Starting this week Dutch Prime Minister Rutte and the governing parties are engaged in a new round of discussions on how to reduce the budget deficit to an acceptable level. The economic crisis is hitting the Netherlands hard and the politicians aim to cut back on a wide range of programs and services, including development aid. Unfortunately there is no sign of interest to not only reduce expenditures but to also look at possible solutions that take sustainability as a starting point. Why not use the crisis to change Dutch policies and ensure that we respect the planetary boundaries and include people’s well being all over the world?
Can Rio+20 play a role in motivating politicians like those in the Netherlands to look beyond their own backyard and open the door for necessary transformations in for instance the agricultural sector? The green revolution has been for years the mantra of agricultural ministers and presented as the solution. We are now witnessing the unintended results. More farmers than ever before are faced with serious debts leading to an alarming number of suicides. And how do we explain an increase in hunger around the world and especially in rural areas where food is produced? We must have taken a wrong road somewhere.
Over the last 20 years Hivos worked with farmers and their organizations around the world to come up with solutions for a real green agricultural sector that enables farmers to have a decent life. Their insights and experiences show that practices that take biodiversity serious offer not only a lot to the men and women farmers themselves but also to the world at large. Data show that such practices like low external input, organic farming or agroforestry are able to produce enough to feed the world also in times of climate change and growing population. There are many advantages that Hivos witnessed in the fields but only writing about them will hardly impress someone.
These positive experiences have developed on their own, without a lot of support from the government. What if governments would change their policies, become really green and help these islands of success to become oceans of change? I am not very hopeful about the Dutch politicians. There is little acknowledgment of the positive impacts of resilient agricultural practices on people and environment. There is for instance no sign they will cut back on subsidies for fuel based fertilizers or chemicals. But luckily there are a number of Southern governments making moves that will impresse the world, including the Dutch. So, If the Dutch Prime Minister Rutte– probably empty handed – decides to travel to Rio this might inspire him to include a longer term perspective when cutting in his budget. The farmers around the world that have developed such successful resilient agricultural practices deserve it.
Programme Officer Green entrepreneurship Hivos
www.hivos.nl or www.hivos.net (for documents on smallholder farmers in a globalizing market, on biodiversity, poverty and livelihoods or on foodsecurity)