From ROBIN BROAD and JOHN CAVANAGH
There is battle raging across the world over who can better feed its people: small-scale farmers practicing sustainable agriculture, or giant agribusinesses using chemical fertilizers and pesticides.
It was small-scale organic farmers growing rice for themselves and local markets in the Philippines who first convinced us that they could feed both their communities and their country. Part of what convinced us was simple economics: These farmers demonstrated substantial immediate savings from eliminating chemical inputs while, within a few harvests—if not immediately—their yields were close to or above their previous harvests. From these farmers, we also learned of the health and environmental benefits from this shift.
Moving up from what we learned in the Philippines to examine other countries, we have concluded that small-scale farmers practicing different kinds of what is now called agroecology can feed the world. Agroecology extends the organic label to a broader category of ecosystem-friendly, locally adapted agricultural systems, including agro-forestry and techniques like crop rotation, topsoil management, and watershed restoration. (For more details on our research and conclusions, check out our “Can Danilo Atilano Feed the World?” in the current Earth Island Journal, the magazine of the California-based Earth Island Institute.)
Eager to learn more and network with others from across the globe, Robin accepted an invitation from the Transnational Institute and the International Institute of Social Studies to speak about our Philippine research at a global conference in the Netherlands on alternative approaches to food and hunger.
She came away even more convinced that small-scale farmers are our only hope. She also came away excited to have met an impressive range of experts on the subject, including a bold champion for small-scale farmers: