2nd International Conference on Agrarian Reform and Rural Development (ICARRD) held in Porto Alegre.
Convergence between the promotion of smallholder agriculture and environmental protection stood at the Second International Conference on Agrarian Reform and Rural Development (ICARRD), which ended Friday in this southern Brazilian city of Porto Alegre.
The strategies that focus on agro-ecological peasant and family farming and artisanal fisheries are an element of the" new land reform "proposed by the Forum Land, Territory and Dignity, protests by rural social movements during ICARRD promoted by the United Nations Organization for Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) with support from the Brazilian government.
These strategies reflect a logical and economic issue: a rural family has to maintain the environment where their descendants live, while a large farm enterprise, which may be moved to another place or country, tends to exploit natural resources without bothering to preserve them, seeking profits in a short time, said a FAO technical.
"The remuneration of environmental services can be an alternative income for rural populations," noted Thomas Lindeman IPS, an expert on rural institutions of FAO. This would save the small farmers in the highlands of the Andes, which constitute "water factory" that supplies the population, agriculture and mining in the lower parts of the coastal and Andean countries, in addition to much of The Amazon, illustrated.
The abandonment of terraces and the Andean mountains, due to rural exodus, damage the local environment and trenches for water, we need "people with a culture of maintenance" to stop the growing loss of springs. But training is also needed, because some "traditional methods" such as the burning of forest and agricultural residues, are negative, he recalled.
Lindeman believes necessary to seek alternatives for rural development, because "personally" disagrees with the "excessive emphasis" on the land of defenders of agrarian reform, as happened in ICARRD. In today's world of intense trade liberalization, "the small farming fails to yield sufficient to compete with subsidized production in rich countries and the large agribusinesses”, argued.
Therefore, they fail to curb the rural exodus, and need to "seek alternative solutions”, such as payment by the players benefited from the environmental services farmers, rural and profitable activities that does not necessarily are farming.
The alliance between peasant movements, indigenous and consumers and environmentalists is expanding, especially in the region, told IPS Mario Ahumada leader of Agroecological Movement of Latin America and one of the regional coordinators of the International Committee Social Planning Organizations for Food Sovereignty, which was implemented by the Forum in Porto Alegre.
Agroecology is a shift in production that unites farmers and environmentalists. It is also a social vision, covering the rights of peoples, the recovery of natural resources and biodiversity by using traditional knowledge, according to Ahumada, a Chilean veterinarian.
It is a technique still used but little is spreading rapidly. The Movement of Landless Rural Workers (MST) of Brazil decided to disclose to realize the best performance of the agro-ecological farms.
A partnership between the MST, the international Via Campesina and the governments of Venezuela and the southern Brazilian state of Paraná was born in August 2005 to the Latin American School of Agroecology. Seventy students from Brazil, Paraguay and Venezuela make up the first university level course, which lasts three years, alternating classes in schools located in Lapa, near Curitiba, the capital of Paraná, and activities in rural communities.
Agroecology is "a set of principles for designing a production system based on biodiversity and sustainability," which is applied according to local conditions, explained the Chilean Miguel Altieri, a professor at the University of California and recognized scientific authority on the subject, in an interview with IPS during ICARRD.
Major problems of agriculture, such as pests and soil deficiencies, "are symptoms of a systemic disease, monoculture", i.e. the lack of functional biodiversity, he said. When there are different agencies that operate the woods, for example, a "biological given", does not need pesticides, fertilizers and other chemicals, he said.
"This is not a recipe," we must investigate and monitor local conditions, but the basic principle is "polycultural that makes sense economically and ecologically, and promotes synergy." Take the case of planting of legumes, which fix nitrogen, when combined with grains, exemplified. It also recommends the presence of flowers, the pollen necessary for functions, and animals.
Agroecology differs from organic agriculture, because the second often is limited to replacing chemical inputs by biological, without solving the fundamental problems, and this has produced many frustrations, he explained.
Furthermore, this is a commercially competitive system for the large reduction in costs, including environmental, such as soil erosion, according to Altieri.
Agroecology is naturally closer to some traditional practices such as the Indians, he conceded, noting that small farmers can also practice monoculture. Family pf agriculture is more compatible because of their greater efficiency and social benefits, said the professor, who is in Brazil for courses.