Laudatory Speech for Sue Edwards and Tewolde Berhan, recipients of the Lifetime Achievement Award
Markus Arbenz, Executive Director of IFOAM - Organics International, had the honour of introducing the recipients of the Lifetime Achievement Award on the occasion of the Rapunzel Naturkost One World Festival in Legau, Germany, on September 8 2017.
Ladies and gentlemen, dear friends of Rapunzel and of IFOAM – Organics International,
Organic Agriculture 1.0 is the world of our pioneers. You know them: Rudolf Steiner, Maria Bigler, Albert Howard, Jerome Rodale or Anna von Thun. You may also know Masanobu Fukuoka from Japan (Natural Farming) or Bill Mollison (Permaculture) from Australia. Those people “invented” Organic Agriculture and we admire their lifetime achievements. Each of us has his or her heroes and the friends of the One World Award have, since 2008, included Engelhard Boehnke from Witzenhausen in their hearts.
- Or in 2010, Bashkar Save, the Mahatma Gandhi of the Indian organic movement;
- Or in 2012, Anna Primavesi, the Brazilian that inspired the whole of Latin America for the uptake of Agroecology;
- Or in 2014, Fred Kirschenman from North Dakota.
Today, I have the privilege to invite you to Africa, our neighboring continent in the south. And this time I am honored to present neither a man nor a woman, but a couple: a family that have made an impact and are still making an impact, together in a wonderful manner.
Ladies and Gentleman, every day, we all drink tea, we eat organic tropical fruits, we use organic spices or we wear organic cotton from Africa. We all know about poverty and hunger in Africa and we learn about land-grabbing, droughts, depleted soils and the lack of prospects of many people that start migrating.
But, have you ever asked the questions: Who has shown alternative ways in Africa? Who encouraged, created hope and inspired the people in the organic agriculture movement? Who has developed solutions in Africa and put them into practice? And who has proved that it works well when denying Green Revolution strategies and one-sighted industrialization of agriculture with technology from Europe and North America? Who has fought in international conferences for the rights of Africa and Africans so that they can be food sovereign instead of dependent of the rich western world? Who managed to gain the hearts of our African organic friends so that they can gain self-confidence and energy for their commitments?
To answer these questions, I invite you on an inner journey to Ethiopia. Many of you remember terrible pictures of hunger in Ethiopia and well-intended help, for instance in the context of „Live Aid“, a campaign of Bob Geldof in the 1980s.
One of the regions that was particularly hit was Tigray in the Northeast of the country, where the so-called modernization of agriculture depleted soils with terrible impacts on people. In Tigray, in the midst of a degraded landscape and an impoverished population, and in contact with desperate authorities, our laureates changed the paradigm. They started to work based on traditional structures and systems instead of pushing farmers and farm laborers away with the underlying goal of productivity increases. They put the diversity of plants and animals, the wealth of nature, the century old knowledge and, first of all, the health and fertility of soils in the focus of their development efforts.
They asserted that:
- YES, we can feed people with Organic Agriculture;
- YES, there is enough biomass for the production of sufficient, diverse and healthy nutritious food; and
- YES, People in Tigray know how to successfully apply this kind of regenerative agriculture.
And they proved it!
Today, Tigray looks different. The impoverished region with its burned-out soils turned into a flourishing, bio-diverse and productive landscape.
The Ethiopian Government, FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations), the Alternative Nobel Prize: they all recognized the efforts and celebrated Tigray as a success story.
Our laureates have used these experiences to continue their commitment:
- For example, she founded the Ethiopian Institute for Sustainable Development, ISD;
- For example, he, as the Minister of Environment, committed himself to the extension of these ideas to other regions in Ethiopia.
- For example, both of them engaged in international UN development and environment conferences. She, for instance, met the Bhutanese Prime Minister, who announced 100% Organic Bhutan at an IFOAM – Organics International event at the Rio+20 earth summit. He worked as official representative of Ethiopia in the many official international climate change conferences from Copenhagen to Paris.
They have reliably and effectively fought for dignity of human beings, for integrity of nature and the harmonious and collaborative work of humans and nature: with strong words and with impressive examples!
Our laureates would not stand here today if their ideas and actions would not have a symbolic value for the African organic movement. Our African friends see them as pioneers such as you do with Anna von Thun or Hans Mueller. That is why today is a day of joy and delight for Africa.
Ladies and Gentlemen, may I present to you:
Sue Edwards und Tewolde Berhan!