IFAD Conference on New Directions for Smallholder Agriculture 24-25 January 2011 in Rome, Italy
Organic Agriculture is the most appropriate way to achieve ecological, agronomic and socio-economic outcomes for smallholder farming. Chief IFOAM Food Security Campaigner, Cristina Grandi highlighted that organic agriculture, with its techniques in the soil, water and biodiversity conservation, as well as its integrated and sustainable farm management, can be highly productive, achieve family food security and improve incomes. Organic agriculture is a solution not only for meeting the needs of rich niche markets but also for local markets, food security and poverty reduction.
The conference had the aim of discussing the findings of IFAD's Rural Poverty Report 2011 and to examine various options facing smallholders; what support can be extended to them and by whom; how far can they really become the engine for sustainable development of developing countries.
However, the conference was focused on how small farmers can get advantage from business opportunities, in particular on growing food demand from international and domestic commodity markets. In this sense, organic agriculture was only considered as a niche market, interesting but too small for getting attention in particular from government representatives. The need for sustainable agriculture models, based on agroecological approach, were relegated only to a session discussion without to influence the entire conference. Regarding climate change adaptation the discussion was focused on how farmers can get insurances for dealing with climate catastrophes.
Moreover, small farmers organizations were practically absent in the conference; most of the 80 speakers were from UN agencies, Universities, government agencies, research institutes, donors and private sector; only two represented farmers’ organizations. What is the sense of discussing new directions without to hear the voices and the ideas from who has to put in practice them? It seems that in this conference IFAD forgot its own policy and president statements. In February 2010 during the Third Farmers’ Forum, IFAD President, Kanayo F. Nwanze said “IFAD’s partnerships with the farmers’ organizations have improved IFAD’s own understanding of rural poverty. It has abled us to ensure a greater focus on the smaller and poorer farmers and we have benefited from the local and indigenous knowledge and experience, which – in turn –resulted in better projects and more sustainable benefits to smallholders”.
We hope in the future IFAD conferences, farmers' organizations, including the organic farming movement, could have a bigger role, with the possibility of putting their ideas and solutions for small farmers poverty reduction. Solutions that are not reduced to business opportunities, but include health, nutrition, environment, and climate change adaptation.