Monthly Archive: August 2012

Aug 31

Zakho Small Villages Projects: Pushing for Organic Agriculture in Iraq

In 1997, Zakho Small Project Villages (ZSVP)started its organic agriculture activities in Iraq. Through the dissemination of organic agriculture techniques, awareness raising on environment and pesticide hazards, rural extension and  training courses for farmers, rural women, agriculture department staff and students, ZSVP pushed for Organic Agriculture in Iraq.

At that period, we (as an NGO interested in Organic Agriculture) faced many problems with the government, first because of economic sanctions. Indeed, the main goal of the government was to produce food without taking any consideration to the value, health and environmental issues. Secondly, we faced problems with the FAO policy in Iraq, as the FAO due to the UN resolution 986 (Oil for Food) was regularly importing a lot of agriculture chemicals  and distribute to or oblige farmers to receive these chemical inputs as a condition to receive other equipments.

Until 2003, organic activities were focused on Northern governorates of Iraq, but after this date, our organic program expanded to cover other areas of Iraq thanks to the support of international organizations.

In 2009, the Organic agriculture department is founded in the Ministry of agriculture in Iraq which expected to play an important role in dissemination of organic agriculture among farmers especially in middle and southern governorates.

During 2010-2012, many conferences and meetings arranged by universities and Iraqi academics recommended to adopt organic agriculture as a mean to reduce the deterioration in the environment and agriculture land which was caused by the successive Gulf wars between 1980-2003.

Organic Grape Production in Iraq

In 2010 and for the first time in Iraq, 37 farmers (Grapes growers) were organically certified  and work is ongoing to increase the land organically cultivated and certified farmers.

Today, organic agriculture is studied in colleges of agriculture in the Kurdistan region and Iraq especially to graduate students.

These are important achievements that need to be underlined, however there are still many challenges the organic farmers have to face in Iraq. They include:

  • Drought and desertification problems and lack of will from the government to tackle this problem;
  • Lack of law and legislation in Iraq to provide a legal framework for organic production;
  • Non availability of organic inputs and high prices if available;
  • Lack of organic marketing of farmers’ produce;

These challenges can be overcome by organizing advocacy campaigns for the protection of agricultural land in Iraq against unsustainable practices, procedures and the government’s mismanagement of soil and agricultural land. The governement should be pressured to create a legislation and framework for organic production, as well as for marketing and certification of organic products.

IFOAM can contribute and play an important role in arranging training programs on organic agriculture for farmers and rural women. This is why ZSVP is Proud member of IFOAM.

Dr. Abid Alli Hasan
Zakho Small Villages Program Coordinator in Iraq 

Aug 24

Wolf + DiMatteo Associates: What are the lessons from Rio+20 and who will provide the leadership forward?

The lack of resounding endorsement from Rio+20 for sustainable agriculture and food systems will not stop us from moving forward individually and collectively, as we have been doing for 40 years, to put the principles of organic agriculture into practice and model the future we want.




What are the lessons from Rio+20 and who will provide the leadership forward?

As an outside but interested observer of the Rio +20 Summit – one who followed the blogs and news reports, and read the proposed language from NGOs, business, and governments, I was profoundly impressed with the level of preparation for and participation in Rio+20 and its side events.  The disappointment expressed about the final declaration was, in my opinion, amplified because of the high expectations going into the Summit.  From one viewpoint, Rio+20 was a success because of the fact that so many diverse opinions and perspectives came together with the hope of mapping out a way forward to a sustainable future.  Realistically there could not have been a truly revolutionary outcome because governments, and international bodies of governments, are rarely leaders of change.  Inspirational leadership, creative solutions, and risk-taking actions remain the role of non-government, public interest, or civil society organizations.  Rio+20 provided many of these organizations the opportunity to debate, negotiate and work on common ground, and to deliver unified messages.  The strength and presence of the NGOs, and even business groups, was well-reported during and after the Summit – another positive outcome!

But what happens now?  Will the NGOs, that were at Rio+20 and found like-minded partners, continue to work together to achieve the future that they had envisioned?  Will their collaborations begun at Rio+20 be short-term or long-term?  What lessons were learned about reframing discrete organizational interest areas to contribute to a larger sustainable vision?  How will these leaders leverage the relationships built at the Summit?  There haven’t been many answers to these questions since June, perhaps because organizational resources, personal and financial, are tapped out or time is needed for thoughtful reflection on best next steps. The Bonn Sustainability Days: Addressing Our Future Today, November 22-28th, organized by IFOAM may provide answers, but hopefully more – actions that we can take within our organizations and businesses as part of the global movement to shape an equitable, resilient, diverse, and sustainable world.

Katherine DiMatteo
Wolf, DiMatteo + Associates

Aug 17

Biosun Certifier: Passengers, all aboard!

It is with our utmost excitement and pleasure to seize the opportunity in such allegory of grace and beauty on the wings of Organic Agriculture, flying to the sustainable livelihoods. Development in every dynamic society such as the I.R. Iran even at the beginning of the organic way and organic movement is indispensable event many challenges still lay ahead and it takes heroic innovations to overcome them. Awareness to the organic farming and organic products is growing rapidly in Iran. Both governmental and private authorities are trying to enhance organic chains in the country. Iran, because of different climatic conditions has a good potential to produce different kinds of agricultural products which are mainly Saffron, Figs, Grapes, Citrus, Date Palm, Pomegranate, Almonds, Pistachio, Walnuts, wild collection of medicinal and ornamental plants and all other crop plants. In most cases, traditional agriculture in Iran is a kind of non-certified organic (neglected organic production) because most of  the practices and processes in these agro ecosystem are compatible with organic agriculture. Many farmers in Iran do not use chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Then, it caused that Iran’s land for agriculture is not too much contaminated with agrochemicals.

Results of Rio+20 can and should be the stop en route to the perspective horizons of sustainability, where bright spots become recognized and a clear pathway paved for the future generations of every entity on earth. We do believe that Organic does imitate nature and there should be no boundaries or barriers if we are destined to preserve the integrity of our planet. None of the expecting conditions of sustainability are beyond the technical or resource reach of our societies if we listen to the whispers of every beating heart, appreciating the giving hands and cherishing the talented bright minds. Let organic becomes the journey, beginning in delight and ending in wisdom.

Together we stand, divided we fall and the spirit should carry on.

Biosun Certifier

Aug 03

Biovision Foundation: We can work with the Rio+20 outcome

Interview with Dr. Hans Rudolf Herren, Winner of the World Food Prize, Founder and President of the Biovision Foundation

The final declaration of the Rio+20 conference has drawn a lot of criticism from the media and from NGOs around the world. It is widely seen as a toothless document that does not really address the world’s problems and allows big business to continue to exploit the planet. Biovision’s media releases from Rio have been much more positive – how come?
Of course it would have been better if the declaration had been more specific with regard to setting goals now, time frames in which they should be achieved and appointing international bodies to oversee and, if necessary, enforce these processes. But the decision to establish an inclusive and transparent intergovernmental process on sustainable development goals by the end of 2013 goes some way in that direction and will help to move us beyond the Millennium Development Goals and guide the Green Economy into a true three dimensional approach involving the environment, society and the economy. This also has relevance for agriculture.
But it is also true that with regard to the over-exploitation of marine and forest ecosystems the declaration reflects an irresponsible and ignorant attitude. However, in the current world economic climate that was never going to happen. No one was prepared to bear more costs or agree to measures that might restrict growth.
However, it could have come much worse. Some proposals for the text meant an actual step back from standards that had been set well before Rio+20, such as people’s right to clean water and sanitation which was to be worded much more vaguely. Pressure from some countries prevented these setbacks.
I see the glass as half full and believe some passages form a good basis for progress towards a sustainable future.

The push for a more sustainable agriculture being one of them?
Yes, one such area is sustainable agriculture and food systems, where the Biovision/Millennium Institute team had been active for about a year ahead of the conference. With the help of a number of like-minded allies, such as NGO’s and delegations committed to sustainable development, in particular the Swiss one, we managed to get much of our wording into the final text. So we are very pleased that the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) has been charged with supporting country led efforts to guide the transition to sustainable agriculture. The CFS will model its support after the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD) and, most importantly, the CFS will follow a multi-stakeholder procedure, which includes not only representatives from governments, business and science, but especially includes representatives of the farming community and civil society.
This is a great basis on which Biovision and its partners can build to advance both, the agriculture and food system transformation projects on the ground and at policy level in our focus countries in Africa.

But did you not want more from Rio+20?
Yes, with respect to agriculture the words ‘transformation’ or ‘transition’ of global agricultural policy that we had proposed on the basis of the IAASTD report were dropped. For example, we would have welcomed some firmer commitments to supporting smallholder farmers and granting land rights – particularly for women, who are the majority of these farmers who are denied such rights in many countries.
I also missed a sense of urgency from political leaders. The IAASTD report clearly stated that business as usual is not an option – and the report was published in 2008. We simply cannot afford to lose more time!
 Nevertheless, our position and that of the people we work with on the ground has been strengthened. This is a process that involves many interests and we think that we’re at least heading in the right direction.

And what about agricultural policies and the interest of big agricultural business?
We certainly weren’t the only ones, lobbying before and during Rio+20. Big business still would like everybody to believe that only huge mono-cultures and the massive use of genetic engineering, fertilizers and pesticides can feed the world.
But the IAASTD report clearly came to the conclusion, that this goal can only be achieved with sustainable agriculture, based on smallholder farmers who already produce 70% of the world’s food. And with the world population due to grow beyond 9 billion by 2050, we cannot afford the ill-effects for the environment as a whole, the destruction of fertile soils, the huge waste of food and the social repercussions caused by the methods used by industrial agriculture. Not to mention the speculative nature of food trading fostered by these companies to maximize their profits.
We did feel in Rio that our view is becoming more and more accepted. But the fight must go on.

Where else could you get support for your fight?
One important player in this field is the consumer. An important point also addressed in the declaration. Unless we learn to shop more responsibly, realise that one calorie of meat requires seven calories of grown food and immense amounts of water to produce, we will be even less able to nourish the growing global population.
And today we accept that nearly one billion people are suffering from hunger. At the same time over a billion are obese, courtesy of cheap, processed food. With the growing middle classes in the emerging economies, this problem is going to get much worse if we do not get through to the consumer with these messages.

And then you have UN Secretary Ban Ki-moon’s Zero Hunger Challenge…
Yes, Ban Ki-moon’s vision presented in Rio that not a single person should go hungry in our world of plenty lends strong support to our position. We can even take some credit for this initiative, as it largely reflects the outcome of a High Level Roundtable that we organized in March in New York on this very subject.
Ban Ki-moon stressed the need for sustainable food systems everywhere and demanded greater opportunities for smallholder farmers given their great share in the world’s food production. His office has been very supportive of our initiative to place sustainable agriculture higher on the agenda of Rio+20. Overall, we had support from many quarters, some of it we had not expected; another reason why my overall assessment of Rio+20 is largely positive and I think we can really work with these results.
One very positive experience in Rio was the constructive cooperation with other NGOs, delegations and representatives of the private sector. So we invite all like-minded and concerned people to join our efforts. Especially the private sector is welcome to sit down with us to seek solutions for making this world a better place, not just for now, but for our children as well.

Biovision Foundation for Ecological Development, Switzerland