Workshop on Natural Farming for Sustainable Living
Organised by Consumers’ Association of Penang
21 November 2013 at RECSAM, Penang
Welcome remarks by Mr. S.M. Mohamed Idris, President, Consumers’ Association of Penang.
Distinguished participants, ladies and gentlemen,
It is my great pleasure to have the opportunity to welcome you all to this “Workshop on Natural Farming for Sustainable Living”. To all speakers and resource persons, I would like to express my warm welcome and appreciation to you for sharing your experiences with all of us.
Ladies & gentlemen, this workshop is organized by the Consumers’ Association of Penang with the support of the Third World Network and the United Nations Development Programme – Global Environment Facility – Small Grants Programme (UNDP GEF SGP) Malaysia Project.
In this workshop, practising local farmers will share their practices and challenges. CAP has also invited En. Ahmad Kamal, a local promoter of natural farming who is knowledgeable in marketing; Professor Dr. Sultan Ismail, an expert in soil management and vermicomposting; Mr Neeravi Selvam, who advocates integrated pest management and skilled in various crop production techniques; and Mr. Paul Baskar who has successfully converted unproductive land and thus generated income for the poor in a village in Dindigul, India.
This workshop would give an opportunity for everyone present to exchange innovations and techniques to improve their farming methods and productivity.
Firstly, I would like to give a background of CAP’s work on agriculture. CAP started promoting chemical-free farming in the early 1990’s as we were aware of the consequences of the Green Revolution. The Green Revolution was based on the assumption that technology is a superior substitute for nature and would result in high production of agriculture output.
In many areas, decades of intensive cropping had degraded fertile land, aggravated pest and disease, contaminated soil, air and water due to the use of agro-chemicals. In short, with the advent of the Green Revolution, long-term ecological and human health was exchanged for short-term productivity gains.
Agriculture is also exposed to threats from increased climatic variability. Abnormal changes in air temperature and rainfall and resulting increases in frequency and intensity of drought and flood events have long-term implications for the viability of these ecosystems.
The ecological model of agricultural production, which is based on principles that create healthy soils and cultivate biological diversity and which prioritizes farmers and traditional knowledge, is climate-resilient as well as productive.
However, some think that natural or ecological farming is inferior and inadequate in terms of productivity and thus cannot be relied on to feed the increasing population. This premise is a prejudice, for there is evidence that ecological or natural farming can be high yielding as well.
A report by UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food Olivier de Schutter states that agro-ecology or eco-farming can double food production in entire regions within 10 years while mitigating climate change and alleviating rural poverty.
De Schutter’s report “Agro-ecology and the right to food” draws extensively on scientific literature to support its conclusions. Yields went up 214% in 44 projects in 20 countries in sub-Saharan Africa using agro-ecological farming techniques over a period of three to ten years. Other scientific assessments have shown that small farmers in 57 countries using agro-ecological techniques obtained average yield increases of 80 percent. Africans’ average increases were 116 percent.
Ladies & Gentlemen,
Over the years, CAP’s continued work with local farming communities has found that many of them are often embroiled in various problems, including debt, which is frequently linked to expensive inputs and technologies like agrochemicals, mechanization and the use of high-yielding varieties of monoculture seeds.
The system of production using Green Revolution methods is not cost-wise. With the escalating price of diesel, spare parts and other agricultural input costs, cost of production is going to further increase.
In promoting natural farming, CAP has been organizing and conducting various training, capacity building and other value-added processes which would benefit local communities. CAP’s hands-on training include natural farming methods, composting of organic wastes, vermi-composting, preparation and application of herbal pest repellents, integrated farming and cultivation of various varieties of food crops.
A number of farmers have already ventured into natural farming and such ventures have proven to be successful and sustainable, realising reductions in the cost of inputs. The farmers involved are also enjoying better quality produce and increased yields.
Hence we should move towards the environmental benefits of natural and lower input agriculture.
Thus we urge the Malaysian government to:
• give due recognition to the value of traditional and ecological farming;
• initiate a national blueprint on sustainable agriculture and strictly enforce this blueprint;
• conduct training programmes for farmers, policy and extension officers, and NGOs on sustainable agriculture;
• provide fiscal incentive for farms that utilize and recycle waste i.e. producing their own compost and organic fertiliser as input for farming.
• support farmers, community groups and governments for establishing community-based seed banks to revive and promote the use of traditional varieties, and support exchange of seeds amongst farmers.
There is an urgent need for a comprehensive shift towards all forms of sustainable agriculture. It is very important to invest in sustainable practices in agriculture production and small scale farmers in a new revolution that gives high priority to small-scale food production based on ecologically viable systems.
I hope that you would have a successful workshop and beyond this, success in your farming ventures.
S.M. MOHAMED IDRIS
President, Consumer’s Association of Penang