The “Divide” in the Alternative Agriculture Movement: Fueling the Debate
July 13, 2008
Miguel A. Altieri, University of California, Berkeley
There is no doubt that we need an alternative agricultural development paradigm, one that encourages more ecologically, biodiverse, sustainable and socially just forms of agriculture. Strategies are needed which lead to the revitalization of small and medium sized farms, and point the way towards the reshaping of the entire agricultural policy and food system in ways that are economically viable to farmers and consumers. Throughout the world there are hundreds of movements that are pursuing a change toward ecologically sensitive and socially just farming systems from a variety of perspectives. Some emphasize the production of food that is safe for the consumer, in a way that is environmentally friendly and prioritizes animal welfare and the conservation of wild biodiversity. Others promote alternative marketing strategies , while others land stewardship and still others the empowerment of peasant communities. Although one may argue that most of these groups advocating a shift towards sustainable agriculture share the same goals, there are huge and at times insurmountable differences not only in objectives but in ideological perceptions of the root causes of the unsustainability and inequities of the agrarian structure and more importantly on the strategies on how to change such structure.
Small farms as a planetary ecological asset: Five reasons to support the revitalization of small farms in the global South
May 13, 2008
Miguel A. Altieri, President, Sociedad Cientifica Latino Americana de Agroecologia (SOCLA)
The Via Campesina has long argued that farmers need land to produce food for their own communities and for their country and for this reason has advocated for genuine agrarian reforms to access and control land, water, agrobiodiversity, etc, which are of central importance for communities to be able to meet growing food demands. The Via Campesina believes that in order to protect livelihoods, jobs, people’s food security and health as well as the environment, food production has to remain in the hands of small scale sustainable farmers and cannot be left under the control of large agribusiness companies or supermarket chains. Only by changing the export-led, free-trade based, industrial agriculture model of large farms can the downward spiral of poverty, low wages, rural-urban migration, hunger and environmental degradation be halted. Social rural movements embrace the concept of food sovereignty as an alternative to the neo-liberal approach that puts its faith in an inequitable international trade to solve the world’s food problem. Instead, it focuses on local autonomy, local markets, local production-consumption cycles, energy and technological sovereignty and farmer to farmer networks.