The UN is banking on organic farming

Agriculture has been identified as one of the five most important sectors in the United Nation’s Environment Programme (UNEP’s) Global Economy Initiative.
Issue date: 14 November 2008

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Agriculture has been identified as one of the five most important sectors in the United Nation’s Environment Programme (UNEP’s) Global Economy Initiative. The initiative, titled “Green New Deal” is similar to former US President Franklin D Roosevelt’s “Deal”, which helped the recover from the Great Depression of the 1930s.

It would aim to restructure economies away from a dependence on oil towards cleaner and more sustainable sources of energy. Achim Steiner, the UNEP under secretary and executive director, said at the launch of the initiative that the financial fuel and food crisis are in part a result of speculation and governments’ failure to intelligently manage and focus markets, but they are also part of wider market failure, triggering ever deeper and disturbing losses of natural capital and nature-based assets coupled with an over-reliance on finite subsidised fossil fuels. S teiner said failure to implement a more environmental friendly economy would lead to more boom and bust cycles, a climate-stressed world and a collapse of fish stocks and fertile soils up to forest ecosystems.

He encouraged companies to invest in clean technologies and natural infrastructure and to identify sectors most likely to generate the biggest economic returns with environmental sustainability and job creation in mind. These sectors include clean energy, rural energy, sustainable agriculture, ecosystems infrastructure, reduced emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, and sustainable cities, including in aspects of planning, transport and green building.

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T he UNEP clearly communicated its preference of organic and sustainable production methods over more traditional production methods, even though organic production is viewed as a saviour by some, but a niche or luxury product unable to meet the needs of billions of people by others. pointed out that organic agriculture employs more people than commercial agriculture. A survey by and the United Nations Conference on Trade and the Environment in East Africa also found that over 90% of studies show organic or near organic agriculture results in increased soil fertility, water control, improved water tables, carbon sequestration and biodiversity. Other findings include a 128% increase in crop yield when switching from traditional farming methods to organic farming methods.

The report concludes that organic and near organic agricultural methods and technologies are ideally suited to many poor, marginalised smallholder farmers in Africa, as they require minimal or no external inputs, use locally and naturally available materials to produce high-quality products, and encourage a whole-systemic approach to farming that is more diverse and resistant to stress. – Glenneis