Over 400 participants came together in Rome to share scientific knowledge and experiences at ‘The International Symposium on Agroecology for Food Security and Nutrition’. Speeches were given by about 50 experts, mostly academic professors and researchers, but also from leaders of civil-society organizations, the private sector and government officials.
IFOAM attended the event with a delegation made up of Andre Leu, Mathew John and Cristina Grandi. Other IFOAM members and organic supporters were also present.
IFOAM President, Andre Leu, who presented a paper on “Alternative to external inputs”, highlighted that organic agriculture is part of the agroecology paradigm, and that innovative and science-based methods provide the practices and inputs needed for soil nutrition, pest, disease and weed control that lead to good yields. Mathew John, IFOAM World Board, shared his experiences on working at Nilgiris - a mountain area in South India - on strengthening small indigenous farmer, pastoral and gatherer communities through organic agriculture. Cristina Grandi, IFOAM Food Security Campaigner, presented a poster on the “Benefits of organic farming systems” examining environmental, economic and social aspects as well as data on soil health, water efficiency, biodiversity, energy efficiency, yields, profitability, nutrition and employment.
The link between agroecology and organic farming was included in many speeches. Keynote Speaker, Pablo Tittonell, from Wageningen mentioned successful organic experiences and claimed, “considering the externalities of conventional products, organic farming is cheaper”. He also said “we need policies to support organic farmers to move from input substitution to whole on-system redesign" and “the organic market could play a role for a systems redesign”.
Hidemichi Sato, Parliamentary Vice Minister for Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Japan, mentioned government commitment to increasing the land under organic production. In a video message Laudemir André Muller, Minister for Agrarian Development, Brazil, talked about a set of public policies for a more sustainable production model, in particular the National Plan on Agroecology and Organic Production, designed for rural development and healthier food.
Closing the Symposium, Graziano da Silva, FAO Director-General, said, “today we open a window at FAO, that was considered for 50 years the Green Revolution Cathedral”. He committed FAO to spreading this Symposium throughout many regions. In 2015, meetings on agroecology will be organized in Asia, Africa and Latin America.
We hope the window widens and that organic agriculture is included in the process as it has been in the symposium. Highlighting the significance of this event, Andre Leu said “this conference is a very important step in the process of shifting agriculture from the industrial paradigm of reductionist monocultures dependent on high levels of external toxic synthetic inputs to truly ecological and socially fair systems where families use on farm functional biodiversity to provide the ecosystem services needed to obtain good, healthy and resilient yields of food”.