Shumei International is ending 2016 having participated in both the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 22) in Marrakech and the Conference of the Parties on the Convention on Biological Diversity (COP 13) in Cancun. These events took place in November and December respectively and involved a gathering of member states, high-level government officials, environmental advocates and experts, and thousands of non-governmental organizations and concerned citizens to tackle the most pressing issues around climate change and the rapid loss of biodiversity.
In Morocco, COP 22 adopted a number of decisions, which made clear that the implementation of the Paris Agreement is underway. The Marrakech Partnership for Global Climate Action outcome document states “nothing can stop global climate action”. Shumei co-sponsored a side event in the Green Zone during COP 22 on ‘Reframing Food and Agriculture: From Degenerative to Regenerative’ in partnership with Regeneration International, a project of the Organic Consumers Association, Biovision Foundation and IFOAM. Shumei’s delegate, Barbara Hachipuka Banda, founder of the Natural Agriculture Development Program Zambia, spoke about the benefits of Natural Agriculture practices, such as mulching and saving traditional seeds, which help to mitigate the effects of drought caused by the climate crisis. The event was extremely well attended and streamed live.
The following month, the COP 13 conference took place in Cancun under the theme of “Mainstreaming Biodiversity for Well-Being”. More than 8,000 delegates attended the conference, which adopted over 70 decisions on a wide range of topics. The conference also addressed living in harmony with nature and highlighted the links between biodiversity and agriculture as well as ecosystem restoration.
As a participant, Shumei attended many events and meetings throughout the first week. It was particularly encouraging to hear the call for mainstreaming biodiversity into agriculture sectors and the important role of small-holder farmers and agroecology in food security and community well-being. There was a strong presence of NGOs focused on protecting seed, plant, animal, and soil biodiversity in the context of sustainable agriculture. Among them were Regeneration International, a project of Organic Consumers Association, IFOAM and Navdanya with Dr. Vandana Shiva.
October 16th is World Food Day – “Climate is changing. Food and agriculture must too.” This year’s theme highlights the impact of climate change on food security and the need to address food and agriculture in climate action plans, especially as the world community prepares for the next UN Climate Change Conference, COP 22, from 7-18 November 2016 in Marrakech, Morocco.
According to the World Health Organization, nearly 1 billion people are undernourished globally and more than 2 billion adults were overweight or obese. At the same time, the global population is growing steadily and is expected to reach 9.6 billion by 2050. To meet such a heavy demand, agriculture and food systems will need to adapt to the adverse effects of climate change and become more resilient, productive and sustainable.
As FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva said, “Sustainable agriculture is paramount to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger, to sustain natural resources, to adapt to and mitigate the impacts of climate change, to achieve healthier food systems and to build resilience against crises and natural disasters.”
This is what drives Shumei’s work around the world. Shumei Natural Agriculture projects in Africa, Asia and South America are supporting small-holder farmers to cultivate wholesome and nutritious food without the use of any chemical additives and save indigenous seeds to increase their resilience to climate change. More importantly, Natural Agriculture encourages harmony with nature in everyday life choices, which includes consuming food that maintains soil health. Soil health is key to its ability to store and absorb carbon, which helps reduce climate change. Buying fruits, vegetables and food products grown without the use of harmful chemicals supports regenerative, healthy soils.
Find out about more ways you can take action to fight climate change here. Join the conversation #WFD2016 #NaturalAgriculture #RegenerativeAgriculture #HealthySoils
The United Nations celebrates the International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer on 16 September. The ozone layer protects the Earth from the harmful rays of the sun, thus helping to preserve life on the planet. This year’s theme is “Restored by a World United.”
Recently, Jason Hickel from The Guardian wrote an article stating that “our best shot at cooling the planet might be right under our feet.” His article reiterates the importance of healthy “soil” as the solution to climate change.
“Soil is the second biggest reservoir of carbon on the planet, next to the oceans. It holds four times more carbon than all the plants and trees in the world. But human activity like deforestation and industrial farming – with its intensive ploughing, monoculture and heavy use of chemical fertilisers and pesticides – is ruining our soils at breakneck speed, killing the organic materials that they contain. Now 40% of agricultural soil is classed as “degraded” or “seriously degraded”. In fact, industrial farming has so damaged our soils that a third of the world’s farmland has been destroyed in the past four decades.
As our soils degrade, they are losing their ability to hold carbon, releasing enormous plumes of CO2 into the atmosphere.”
This is where regenerative agricultural practices will have an important part to play. Regenerative agriculture is deeply rooted in an understanding and respect towards the soil. Ecological methods like regenerative and natural agriculture focus on restoring the soil biodiversity and its capacity to hold carbon and actively pull CO2 out of the atmosphere. New evidence supports these claims.
“The science on this is quite exciting. A study published recently by the US National Academy of Sciences claims that regenerative farming can sequester 3% of our global carbon emissions. An article in Science suggests it could be up to 15%. And new research from the Rodale Institute in Pennsylvania, although not yet peer-reviewed, says sequestration rates could be as high as 40%. The same report argues that if we apply regenerative techniques to the world’s pastureland as well, we could capture more than 100% of global emissions. In other words, regenerative farming may be our best shot at actually cooling the planet.”
Soil has always been an important part of human and animal livelihood through time as a source of plentiful food, but it has never been more critical for us to pay attention to its potentials and truly co-exist with it rather than simply exploit it for its resources. Link to The Guardian article here.
Read on Huffington Post here, or below.
From watermelon and berries to sun-ripened tomatoes and peaches, summer is when we most enjoy local fruits and vegetables, so fresh and plentiful just now. Produce defines summertime picnics; like many of you, I savor these foods because they’re in-season, local and readily available.
However, in America, we don’t always balance or value our bounty. We actually experience a food glut, daily, along with a resulting situation of horrible waste.
According to U.S. Department of Agriculture 2015 figures, a shocking 31 percent of all U.S. produced food goes uneaten; each American discards more than 36 pounds of groceries every month. The USDA further found that a typical American throws out 40 percent of all the fresh fish, 23 percent of the eggs, and 20 percent of the milk that they buy.
Imagine what that means for the 800 million people who suffer from starvation across the globe. Waste actually encourages a self-perpetuating cycle, driving the specious argument that we need to grow more food and use chemicals that promise increased yields. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, globally we waste 2.9 trillion pounds of food annually, enough to feed those 800 million people twice over, with millions of pounds to spare.
Why does this happen? In a way, the problem is too much food. Immense quantities of grain, dairy, meat and produce are reaching U.S. stores – but retailers’ policies and consumer behavior translate into immense waste. By design, retail chains discard tons of fresh produce because it is “unattractive,” and dispose of food nearing sell-by dates, even though it’s still fresh. Consumers are encouraged to stock up on on-sale foods, but how many of us have thrown away food we thought we might eat, but never got around to cooking?
In the developing world, most losses occur further down the supply chain. Inadequate infrastructure, storage, refrigeration, transportation and similar, mean that most wasted food simply never makes it to the people waiting for it.
These impacts resonate. When food is wasted, the resources that it took to produce, process and transport it are also wasted. Massive amounts of chemicals, fertilizer and fuel; acres of land; and — in the U.S. — 25 percent of all freshwater used, go to produce food that is, incredibly, thrown away. Uneaten food ends up in landfills, where its decomposition accounts for nearly 25 percent of U.S. emissions of methane, a greenhouse gas more than 20 times more harmful than CO2, according to the EPA.
We have to be smarter about getting food to where it needs to be. It requires communication, policy revision and a different mindset.
• Firstly, greater coordination will be needed between farmers, wholesalers and retailers. Developing farmer-buyer agreements will be critical, as well as raising awareness among industries, retailers and consumers to the problem and challenges of food waste.
• We need to stop wasteful retail policies that dispose of imperfect looking produce, and need to work with sellers and consumers to rethink their idea of what’s acceptable. Perceptions can change: heirloom tomatoes taste wonderful, but two decades ago, no one would have bought tomatoes that were not perfect.
• We also need to make good use of food that is presently thrown away, in addition to instituting industry practices to decrease the staggering levels of waste and municipal and Federal laws that indemnify donors, such as the U.S.’s Bill Emmerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act.
There’s a common thread in these solutions, and that takes us back to our summertime picnic. It all comes down to value and respect. We value the food we are eating because we know its perishable. And, we respect the food we eat, and the resources it represents, by bringing a limited amount — only what we can actually eat and share with friends. If we respect food, we aren’t tempted to waste it, and that is what we need to recognize and rekindle.
The culture of mass consumption and production without respect to nature further distances us from our food. Through Natural Agriculture and organic production, respect for food is changing. As consumers, we should remember what goes into growing and distribution. By supporting smaller-scale, local agriculture and markets, buying what we can actually eat, respecting food and changing the way we produce, consume and distribute food, we will go a long way to correcting the epidemic of waste in our lives and in the lives of others around the world.
In Italy, the land where the slow food movement began, there is a growing number of organic and conventional farmers who are converting to a natural way of
farming. In June 2016, Shumei hosted a Natural Agriculture conference where farmers from throughout Italy shared their experiences in forgoing the use of all chemical and natural fertilizers and pesticides, in order to practice Shumei Natural Agriculture.
Natural Agriculture began to take root almost a decade ago when Marcello Dragoni was introduced to Shumei and the Natural Agriculture approach to
producing pure, wholesome food without the use of any additives and utilizing heirloom seeds. Marcello is the director general of Montalbano, a large olive farmers’ cooperative in Tuscany, which controls the production of extra virgin olive oil in the Montalbano region. Looking back, he says he was skeptical of the approach at first, because olive oil production is a major industry in the region. However, Marcello said, “I realized that even my ancestors were practicing agriculture that was very close to this approach, so this convinced me that this could be the way to go.”
From there, Marcello began to view Natural Agriculture as a way of life and looked to identify farmers who were already interested in ecological agriculture or those who were looking at farming as something beyond a commercial endeavor. For him, Natural Agriculture in Italy is more about promoting a way of living and quality food to encourage others to rethink their relationship with nature. Modern life is changing society’s relationship with agriculture, and yet, with Italian culture and so many traditions centered around food and family, it is no surprise that Natural Agriculture has begun to take center stage.
Little by little and farmer to farmer, the practice of Natural Agriculture has grown. As each farmer presented at the conference, it was clear that they faced challenges, but they overwhelmingly felt that the quality of the crops being produced outweighed difficulties and any initial reservations they had. In addition, Marcello and many of the farmers said that they see the need for a renewed relationship with nature and agriculture. The farming culture of Italy is losing the significance it once held, and there is a growing gap in the deep knowledge of the land with each succeeding generation. The need to safeguard these traditions and culture, and to address the challenges of climate change, food security, consumerism and sustainability for future generations, has created fertile ground for Shumei Natural Agriculture to take root.
Participants of the Natural Agriculture conference, included olive farmers, and those growing ancient grains to produce flour for pasta and bread, and grapes for wine and balsamic vinegar, all of which are proving to be of exceptional and award-winning quality. In a relatively short time, the practice of Natural Agriculture has spread to a number of dedicated family farmers and business owners who see the value of producing food in a way that will leave the earth in a better way than they found it. Natural Agriculture may have lessened their production, but as with the slow food movement, this is not seen as a negative as the quality is exceptional, it has minimal environmental impact and has proven to be more resistant to pests and disease It is a lifestyle choice and shift in mindset that appreciates the natural growing cycles and the laws of nature. The result is a balanced ecosystem, working in harmony with nature rather than trying to control it.
As Natural Agriculture in Italy continues to grow, we will be sharing the stories of farmers, their experiences, their plans for the future and their passion for, and connection to, nature.
Feeding the World’s Population
According to World O Meters, a website that monitors population growth by day, there are more than 7.4 billion people on Earth right now. The world’s population is expected to reach 9.7 billion by 2050, according to a recent UN report.
On July 11, the international community recognizes World Population Day and the issues surrounding how to ensure a thriving future for all its citizens. Oftentimes, the question of how to feed the world’s population is a topic of discussion and debate, along with food security and yields. However, rather than focusing solely on agricultural practices to maximize yields, there is a growing interest in regenerative agriculture, food waste and nutrition to create more sustainable sources of quality, nutrient-dense food.
Under current practices and conditions, global agriculture takes up 1/3 of total land mass, and currently consumes 75% of accessible fresh water. Feeding over 9 billion people by 2050 will require supporting and investing in resilient systems of food production. It must also be recognized that there is a culture of mass production that goes hand in hand with a culture of mass consumption. A sustainable future means striking a happy medium in maximizing production efficiency without sacrificing food’s nutritional value nor compromising the safety of our bodies or that of the environment to the broader exposure to synthetic elements. An increasing number of studies show that fertilizers reduce the fertility and the water-holding capacity of soil in the long run. Degraded soil is vulnerable to runoff and erosion and limits the growth of stabilizing plant roots. Worse yet, when soil has a harder time holding water, it makes crops ever more reliant on irrigation. Too much chemical fertilizer can also cause plant stress and weakens them, making them more vulnerable to diseases and insect attacks.
Investing in the Future of Agriculture and Food
That is why it is more important than ever to invest in sustainable and regenerative agriculture to ensure adequate food supplies into the future. This includes, not only producing more food and wasting less, but also ensuring the sustainability and impact of our food production and source. From securing seed freedom for farmers, implementing agricultural methods that restore the soil, stopping soil degradation and ultimately producing nutrient-abundant foods, sustainable and regenerative agriculture such as Natural Agriculture will be the long term solution and key to meeting the demands of our growing global population, as well as combating the effects of climate change.
The best sustainable agricultural practices not only source higher quality food (like ancient grains) for the benefit of human health, but also benefit – instead of harm – the ecosystem that they operate within. Nutrient-dense food and crops will also provide another element of sustainability, as they will have the capacity to sustain our bodies better and longer with less quantity. This will mean weaning us off of the culture of mass consumption and production and ultimately allowing us to focus on bettering the quality of food and the livelihoods of people around the globe.
In this way, we can ensure food for both today and tomorrow’s population. That is the future we must all strive towards.
Alice Cunningham is the executive director of international affairs for Shumei International.
In America’s early days, the nation’s founders required a potent symbol to communicate the concept of freedom. In colonial Boston, the symbol that became synonymous with freedom was an elm tree.
The Liberty Tree, as it came to be known, was a gathering place for advocates for freedom. Though eventually cut down by opponents, its symbolic resonance only grew, gracing flags and pins, with elms being planted throughout the new nation.
This week following Independence Day, and throughout this summer, I hope that we can all remember the Liberty Tree and why it was such a powerful symbol. And, why the growth that it promises may continue to resonate as we undertake a new struggle for freedom.
The struggle we now face is no less a campaign for self-determination than the American Revolution. Much like the Revolution, what is at stake is personal freedom and the ability to choose your own destiny.
It is a struggle over the freedom to choose what you can grow and eat; each of us is involved, whether we know it or not. The right to choose seems basic. Indeed, you may assume that farmers have the ability to save and exchange seed that they are growing our food with, but you would be wrong.
Seeds are a gift of nature, the result of centuries of labor by farmers worldwide who have conserved heirloom seeds and thousands of natural varieties. But over the past few decades, legislation restricting access to seeds helped diminish small farmers’ holdings and have established industrial agriculture as globally dominant.
Under certain laws, seed varieties must undergo complicated tests and registration procedures. Costly and lengthy processes, these favor companies with deep pockets that produce seeds — many of them genetically modified — dependent upon chemicals for their cultivation.
The putative goal of these laws is to protect food security. The ironic result is that our food security — both in the U.S. and globally — is threatened due to a lack of agro-biodiversity. As we face the uncertainty of climate change, we need more, rather than less, types of seed capable of flourishing under conditions such as drought, insects or flood.
With a handful of global seed companies monopolizing the market, we have handed our freedoms over to corporate boards. Right now, according to the ETC Group, six multinationals control 75% of all private-sector plant breeding research, 60% of the commercial seed market and 76% of global agrochemical sales.
New laws which make it illegal for farmers to save and exchange seed are a further threat. Ethically and ecologically unjustified, seed patents grant exclusive rights for inventions; but, seed is not an invention. Further, genetically engineered seeds contaminate our farms, removing the option for GMO-free food.
That’s untenable. It’s time for a declaration of independence that recognizes that seed is the source of life and seed freedom is the birthright of every farmer and food producer. Seed Freedom — an initiative created by activist, author and scientist Dr. Vandana Shiva — has done just that: created the Declaration on Seed Freedom. It’s very much needed right now.
We the people should also secure the right of farmers to save, exchange, evolve, breed and sell seed. This guarantees the right of all people to food freedom, the right to know what we are putting in our bodies and the right to exercise self-determination every time we step into a market. As growers and eaters, remember that our choices — our demand to eat and grow foods that are the products of natural and organic agriculture — provide moral and monetary support for this struggle.
As we think back on the birth of our independence, it’s clear why the patriots chose a tree as the symbol of liberty and why we can use this symbol today. The most basic of liberties is the right to choose and that right has deep roots in our democracy. Farmers and gardeners are right now struggling to regain that right. This movement is growing, sending roots deeper and shoots upward, but it isn’t over. We need all of you who care to help fight for this most basic of freedoms — the freedom of choice.
Today (6/17/2016), on the international Day to Combat Desertification, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon declared, nearly 800 million people are chronically undernourished as a direct consequence of land degradation, declining soil, fertility, unsustainable water use, drought and biodiversity loss, requiring long-term solutions to help communities increase resilience to climate change.
“The livelihoods and well-being of hundreds of millions of people are at stake. Over the next 25 years, land degradation could reduce global food productivity by as much as 12 per cent, leading to a 30 per cent increase in world food prices…This is why world leaders made land degradation neutrality one of the targets of the Sustainable Development Goals [SDGs]. That means rehabilitating at least 12 million hectares of degraded land a year. The transition to sustainable agriculture will also alleviate poverty and generate employment, especially among the world’s poorest. By 2050, it could create some 200 million jobs across the entire food production system. On this Day, I urge cooperation among all actors to help achieve land degradation neutrality as part of a broader effort to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and build a future of dignity and opportunity for all.”
To mark the importance of the international Day to Combat Desertification and Drought, we excerpt passages from Shumei and Navdanya’s book, “Visions of the Living Soil”, by two leading thinkers of food policy and soil health highlighting the need for countries and people to work together to achieve a sustainable future for our planet.
‘Globally, around a third of all soils are degraded due to erosion, compaction, soil sealing, salinization, acidification, pollution and nutrient depletion caused by unsustainable soil management practices.
Desertification and soil loss is a worldwide problem and a major explanation of why we cannot eliminate hunger…the impact of soil problems is felt locally, regionally and globally: food and water insecurity, biodiversity loss, climate change, and the economic, political, and humanitarian consequences are organically connected and have transboundary impacts.
Over the last three decades, the issues of climate change, loss of biodiversity, desertification, drought, and land degradation have become more prominent. Each phenomenon is often linked to the others. However, while biodiversity loss and climate change have received significant attention in the realm of international environmental law, soil, as the primary basis for all terrestrial biodiversity, has until recently been largely ignored in international venues and by national governments.”
– Hilal Elver, UN Special Rapporteur on Right to Food
“By implementing sustainable land management practices and scaling them up, we can simultaneously protect our natural capital (land and soil), help populations adapt to climate change and build resilience to drought. We would also reduce the risk of forced migration and conflict resulting from environmental degradation and at the same time secure sustainable food production. Achieving land degradation neutrality is not only achievable but it is the logical, cost effective next step that is a crucial building block of the post 2015 development agenda.”
– Melchiade Bukuru, Chief of UNCCD Office in New York
True Cost of American Food Conference
14-17 April 2016
San Francisco, California
Last month, Shumei participated in the first-ever conference on the “True Cost of American Food” organized by the Sustainable Food Trust in partnership with the Global Alliance for the Future of Food. The gathering took place in San Francisco from 14-17 April 2016 with hundreds of participants, the largest event of its kind, according to the organizers. The four days were filled with high-profile and talented speakers and experts from the food and agriculture sector, as well as public health experts, environmental scientists, community, animal welfare and workers’ rights advocates, policy consultants, philanthropists and researchers. There was also a special message from the Prince of Wales.
True Cost Accounting is an evolving tool for assessing the costs and benefits of different food production systems. It helps us to account for the hidden costs and damage of our present intensive farming systems on the environment, such as air and water pollution and soil degradation, climate change and social costs from wages to healthcare costs associated with obesity and disease. The main take away was we need to look at food from a systems approach and the dynamic relationship between the food choices we make, where it is produced, the impact it’s production has on the environment and our health as well as the health of the farmers and laborers who are providing us with this food and the economic impact this food has on all of these components.
True Cost Accounting emphasizes the interconnectedness of nature and all living things and the choices we make – a way of thinking that is very much in line with Shumei Natural Agriculture. Rather than just an approach to producing pure, wholesome and nutritious food without the use of any additives, Natural Agriculture is a way of living that is grounded in an overriding respect for nature. Recognizing the interconnectedness of all living things helps us to make better decisions and guides the way we interact with the natural elements and with others. This holds true for the “high cost of cheap food,” which was pointed out by the public health experts at the conference. Eating cheap food has a cost to our health, our environment, our workforce and our economy through the tremendous healthcare costs associated with unhealthy diets. To learn more, you can visit the conference website for videos from the panel discussions.
GYEONGJU, REPUBLIC OF KOREA
30 May – 1 June 2016
The 66th United Nations Department of Public Information (DPI)/ Non-Governmental Organization (NGO)
Conference will be held in the City of Gyeongju, Republic of Korea, from 30 May to 1 June 2016.
This is the first time the DPI conference will be held in Asia. The theme of the 66th UN DPI/NGO Conference is “Education for Global Citizenship: Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals Together.”
The Conference will take place during the launch year of the newly adopted Sustainable Development Goals, and aims at mobilizing civil society and academic organizations around the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, focusing on education and global citizenship as drivers for change and action.
Conference participants will finalize an education action agenda to mobilize civil society – local and international NGOs, networks, activists, academics, educators, policy makers, businesses and youth – reflecting the aspirations and ambitions of all global citizens.
For more information about the conference, visit http://outreach.un.org/ngorelations/conference-2016/about/