal fodder, within corn
fields to keep damaging insects away and sowed small plots of
napier grass nearby that excretes a sticky gum to trap pests.

The study also called for better research, training and use
of local knowledge. "Farmer field schools" by rice growers in
Indonesia, Vietnam and Bangladesh had led to cuts in
insecticide use by between 35 and 92 percent, it said.

De Schutter also recommended a diversification in global farm
output, from reliance on rice, wheat and maize.

Developed nations, however, would be unable to make a quick
shift to agroecology because of what he called an "addiction"
to an industrial, oil-based model of farming – but a global
long-term effort to shift to agroecology was needed.

It cited Cuba as an example of how change was possible, as
the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 led to supplies of
cheap pesticides and fertilisers being cut off. Yields had
risen after a downturn in the 1990s as farmers adopted more
eco-friendly methods. © 2011 Reuters

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