Sustainable Agriculture

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FB11-Alumni-IntNews Alumni Newsletter

So glad to see the new work of Ladislao Di Domenica, Sustainable International Agriculture program, Witzenhausen, Germany: “Status Quo of the Women in Aquaculture, Kathar, Nepal” sponsored by DAAD, Georg August University of Göttingen, Germany, and Tribhuvan University Rampur, Chitwan, Nepal.

The project was design to improve rural communities’ health and generate an additional source of income by creating fish pounds and providing fishes and necessary training especially for local women.

More information about the project and experimental outline of the thesis are online:

Travel report from Nepal

Status quo of the “women in aquaculture project”, Kathar, Nepal.


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Toward A Philosophy Of Human Ecological Education

Here are some edited excerpts from my former Professor: John Visvader’s talk: Toward a Philosophy of Human Ecological Education.

Let us refer to this view that human nature is in some important sense open ended, a process view. It means that human nature is not a fixed and static entity, but is subject to a continual process of change and alteration. In terms of the Greek philosophers, this would be a Heraclitian view—Heraclitus is the philosopher who said that everything is subject to change and transformation and that you can’t step into the same river twice. (One of his followers said that you can’t even step into the same river once.) In the same way a static view can be referred to as a Parmenidean view after Parmenides and his disciple Zeno. If you’re thinking about the problem of education, it would seem pretty obvious that the conclusions you came up with would be very different if you held one view than they would be if you held the other. With a static view, your map of reality and human nature will be fairly complete and most of the details will be filled in. It will be relatively easy to plot a clear and definite route from one point to another. You will be able to say, with some degree of certainty, what kinds of skills and personality traits a young person will have to develop in order to traverse the terrain of human possibility.

If, on the other hand, you hold a process view then your map of the human terrain will be essentially incomplete, and you will have to equip young people with quite another set of characteristics. Your map will be similar to those made by the early explorers with only vague representations of major rivers and mountain peaks and large areas marked “terra incognita.” The skills that you teach to a town person will be very different than the skills you teach to an explorer. If someone is going to live in a town all their life you can teach her all the details that will enable her to be a butcher, baker, or candlestick maker. An explorer, however, will need to be a Jack or Jill of all trades. Such a person will have to be taught what we may refer to as meta-skills—something is referred to with the prefix meta when it deals with a subject matter from a higher level or from a more general perspective, or when the subject matter becomes self-reflective. An explorer will have to learn to be inventive and innovative, and will have to learn to live off the land—in short, she will have to learn how to learn.

Every educational institution teaches both values and skills. In a closed society these skills and values can be quite specific. There is only one true religion to which all values must be related, there are only three major social classes to which everyone must belong, and there are only a certain number of useful professions which people can enter. Once you have classified a person you have also determined the kind of education that will be appropriate. In an open society you also need to teach various skills and values, but the emphasis will be placed on what I call the “meta-skills” and “meta-values.” In terms of basic educational structures you will not classify people according to type or role but will educate everyone in roughly the same sort of way, hoping to give them the skills and information that will allow them to make intelligent decisions concerning the type of person they want to become and the kind of role they want to play in society. This is where, in John Dewey’s sense, intelligence enters the modern world. You teach young people the meta-skills of problem solving, the ability to teach themselves and the process of making considered and intelligent decisions. You teach them what they need to know about the nature and structure of their world so they can act as free and autonomous agents. …

When we come to the problems of ecological or human ecological education we should remember that one of our chief concerns is to improve human well-being. The science of ecology has shown us that humans and their natural environment form a tightly connected causal community. Ignorance of the nature and extent of this community has caused and will continue to cause many kinds of ecological and human catastrophes. The main purpose of ecological education is to present the information concerning the nature of this community in such a way that people will be able to exercise greater foresight in their behaviors. Changes in behavior require the evolution of different strategies of action and a reassessment and realignment of values. If we are to hold, as I feel we should, both a process view of social change and a belief in an open society, then we cannot approach the problem of values in ecological education as mere indoctrination. There may be experts in ecology, but in the modern world we cannot believe that there are any experts in value. …

If we are to believe that ecology or human ecology changes our map of the world in some very important ways, we will have to conceive of education as something more than leading young people from one state to another—we will have to consider the problem of leading ourselves to another state as well. … What it means to be a human being thus becomes open-ended and the subject of exploration, experimentation and evolution. As we increasingly refashion the world in which we live, we face the prospect of having to continually refashion ourselves as well. With regard to a distant and unknown future, we can only view ourselves as unfinished, in process and in progress.

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UnvergEssbar: unsere Gärten, unsere Städte, unsere Welt – http://www.unvergessbar. net/

Gerne möchten wir euch zur Konferenz “UnvergEssbar: unsere Gärten, unsere Städte, unsere Welt” am 14.-16.Juni in Witzenhausen einladen.

In Vorträgen, AGs und Podiumsdiskussionen werden wir die Bewegung der urbanen Landwirtschaft aus unterschiedlichsten Perspektiven beleuchten, darstellen, diskutieren und hinterfragen:::

– Stadtgärten als neue, commons-basierte Räume des Selbermachens und als neue Formen des Politischen?

– Welche Rolle spielt Saatgutsouveränität und der freie Zugang zu Saatgut für die urbane Landwirtschaft?

– Welchen Beitrag kann die urbane Landwirtschaf zur Erhaltung der Biodiversität leisten?

– Gemeinschaftsgärten / Internationalen Gärten gesellschaftliche Strategien des “Neu Verwurzelns“

– Welches Potenzial hat die Bewegung für eine Trendwende in der Landwirtschaft und Agrarpolitik?

aber auch ein kritischer Blick auf die neue Gartenbewegung soll nicht fehlen:

– Warum sind kaum Landwirte an der urban Gardening Bewegung beteiligt?

– Wem gehört eigentlich die Stadt, wer darf sie bepflanzen und benutzen?

– Und ist die Bewegung wirklich so integrativ und heterogen, wie sie es sich auf die Fahnen schreibt?

Diese und viele andere Fragen wollen wir auf der Konferenz diskutieren.
Außerdem gibt es natuerlich Musik, Tanz,Siebdruck, Kinderbetreuung und leckerers Essen!

Wenn ihr Lust zum Mitreden bekommen habt oder euer Projekt vorstellen und euch mit anderen vernetzen wollt, dann kommt doch gerne zur Konferenz nach Witzenhausen.

Weiter Infos findet ihr hier:

Auch falls ihr nur zu einzelnen Vorträgen kommen wollt, seid ihr herzlich eingeladen.
Für die Konferenzorganisation (Essen, Räume, Schlafplätze) würde es uns aber sehr erleichtern, wenn ihr euch trotzdem anmeldet oder uns eine email schreibt, ob und wann ihr kommt.
Falls ihr nur zu einzelnen Veranstaltungen kommt, müsst ihr keinen Konferenzbeitrag zahlen, wir würden uns aber über eine Spende für Essen und Orga sehr freuen.

Bis dahin und viele Grüße!!!!

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Smallholders, Food Security and the Environment

Relief Web, 04 Jun 2013

Backing and Enabling Smallholders Can Unleash New and Sustainable Agricultural Revolution

Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, 4 June 2013 – Supporting smallholder farmers to play a greater role in food production and natural resource stewardship is one of the quickest ways to lift over one billion people out of poverty and sustainably nourish a growing world population, a new United Nations report released today said.
Most of the 1.4 billion people living on under US$1.25 a day live in rural areas and depend largely on agriculture for their livelihoods, while an estimated 2.5 billion people are involved in full- or part-time smallholder agriculture.

These smallholders manage approximately 500 million small farms and provide over 80 per cent of the food consumed in large parts of the developing world, particularly Southern Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, thus contributing to food security and poverty reduction.

A previous study showed that a one-per-cent increase in agricultural per-capita Gross Domestic Product (GDP) reduced the poverty gap five times more than a one-per-cent increase in GDP in other sectors, especially amongst the poorest people. Another study demonstrated that for every ten-per-cent increase in farm yields, there was a seven-per-cent reduction in poverty in Africa, and a reduction of over five-per-cent in Asia.

However, increasing fragmentation of land, reduced investment support and the marginalization of small farms in economic and development policy have hampered the development of this vital contribution and left many smallholders vulnerable.

Given the right enabling conditions and targeted support, these often-neglected farmers can transform the rural landscape and unleash a new and sustainable agricultural revolution, according to Smallholders, Food Security and the Environment—a report commissioned by the UN Environment Programme-World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).

“Two decades of underinvestment in agriculture, growing competition for land and water, rising fuel and fertilizer prices, and climate change have left smallholders less able to escape poverty,” said Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director.

“Following the Rio+20 Summit and as part of the post-2015 sustainable development agenda, including developing a set of Sustainable Development Goals, there is a growing and powerful focus on sustainable food systems. This includes the UN Secretary-General’s Zero Hunger Challenge and UNEP and the Food and Agricultural Organization’s Think Eat Save: Reduce Your Foodprint campaign,” he added.

“Smallholder farmers can continue to be marginalized or be recognized as catalysts for a transformation of the way the world manages the supply of food and the environmental services that underpin agriculture in the first place” said Mr Steiner. “ Above all, this report makes it clear that investing in this sector offers the highest rate of return for those interested in overcoming poverty and realizing and building upon the Millennium Development Goals, including MDG-7 on environmental sustainability.”

The agricultural ‘green revolution’ that swept large parts of the developing world during the 1960s and 1970s dramatically increased agricultural productivity and reduced poverty, with smallholder farmers seeing many benefits. However, these achievements also helped undermine the very resource base that made the revolution possible.

While smallholder agriculture depends on the services provided by well-functioning ecosystems, agricultural practices can, and have had, impacts on these ecosystems as poverty drives smallholders to modify habitats and thus harm biodiversity, overuse water and nutrients and pollute water and soil.

The pressures placed on land and other resources are set to grow over the next 40 years as agriculture must feed a larger and more-urbanized world population.

Current practices are undermining the ecological foundation of the global food system through overuse and the effects of agricultural pollution, thereby enhancing degradation, reducing ecosystem capacity to generate sustainable yields and threatening to negatively impact food security and poverty reduction.

Sustainable agricultural intensification—scaling up farming practices that maintain the resources base upon which smallholders depend so that it continues to support food security and rural development—can be the answer to enhanced food security, environmental protection and poverty reduction. Smallholders have a key role to play in this process.

“Smallholder farmers hold a massive collective store of experience and local knowledge that can provide the practical solutions needed to put agriculture on a more sustainable and equitable footing,” said Elwyn Grainger Jones, Director of IFAD’s Environment and Climate Division. “To place these smallholders at the forefront of a transformation in world agriculture, they need appropriate support to overcome the many challenges they face.”

The report—which aims to improve understanding among policymakers and practitioners of the relationships between smallholders, food security and the environment—made a series of recommendations, including:

· The promotion of sustainable agriculture has focused on minimizing the impacts of agriculture on the environment and many smallholders feel this robs them of limited opportunities for growth. Farm- and community-level mechanisms that take these concerns into account while scaling up a sustainability landscape approach need to be developed.

· Removing policy barriers to sustainable agricultural growth requires market-based mechanisms that provide smallholders with incentives to invest in sustainability, such as: removing subsidies on unsustainable fertilizers; subsidizing practices that encourage soil and water conservation; and expanding fair or green certification schemes that allow smallholders to compete in new niche markets locally and internationally.

· In order to provide smallholders with the information they need, investing in approaches such as farmer field schools and the use of rural radios and other mobile telecommunication methods is essential.

· Additional research is needed on the drivers of change that influence smallholder practices–both negative (e.g. agriculture policies and subsidies) and positive (e.g. secure land rights, collective institutions and cultural values).

The report was released as part of the celebrations of World Environment Day (WED), whose global host this year is the government and people of Mongolia. WED’s theme is closely linked to food security, focusing on reducing the estimated one third of all food produced—an astonishing 1.3 billion tonnes, worth around US$1 trillion—that is wasted or lost each year.

Earlier this year, UNEP and the UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) launched a campaign called Think.Eat.Save. Reduce Your Foodprint, which is aimed at slashing this wastage.

Aside from the moral implications of such wastage in a world where almost 900 million people go hungry every day, unconsumed food wastes both the energy put into growing it and the fuel spent on transporting produce across vast distances.

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The new report from IFAD and UNEP

“With the right conditions, smallholders can be at the forefront of a transformation in world agriculture. With their immense collective experience and intimate knowledge of local conditions, smallholders hold many of the practical solutions that can help place agriculture on a more sustainable and equitable footing. To do this, they need help to overcome market failures and other disincentives for sustainable land use, including insecure land tenure, high transaction costs and weak institutional support”. – The new report from IFAD and UNEP‎