Features Tech

Published on February 12th, 2013 | by I Am Awake

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More science, less unsustainable and expensive technologies for food growth

Small farmers struggling with poverty and hunger could be helped with techniques for producing more food. Companies like Monsanto would have us believe it’s technology that these farmers need, but the UN Food and Agriculture Organization has reviewed the science on improving crop yields for small-scale farmers, and they found that all the science proves that it’s the FAO calls agro-ecological methods — what we know as organic — that improves crop yields for small farmers.


An excellent report by Jill Richardson in Alternet, “How the US Sold Africa to Multinationals Like Monsanto, Cargill, DuPont, PepsiCo and Others,” illustrates this fact with examples from Kenya:

The stunted, diseased corn one sees [in Kenya] was planted from the “best” store-bought seed and ample chemical fertilizer was applied but the corn growing on the demonstration farm of Samuel Nderitu’s NGO, Grow Biointensive Agricultural Center of Kenya (G-BIACK), is healthy and thriving. So are G-BIACK’s other vegetable crops and fruit trees. Why will he harvest a successful crop when his next-door neighbor will not?

G-BIACK is an organic farming training center, and the crops there were grown with manure and compost instead of chemical fertilizer. G-BIACK also saves seeds instead of purchasing seeds from the store. The farmers in this region, near the city of Thika, farm tiny plots — as small as one-fifth of an acre and averaging one acre. Many use chemical fertilizer, but since it is expensive, they often fail to use enough. “Here, in Kenya, if you plant anything without chemical fertilizer, if you don’t know anything about organic farming, it can’t grow,” says Nderitu. But, as G-BIACK proves, those who do know how to farm organically achieve great success. G-BIACK was named the NGO of the Year in 2010 by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization and the Government of Kenya. And its next-door neighbor with the failed crop is now attending its trainings to learn organic farming.

About 15 km outside of Thika, a farmer named James is also thrilled he switched to organic farming. Farming only one-fifth of an acre, he used to require two $60 bags of fertilizer to plant his crops. Now, he uses manure from his pigs and he is happy with the results. Like most Kenyan farmers, James grows corn, beans, pumpkins, kale, and other crops for family consumption. For income, he can sell a pregnant sow for $240 or a month-old piglet for $20. Before, he would spend much of that money on fertilizer, but now he can use it for other things. He proudly demonstrates how to use his new well, which his increased income allowed him to afford. Next, he plans to buy a water pump so he doesn’t have to pull the water out of the well one bucket at a time.”


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