From Samarcande to Viols le Fort and Montpellier, CARI puts agro-ecology at the heart of agricultural transition

From Samarcande to Viols le Fort and Montpellier, CARI puts agro-ecology at the heart of agricultural transition

CARI shares the criticism that the world’s food systems are unsustainable because they produce 1/3 of greenhouse gas emissions, are responsible for 80% of biodiversity loss, pollute air, soil and water, are vulnerable to climate change, fail to solve malnutrition problems and maintain social inequity and the loss of cultural values. Just as they ruin many farmers.

In the last quarter of 2023, CARI was the driving force behind a number of events designed to advance the implementation of agroecology, of which it is a pioneering promoter, particularly as an instrument for combating land degradation and desertification.

The agro-ecological transition: what are we waiting for ?

One such event took place on December 12, 2023 in Viols le Fort, in partnership with the Tiers Lieu La Source and the bookshop la Bestiole, when Marc Dufumier, honorary professor of agronomy and author of numerous books on agroecology, was invited to speak at a conference entitled “la transition agroécologique, qu’est-ce qu’on attend ?” (Agroecological transition: what are we waiting for?).

Introducing the conference, Patrice Burger explained that agroecology and Viols le Fort had a shared history, thanks to CARI (since 1998) and before that, from 1988 to 1998, to CIEPAD, notably through the personality of Pierre Rabhi, then president of CIEPAD. He recalled that the first official training course in Europe on agroecology (particularly for drylands), organized by CIEPAD in conjunction with the Centre Nationale des Etudes Agronomiques des Régions Chaudes (CNEARC), was held at CIEPAD on the Roussières Cazarils estate in 1992.
Many of the participants (from Burkina Faso, Senegal, Mali, France, etc.) have gone on to become experts and have developed training centers, support or certification services, etc. in their own countries. Some of these trainees are at the origin of major advocacy work in their countries, contributing to the adoption of a national agroecology policy in Burkina Faso in 2022.

Yves Gorbatoff explained how the recent project of Tiers Lieu la Source intends to include the agroecological dynamic in its future concerns and activities, notably through the creation of an agroecological garden and reflections on nutrition, territorial food security, etc….

In front of a full and attentive audience, Marc Dufumier set out not only to describe the history and foundations of agroecology, but also to deconstruct certain preconceived ideas on the subject, drawing on scientific explanations based on examples from several countries, and denouncing the impasses of the current agricultural model worldwide: ecological impasse, economic impasse and social impasse. He also discussed the consequences of the Green Revolution model, based on the use of synthetic fertilizers and phytosanitary products, machinery, fossil fuel consumption, reduced biodiversity, human health problems…

With figures and formulas to back it up, but also with a sense of humor, Marc explained the comparative advantages of agroecology in all these areas, and “enabling farmers to adapt their production systems to climate disruption, reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, sequester carbon in the soil and preserve a very high level of biodiversity, without causing major pollution of water, air and soil”. Based on his most recent book “la transition agroécologique, qu’est-ce qu’on attend?“, he explained that “inspired by agroecology, we could produce enough to feed a world population of over 9.5 billion in a healthy and sustainable way by 2050”. Often provocative, evoking “a conventional agricultural model that is now dangerous” notably through endocrine disruptors that will reduce healthy life expectancy by around ten years, illustrating his remarks with real-life situations on several continents, he also humorously recalled how a Madagascan farmer had taught him about agroecology when, as a young agronomist with a recent degree, he was supposed to be teaching her the recipes of modern agronomy… Atmosphere!

The visibly delighted audience was not short of questions, and the session had to be brought to a close at the agreed time.

Transforming food systems: what agroecology has to offer public policies

On the same subject, a parallel event was organized on November 15 in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, during the 21st session of the Review Committee of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification. Under the title “Transforming food systems, what agroecology can offer public policy”, and in partnership with the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the French Ministry of Ecological Transition, the program focused on the potential of agroecology to combat drought. It included interventions from France in terms of public policy orientation in favor of agroecology, from the FAO on the work undertaken since 2018, in particular the adoption of the 10 elements of agroecology, from the International Agroecology Coalition bringing together 47 countries and 150 various organizations, an intervention from the Iranian NGO CENESTA focusing on livestock farmers’ strategies for adapting to global warming, and from CARI on its work on agroecology in the face of drought. An intervention by CARI in the plenary of the official session, and support for it from the European Union, backed up the statement “agroecology has proven its relevance in the fight against land degradation” in the final text of the negotiations. This is good news.

Food systems at risk: what opportunities for the agroecological transition?

Finally, on November 28, 2023, CARI joined forces with Montpellier’s Maison des Solidarités Internationale as part of the “food, cultures and food sovereignty” fortnight, for a joint conference at the Salle Rabelais between Marc Dufumier and Damien Conaré, Secretary General of the “Chaire Unesco Alimentations du Monde”, entitled “Food systems in danger: what opportunities for the agroecological transition?”. The two presentations, in the form of a dialogue facilitated by CARI’s Patrice Burger, helped to decipher the current challenges facing food systems, including food insecurity and poverty, and the solutions that agroecology can offer in terms of productivity and the proper functioning of ecosystems, human health, and the social and economic situation experienced by many of the world’s farmers. A large and enthusiastic audience of over 200 people, many of them students in agricultural courses, fuelled the debate, in particular to seek clarification on certain technical aspects of the production system, but also on the long-term effects and impacts of agroecology. Several speakers pointed out that agricultural education was not moving quickly and clearly enough in the direction of agroecology, and was continuing to teach a model that was in many ways obsolete and no longer met the challenges of the present and the future.

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