‘Sustainable Food for All: Organic or Natural Farming?’

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Sustainable Agriculture is one of the very popular buzzwords these days. Founded on the principle of ecological balance and sustainability, sustainable agriculture has the ability to sustain our natural resources while producing a decent harvest as required.

Large part of Asian economy is agro-based; however, there’s still a long way to go in realizing the fullest potential in sustainable agriculture sector. The desire for sustainable agriculture is universal yet we are struggling to achieve sustainability in this sector, Of late, there’s a sudden rise in organic and natural farming but the tricky part is – not all organic crop are sustainable and not all natural farming can be categorized as organic. 

With the increasing consciousness and demand for food that are healthy and sustainably grown, there’s a need to look at various possibilities. To further deliberate on the challenge and solutions towards promoting sustainable agriculture at the large scale, Global Foundation and CHINAR organized a Web-Dialogue on October 31, 2020.

Subject matter experts and practitioners including – Manoj K Das – Managing Director, North Eastern Regional Agricultural Marketing Corporation Limited, Govt of India, Rosy Choudhury – South Asia Director for Rainforest Alliance, Ajit Kumar – Founder Khushigram and Vision 2030 and Ganga Awal – Country Representative of Appropriate Technology Asia (ATA) – Nepal spoke on the occasion. 

While highlighting the rise of mission organic, Manoj K Das informed that with the increased push from the government, the north-eastern states of India are gradually looking at crop diversification in natural farming practices. Taking advantage of the geographic and environmental conditions of the region, new crops are also being introduced to add to the variety of crops grown in this part of India. He emphasized that more the variety of food in the platter lesser the chances of getting sick. He said it is very important to consume locally available and diverse food types to enhance the bodily immunity against diseases. 

While speaking at the session, Rosy Choudhury mentioned about various complexities around the agriculture system in the world that include – land conversion particularly clearing of forests for agriculture use amid the looming risk of changing climate. She also mentioned how these two aspects are interconnected and inter-dependent. She said, the land-conversation has to stop in the first place and integration between stakeholders must happen, if change were to take place towards achieving sustainability in agriculture. While advocating for indigenous variety of crops and their advantages, she spoke about the scope of benefiting from carbon credit in natural and organic farming. 

Ajit Kumar largely spoke about the idea of Khushigram, how this integration platform can bring together stakeholders, farmers, producers and service providers towards creating a sustainable ecosystem much needed to promote organic and natural farming. He emphasized that as a society, we can’t afford to be away from nature for long though the modernization and fast urbanization trend have created a rift between us and nature. Eventually we all will have to come back to the roots and be closer to natural environment to help create a Better, Healthier, Happier, Harmonious, Kinder and Peaceful world.

Ganga Awal spoke in length about her experience in promoting sustainable agriculture particularly permaculture (permanent + agriculture) in Nepal. Drawing a similarity between the two countries (India and Nepal), she pointed out that the farmers in both the countries are still not fully empowered and unfortunately the farmers – the ‘ANNADATA’ or the provider of food, many a times need to go without food. Which is not only ironical but also heart wrenching. Also being the National President of the National Federation of Women Farmers in Nepal, Awal highlighted the challenge of women farmers and how they are steering through various issues to attain empowerment.

This important dialogue covering issues of sustainable agriculture and food security was moderated by Dr Pradeep Mehta and Dr Pranab J Patar and attended by over 80 participants online from the academia, government agencies, multi-lateral agencies, civil society organizations, private sector companies from across India, Nepal, Malaysia, Cambodia and Philippines.

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