Environmental Group Establishes Training Centers to Educate Farmers About Organic Growing Techniques
One of the most damaging impacts humans are having on the environment is caused by Big Agri food production. According to The Star, the Pesticide Action network Asia and the Pacific (known as Panap) is starting a “multiversity” with the goal of showing farmers how to produce food without relying upon pesticides.
Pesticides are widely used across Africa and according to The Guardian, their use is also on the rise in Asia. This use of hazardous chemicals is causing severe damage to both the environment and health of local communities – potentially costing sub-Saharan Africa $90 billion by 2020 in pesticide-related illnesses.
Named the “International People’s Agroecology Mulitversity,” this fantastic movement comprises 10 field-learning sites in Asia and one in Africa which offer farmers the opportunity to see how it’s done.
Cutting pesticide use can boost yields
According to The Conversation, cutting pesticide use has actually worked to boost yields in Asia and Africa. Recent research has shown that farmers in Asia and Africa have been able to cut the use of pesticides whilst boosting crop yields, reducing costs and delivering healthier profits.
Each kilogram of pesticide used in agriculture causes between $4 – $19 of external economic costs on the environment, wildlife and human health. Any reduction in their use saves farmers money. And all it takes is a different approach to farming practices.
All pests have natural predators and parasites that farmers can use along with their farm management to minimize or even replace synthetic pesticides, according to The Conversation. This is known as integrated pest management, an approach that is focused on manipulating the crop ecosystem rather than simply wiping out pests.
These natural farming strategies can actually increase crop yields while reducing the need for pesticides – and there are other sustainable approaches to agriculture that mean the farmer gets more and the environment wins. These include a focus on soil, water, tree or livestock management.
The International People’s Agroecology Multiversity
Panap executive director V. R. Sarojeni has explained that the sites are training centers or “campuses” made up of farms, NGOs, institutions and universities that offer on-site learning and collaboration on ecological farming methods, innovations and techniques, as reported by The Star.
According to Sarojeni, “last year, researchers from Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia found several types of pesticide in all of Cameron Highlands’ river and tap water… We understand the economic risks farmers take if they don’t use pesticides, but the rampant use of such chemicals cannot go on.”
Sarojeni went on to explain that as well as harming species that are not pests, the long-term low-level exposure to such poisons in the food chain has been proven to cause people to suffer from reduced immunity, problems with organ functionality and interrupted hormone production.
The “show-and-tell” method used at the campuses will give farmers the opportunity to see farms where pesticides are not used. As reported by The Star, it can be difficult at first to convince farmers that pesticide use is harming their livelihood rather than helping. But there has been some success with cabbage farmers, who are plagued by the diamondback or cabbage moth. The Government actually introduced a species of wasp that fed on the moth’s caterpillars however pesticides kill this wasp too. Once farmers understand that stopping the use of pesticide will allow the wasp to do its job naturally, pesticide use on cabbage farms is reduced.
The spread of organic farming is fantastic news for future generations and big brands such as Costco are jumping on the bandwagon, funding organic farming practices in a bid to try and keep up with the growing consumer demand. It is thought that organic farming may be the only way to protect humans from pesticide-related illnesses – but there is still a long way to go in terms of convincing Big Agri to take a full u-turn on pesticide use.