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South Asia-Canada dialogue on the future of agriculture

 

Dear friends:

Three women farmers from the Deccan Development Society were a part of a unique event that took place last month in Canada. An event which has a great implication for the Future of Agriculture on this planet. A group of small farmers, majority of them women, from two corners of the world, South Asia and Canada, met in Canada in the third and fourth week of August to dialogue, what was billed as South Asia - Canada Dialogue on the Future of Agriculture. As a beginning, this was one of the most significant initiatives in recent times. The entire group was committed to organic agriculture, and through that committed to the Earth and her health. And thereby the health of our planet.

The statement below was the culmination of a fortnight long interaction between the farmers. The South Asian farmers included, apart from the DDS farmers, two farmers (one woman and one man) each from Naya Krishi Andolan, Bangladesh, USCCN in Nepal and Green Movement of Sri Lanka and one farmer from Lok Sanjh in Pakistan. Dialogueing with them sharing their experiences and perspectives were nine farmers from Canada among whom were five women farmers from different parts of that country.

The group was accompanied by several activists from South Asia and Canada. During this interaction facilitated by the South Asia Network for Food, Ecology and Culture [SANFEC, the South Asian network which has a membership of over 200 civil society groups] along with two Canadian institutions, International Development Research Centre [IDRC] and Inter Pares.

It was an incredible experience for everyone. While the South Asian farmers were delighted to learn that in Canada which they had thought was a monocultured, chemical agri-desert, there were such oases of commitment from individual organic farmers and their organisations. This valiant struggle of Canadian organic farmers moved the hearts of the South Asian farmers.

On the other hand the South Asian farmers impressed the intensity of their farming culture upon their Canadian counterparts. They articulated that organic farming for them is not an issue of technology but of culture. Biodiversity for them was an integral design of their complex farming systems and not an assembly of small monocultures which they witnessed on the Canadian farms. They advised the Canadian farmers that livestock, crops, vegetables --- all of these must be integral elements of organic farming systems and the absence of anyone of these elements would again take away from the cultural principles of organic farming. They said again and again that their farming can feed the millions and they needed no biotechnology or TNCs to help feed their populations.

Both sets of farmers articulated that control over their agriculture was the most critical issue and that was the point that united them. To see that farmers from what is dubbed as one of the poorest parts of the world interacting with farmers from one of most affluent countries of the world and still finding a common ground on which they could march together was a near-spiritual experience.

Ultimately, both the Canadian and South Asian farmers declared that Earth was their Common Ground and it is in relating to her that they could come together.

Please read : THE COMMON GROUND.

With warm regards

P V Satheesh