Day 8 - March 28
Tuesday March 28, 2006: Agriculture and Biodiversity Day
Today’s program focused on the relationship between sustainable agricultural practices and biodiversity conservation. As before, the format day included presentations from community representatives, followed by break-out discussion groups. One of the key goals for today’s Taba was to develop key messages, regarding agriculture and biodiversity , that could be presented at the Local Global Leaders Dialogue (Wednesday, March 29, 2006), as well as to the CBD at large.
Announcements: The morning began with Donato Bumacas (KAMICYDI, Kalinga, Philippines) calling the Taba to order, and announcing that the COP9 will focus on agricultural issues. Thus, the agriculture and biodiversity day at the Taba is especially timely.
Claire Rhodes (EcoAgriculture Partners, United Kingdom) announced that Varig Airlines has canceled several flights from Curitiba to Sao Paolo. Thus, it is very important that Taba participants re-confirm flights. Taba participants were instructed to bring their tickets or their itinerary to the Taba on Wednesday, so that a staff member could assist participants with re-confirmations.
Claire announced that the Taba was in need of a few volunteers to support Willy Kostka (Executive Director, Conservation Society of Pohnpei) in drafting the Community Declaration. Isabel Soares (Sociedade Civil Mamirau), Barbara Schmal (Green Life Association of Amazonia, AVIVE), Livingston Maluleke (Makuleke Traditional Community), Gladman Chibememe (CHIEHA) and Willy Atu (Program Director, TNC Solomons Islands) were among those who stepped forward to help Willy draft the declaration. Gladman asked that the drafting team be provided time this afternoon (Tuesday, March 28, 2006) to work on the Taba Declaration. The facilitators stated their willingness to support the drafting team in any way possible.
Adalbert Eludui asked for clarification on the community declaration. Specifically, Adalbert wanted to know if a separate declaration was being drafted for the island and the Community Taba, or if a single declaration would be utilized for both. Esther stated that although the two documents will complement each other, the Community Taba declaration would be a broader declaration than the Island Declaration. Esther also stated that the UNDP Equator Initiative is working to gain formal access to the CBD (Convention on Biodiversity), so that the Community Declaration could be presented at the COP8.
Claire also announced that Wednesday’s Taba agenda would include the Local Global Leader’s dialogue, from 1:00pm-3:00pm. At this lunchtime event, participants will have an opportunity to integrate key messages from the taba in to the local global dialogue. Confirmed Global Leaders include the head of the IUCN Canada, the head of UNDP Environment and Energy Group and the head fo the German Delegation.
First Presentation: Gladman Chibememe (CHIEHA)
Gladman presented an overview of his work in southeast Zimbabwe, with a specific focus on agriculture and biodiversity in his local community. Gladman’s community is located in an extremely arid region, with limited livelihood options. In this area, the only viable livelihood option is sustainable agriculture. Thus, one of the primary foci of CHIEHA is to promote the use of sustainable agriculture and food security. Gladman noted the importance of women participating in CHIEHA, before moving onto the main part of his presentation.
Many of the agricultural initiatives adopted by this community are amenable to farming in dry, arid regions. For example, there has been a large push towards the restoration and reintroduction of traditional, drought-tolerant crops (i.e. millet, sorghum, cowpea, groundnuts). In fact, approximately 50% of the crop output per household is accounted for by these traditional foods. Only cotton and maize persist in household gardens, as plants that require a fair amount of water during cultivation. In addition, polycultures are utilized as a means to both prolong production and decrease pest problems. Water harvesting technologies have been developed, and traditional methods of seed preservation (i.e. smoking) have been adopted. Community-level production and processing of peanut butter and sunflower oil is another component of the CHIEHA sustainable agricultural initiative.
Several different strategies are used to transfer the information and technology (regarding sustainable agricultural practices) among community members. These strategies include community bicycle rides, an environmental and cultural technological and information centre, farmer to farmer learning exchanges, field trips, community theatre, heritage festivals, demonstration plots and a cultural ritual known as “passing on the gift”.
There are many benefits, environmental and socio-economic, associated with this work. These include the reduction of chemical inputs via the use of organic fertilizers, the use of cost effective technologies such as seed smoking, a reduction in water needs via the use of drought tolerant and short season crops, prolonged production and more effective pest control through the use of polycultures, improved soil fertility with the cultivation of legumes and empowerment of women.
Despite the many benefits associated with the sustainable agricultural practices, there are problems with which the community must contend. The Qualia bird, migratory locust, feral pigs and elephants present persistent pest problems in the local community. In addition, some villagers, reluctant to change their diets, continue to cultivate crops that require irrigation. In addition, the HIV/AIDS pandemic presents a serious obstacle to many social and environmental issues in Africa. However, it has been suggested that a diet of traditional food boosts immunity against HIV/AIDS. This suggestion has promoted the adoption of a traditional diet, in at least some instances.
Question and Answer Period
Following Gladman’s presentation, several Taba participants had questions about his community initiative.
One participant wondered whether Gladman receives any support for his project. Gladman answered that Africa 2000 provided seeds of traditional crops during the initial stages of this project. However, once the community members were given the seed, they distributed the seed to others by ‘passing on the gift.’ Currently, all community members have access to the seed. In terms of other activities (i.e. bike rides), they CHIEHE receives support, in the form of supplies and other assistance, from partner organizations.
Another participant wanted to know whether Gladman’s presentation specifically referred to family farming or community farming. Gladman answered that it is a mixture of both. Individual families farm for subsistence, but the community manages plots of seeds for the oil press.
Adalbert Eledui (Republic of Palua) asked how traditional knowledge might be used to combat the problems of pests and drought, or if Gladman had considered utilizing more modern technologies to address these issues. Gladman answered that they have merged traditional and modern technologies to address these issues. For instance, to combat large mammal pests, pepper spray is used at the crop’s perimeter, and animal hides are struck (to release the scent of the hide). In terms of drought, the community has had trouble accessing a supplemental water system. In 2002, the community dug a hold 6m deep, but found no water. At another site, water was found, but it was saline. Reliance on groundwater reserves and salination continue to be problems in this community.
Adalbert wondered why modern technology hasn’t been able to solve the issue of drought, and suggested the possibility of using the migratory locust pests as a protein source. Gladman suggested that the irrigating in an arid region is a difficult proposition that would require an international effort. In addition, Gladman noted that the outbreak of locusts was unpredictable, and that the locusts emerge, feed and leave an area before the community has time to either combat the pest or capture them for protein.
Second Presentation: Donato Bumacas (KAMICYDI)
Donato Bumacas (KAMICYDI, KAlinga Mission for Indigenous Communities and Youth Development) provided and overview of his work in the Northern Philippines. One of the primary goals of the Donato’s project is to uplift poverty, while conserving mountain biodiversity
The watershed in which Donato lives and works is essential to the provision of water for irrigated rice terraces. Thus, the mountain forest is protected for the ecosystem services it provides (water catchment and filtration), as well as for the cultural importance to the Filipino way of life. In fact, 80% of the Kalinga old growth forest remains intact, and 72% of cordillera old growth forest is maintained.
Supplemental food sources, such as fish, shrimp and vegetables are incorporated into, and cultivated along with, the rice paddies. This arrangement enables the Filipinos to have a nutritionally balanced meal.
The success of this project is due to the indigenous way of forest management (which they term fitu). According to indigenous ways, when holes are made in the forest to trap animals (which will be used for food), it is illegal to cut any tree within 100 meters of the hole. This law helps to protect and conserve the forests’ resources. In addition, the project is sustained, in large part, because the technology was generated and is owned by the local Filipinos. They are the primary stakeholders in the success or failure of their watershed.
Question and Answer Period
Adalbert’s Eledui (Republic of Palua) pointed out that special care must be taken when cultivating crops on a sloping aspect. What flows through fields (e.g. commercial fertilizers and pesticides) are likely to end up in the rivers and reefs unless precautions are taken. Adalbert also pointed out potential problems with erosion. Donato agreed that terrestrial and marine conservation should not be considered separately, but that it is important to see the connections between the forests and the marine systems.
Willy Atu (Solomon Islands, Project Manager, The Nature Conservancy) reported that TNC has a program called reef to ridges. Island nations are especially sensitive to the fact that whatever goes on in the terrestrial ecosystem has an impact on the seas. However, Willy also pointed out potential problems related to needing to maintain (or increase) yield in the face of an increasing population.
Donato reported that yield has not decreased in the rice terraces, due to the maintenance of soil fertility (via integration of stubble into the field). However, Donato also suggested that it may be necessary to build new rice terraces to respond to an increasing population.
Willy Atu wondered whether there was a distinct need for scientific knowledge in Donato’s system, when they are obviously managing their system well with traditional knowledge. Donato said that their traditional knowledge system has served them quite well, but that with the introduction of a novel pest (the invasive Golden Cohool snail), there is a need for a non-traditional solution.
Adalbert suggested that the traditional knowledge holders are scientists in their own right, and that they thus deserve credit for their innovations and contributions towards sustainability.
A Brazilian participant commented on the importance of being a conservationist, despite the lack of any obvious and immediate individual reward. The Brazilian stated that he plants palm trees and other botanicals to help prevent erosion and to provide forage for bees.
Break Out Group Sessions
Prior to breaking up into discussion groups, Claire asked the participants to discuss the agricultural initiatives within their communities, identify any challenges they might have, and to report back one key message that they would like delivered to the CBD.
Group 1 identified several challenges that they face in their agricultural systems. First, it is often cost-prohibitive to effectively incorporate novel technologies into traditional cropping systems. In addition, even though the Brazilian government values biodiversity and conservation, it is difficult to transition to organic agriculture because (1) many indigenous Brazilians are still practicing subsistence farming, and (2) there indigenous Brazilians have not developed a market for organic farming.
The key message that group one would like delivered to the CBD is the fact that crop yields must be maintained, but in a manner that supports biodiversity.
Group 2 included representatives from Chile, Argentina, the Amazon and Ecuador. Thus, this diverse group spoke of a variety of agricultural practices, as well as an array of problems that they face in their practice.
In Argentina, goats are reared on a small scale and in a pastoral fashion. This practice mitigates erosion by allowing time for the vegetation to renew within a grazed pasture. In addition, the Argentineans practice subsistence agriculture. They maintain a 1 hectare plot within the community, within which they gather wood (for fire) and keep small ponds and aquifers (for human and livestock consumption). From the goats, they receive milk and leather. The major problem faced by the Argentineans is the fact that they don’t own their own land, and are thus not able to graze their flock as freely as they would like or need. Specifically, the Argentineans are having problems with the multi-national oil companies, with whom the Argentine government has made an agreement. The oil companies are not paying proper compensation for the extraction, as they had agreed to do. In addition, the companies don’t allow grazing access on the mountainsides. The group thought it was important that the public be made aware of the practices of the multi-nationals, and asked that the Taba deliver a message to the CBD about the negative actions of multi-national companies on indigenous and local communities.
In Chile, a cooperative association works to reforest and recover lands that have been devastated by grazing.
In the Amazon, the Brazilians work in a wetland and a dryland system. In the wetland system, they cultivate rice, beans and watermelon (Nov-Feb). In the dryland system, they maintain a plantation, where root crops, pineapples and native fruits are raised. In the wetland system, they face issues associated with high tides that cause them to lose their production.
In Ecuador, Vitaliano Saravia (UNOCACE) reported on his work with organic cocoa and domestic animals. Vitaliano’s cooperative uses organic practices, where chemical use is prohibited. The products are stored and divided equally among the producers. They have had no problems regarding lack of food or hunger, and biodiversity is protected in their organic system.
Group members provided several examples, from different companies, of ways in which agriculture is harming biodiversity. Because large corporations control the agricultural industry in several regions, they are less concerned with conservation than they are profits. As a result, they tend to plant crops in large mono-cultures and may place agricultural crops in areas where erosion is a problem. For example, in Fiji, large sugarcane plantations contribute to soil erosion. The same can not be said for smaller, family farms.
It was also noted that government mandates, at times, makes agricultural practices that are beneficial to biodiversity difficult to implement. In addition, although there are government laws that are meant to promote the incorporation of biodiversity into agriculture, these laws aren’t particularly monitored or enforced. Examples of government interference to the conservation of biodiversity in agriculture were given by Barbara Schmaal, who works with a women’s cooperative in the Amazon. Henrique Peach, a translator for the Community Taba, reported that other Brazilians said that government laws were disproportionately enforced against smaller, relative to large-scale farms.
Finally, the group suggested that a lack strong, local leaders (who are willing to oppose government policies) makes sustainable farming practices more difficult to implement within specific communities..
When asked what message group 3 would like delivered to the CBD, Ratu Asia (Fiji) responded ‘Think globally. Act locally’.
Just prior to lunch, a Taba participant from Peru spoke of the environmental problems that have accompanied a shift towards larger scale food production. Although yield increased (due in large part to chemical inputs in agricultural fields), market prices decreased in response to surplus food production. In addition, agricultural intensification depleted the soil of nutrients. The Peruvian suggested that they need access to funds, technology and research in order to begin recovering their fields and to achieve food security.
Hellison Herz Girardello (Garden of Love), and his group of volunteers, once again set out a healthy and delicious vegetarian lunch for the Taba participants.
The afternoon session opened with local, Brazilian beekeepers exhibiting their stingless bees. The beekeepers brought three species of native, stingless bees. The bees produce a honey solution with a flavor that is quite distinct from that produced by the European honeybee.
Next, Andre Canacar showed a video on the Agencia Mandalla and agriculture in semi-arid regions. In arid regions, it is often difficult to produce sufficient food for subsistence, and even more difficult to produce enough food to go to market. The Agencia Mandalla is a program that focuses on the production of fruits, vegetables and fish in these dry lands. The program took six months to set up, and they received financial and technical support during their first harvest from Bayer Crop Science. In addition to enabling production in this harsh environment, there have been many social benefits to the program. For example, many drug addicts have been cooperating with or employed by the Agencia, and this employment has allowed them to generate income and maintain their dignity.
Following the video, Claire asked Taba participants how to ensure that the relationship between the private sector and family farmers is equatible among several families.
Andre da Silva Takahashi suggested that in order to achieve equitability, both human and natural resources must be utilized, with a minimum of government bureaucracy. In addition, Andrew pointed out the there is currently $3M circulating on the market, that has been earmarked for community projects. What communities thus need is the capacity to access this resource
Claire then asked Taba participants about the good or bad experiences they might have had working in partnership with the private sector. In addition, Claire asked about the specific challenges involved in working with the private sector. This topic came up quite a bit in the morning session. However, there was not much response from the audience during the afternoon.
Jorge, who works with a chain of NGOs, had a question about the origin of monetary resources. Some company practices seem more focused on image building and marketing than on furthering a particular community’s livelihood and self-sustenance. The project may be good, but the potential detrimental effects of this approach are not made known.
Andre answered that this is a challenge that they face, and that it is difficult to imagine where ‘clean money’ comes from. However, without help from the private sector, they wouldn’t have been able to help 1050 municipalities. Thus, from his perspective, the benefit has been worth any possible cost. In addition, Bayer helped the community by providing a lot of social services, such as a language school and a library.
Next, a second video was shown by Osvaldo Andrade on a fishing community on the east coast of Ceara State. The Convivencia Institute is a cooperative of lobster fishers. Many of these fishers used to be farmers that were expelled from their plots by poverty or drought. However, the switch to lobster fishing has not guaranteed livelihood. The big fishers are over-harvesting the lobsters, and this has had a detrimental effect on the community. Each year, more community members abandon lobster fishing. Lobster fishing is a way of life in the community, and not just a way to earn a living. However, indiscriminant fishing is threatening this way of life. Thus, a group called Fast Canoe is trying to educate local communities and other fishers about the values inherent in fishing, with the hopes that the communities can be transformed.
The afternoon session ended with Claire re-iterating the key messages that emerged from the day’s discussion. First, agriculture presents a challenge to the conservation of biodiversity, but can equally contribute through appropriate management of pollination, watersheds etc. The challenge for practitioners is to understand how to prevent the environmental issues commonly associated with agricultural production, such as erosion and eutrophication of waterways.
In terms of key messages that can be incorporated into the Taba Declaration, concern regarding recognition of traditional/indigenous knowledge and land tenure was voiced. In addition, that biodiversity conservation and poverty reduction can be effectively linked was recognized.
Esther agreed with this latter message, and stated that conservation can not occur in isolation from social concerns. When local communities are hungry and impoverished, the conservation of biodiversity will be compromised.
Taba participants were reminded of events to be held later that evening, including a side event hosted by GTZ. A high level dinner for island leaders will be held later this week, and it is hoped that Taba messages can be delivered during the dinner. Osvaldo asked that the community declaration or that community messages include a statement of how to minimize the effects of climate change on local and indigenous communities. Claire agreed that this was an excellent point, and asked the Taba Declaration drafting team to take note. Isabel invited the Brazilian contingent to spend a few moments gathering ideas that they could consolidate into a single Taba document.