Responding to the Massive Earthquake In Nepal

BGR Staff

A monk inspects damage at Svayambhunath Temple. Photo: Narendra Shrestha—EPA

On Saturday, a massive earthquake of 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck Nepal with devastating force close to the capital, Kathmandu. The death toll from the earthquake has already passed 4,000, and many more people living in remote regions are feared dead and injured. Tens of thousands have been rendered homeless, without food and water, and close to a million children in affected areas are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance.

While Buddhist Global Relief is not a disaster relief organization, the BGR board has provided an emergency donation of $10,000 to support the relief efforts. The donation has been evenly distributed among five relief organizations: UNICEF, CARE, Direct Relief, Oxfam America, and the International Medical Corps.

People wishing to contribute to the relief efforts should donate directly to reputable agencies and organizations working on the ground. Here are several suggestions:

The Nepal Red Cross Society is the epicenter of the relief efforts and is a direct way to help the people of Nepal. Here is its online donation link; please note that their website connectivity is on and off, so you might not be able to get through.

The American Red Cross is working with the Nepal Red Cross to coordinate additional support. You can help by selecting Nepal Earthquake Relief on their donation page.

CARE is on the ground and preparing to provide temporary shelter, ready-to-eat meals and water purification and latrine construction. You can learn more about their relief plans here or go directly to their donation page to help.

Direct Relief is preparing and delivering medical resources to local health facilities that are seeing patient surges for quake-related conditions. They are also working with medical companies to secure additional supplies as needed. You can help these efforts with an online donation.

Oxfam International is working to help provide clean water, sanitation and emergency food for those affected by this disaster. Donations can be made via Oxfam America

International Medical Corps is on the ground coordinating their response and sending additional staff and resources to support relief efforts. You can support the Nepal Earthquake Response online, or by texting MED to 80888 to give $10.

UNICEF is working with the government and other partners to meet children’s immediate needs in water and sanitation, protection, health and nutrition. You can help by donating online.

For more suggestions see the CNN report: “How to help victims of the Nepal earthquake” by Christopher Dawson, Sunday April 26, 2015.

New Report: Feeding the World Without GMOs

Charles W. Elliott

Feeding the World Without GMOsA new report, Feeding The World Without GMOs , by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) refutes the corporate biotech/industrial narrative that genetically modified organism (GMO) foods offer real solutions to global hunger and food insecurity.

Despite significant progress over the past 30 years, the world still faces an ongoing crisis of hunger and food insecurity. 805 million people continue to go hungry, according to estimates by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.[1] The world also faces a “hidden hunger” problem —micronutrient deficiency—which affects some two billion people, causing long-term, irreversible health effects and significantly impairing economic productivity. We face stark challenges posed by population growth: by 2050 the demand for food will be twice what it was in 2005.[2]

Feeding the World Without GMOs takes a hard look at ways to address this problem and concludes that GMO food is a non-solution. In nine pages of tight synthesis, it analyzes: (1) why GE crops don’t contribute to food security; (2) what would work to boost the global food supply; and (3) the unfulfilled promise of genetic engineering.

 Why GE crops don’t contribute to food security

GE crops don’t meaningfully contribute to global food security for a variety of reasons. First, about 80 percent of the land area dedicated to growing genetically engineered crops is for GMO corn and soybeans[3] and both are overwhelmingly used for animal feed and biofuels. As the report says, “[m]ost of the investment in GE crops ends up feeding cows and cars, not people.”

In 2010, about 5 percent of all the calories grown globally were used to make biofuels, [4] and in the U.S., about 40 percent of corn production is used to produce ethanol, mostly to blend with gasoline for motor vehicle fuels.

Investment in improving yields in already high-yielding areas with GMO crops does little to improve food security; it mostly helps the bottom line of seed and chemical companies, industrial scale agribusiness, and corn ethanol producers.

Because hunger is primarily the product of poverty, and because the economic productivity of smallholder farmers is mostly limited by lack of basic resources such as fertilizer, water, and infrastructure to move crops to markets, investment in GMO crops will do little to address these fundamental issues.[5] Moreover, according to EWG’s report, GMO crops have not been demonstrated to outperform traditional cross-breeding techniques in improving crop drought tolerance and efficiency of resource use, two touted benefits of GMO technology.

And if improving crop yields is the actual goal, investment in GMO crops is highly inefficient. As the report points out, “Industry supported research found that it can take more than $100 million to research and develop a single genetically engineered variety, [6] money that would be better spent to address the factors that frequently limit crop yields. By comparison, it typically costs only about $1 million to develop a new variety by traditional breeding techniques.” [7] [8]

Real Solutions – Low Environmental Impact, Big Payoffs

EWG’s report identifies several real solutions to the problem of hunger: smarter use of fertilizers; reducing food waste; shifting crop production from biofuels and animal feed to food calories for people; reducing meat consumption; and focusing resources and investment in improving the livelihoods of smallholder farmers. It’s worth noting that smallholder farmers produce the bulk of food in developing countries: seventy percent of Africa’s food supply[9] and an estimated eighty percent of the food consumed in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa together.[10] Supporting them directly supports the global food supply.

Smarter Use of Fertilizers

Industrial scale agriculture requires significant inputs of chemical fertilizers and causes significant greenhouse gas emissions. [11] This is especially true for corn, eighty-five percent of which is genetically engineered. The EWG researchers suggest that in place of massive fertilizer use in industrial-scale farms in rich countries, its use should be focused in places with nutrient-poor soils where it would have the greatest impact, potentially increasing global production of major cereals by thirty percent.[12]

In contrast to industrial-scale agriculture, BGR has consistently supported sustainable smallholder agricultural techniques,[13] which have been shown to increase average crop yields up to seventy-nine percent.[14]

Reducing Food Waste

The EWG report notes that in the United States, we waste about 40 percent of national food production – sixty million metric tons a year, worth an estimated $162 billion.[15] That is the equivalent of about 1,500 calories of discarded food per person each day[16] – enough to feed 170 million people a 2,700-calorie per-day diet.

We noted in a previous BGR blog post[17] that ending the wasting of food would bring to the world “triple net benefits”: reducing food insecurity, financial costs, and environmental damage.

As we said in that post, the benefits of reducing food waste in combatting hunger are huge:

Food insecurity impacts:

Reducing food losses by just 15 percent would be enough food to feed more than 25 million Americans every year at a time when one in six Americans lack a secure supply of food to their tables.

Environmental Impacts:

Getting food from the farm to our fork eats up 10 percent of the total U.S. energy budget, uses 50 percent of U.S. land, and swallows 80 percent of all freshwater consumed in the United States. Yet, 40 percent of food in the United States today goes uneaten… [T]he uneaten food ends up rotting in landfills as the single largest component of U.S. municipal solid waste where it accounts for almost 25 percent of U.S. methane emissions.

Financial impacts:

American families throw out approximately 25 percent of the food and beverages they buy. The cost estimate for the average family of four is $1,365 to $2,275 annually.

Changing Diets

Meat consumption causes an enormous loss of field-grown calories that could be used to feed people. It also imposes huge demands on natural resources, consumes massive amounts of water, and causes significant greenhouse gas emissions. Shifting to a diet less reliant on meat would increase overall food availability and reduce the burden on natural resources. “[I]n theory, shifting all crops grown for animal feed to human food could increase food availability by 54 percent.”[18] Cutting global meat consumption in half could increase food supplies by 27 percent.

Genetic Engineering: “Unfulfilled Promise”

GMO companies have historically focused on crops with the highest commercial potential, not necessarily the ones that would most alleviate world hunger. The most widely grown GMO crops are corn, soybeans, canola, sugar beets and cotton, not exactly the solution to a world of hungry people, especially given that so much of our corn production is used for biofuels and over 80 percent of the soybeans are used to feed livestock destined for meat production. [19]

GMO proponents routinely claim that genetic engineering will result in significantly increased crop yields, especially in conditions of drought.

This promise remains unfulfilled, as GMO technologies have failed to significantly increase yields in major food and animal feed crops despite two decades of effort and hundreds of millions of dollars of investment. The EWG report points out in twenty years of U.S. experiments with GMO corn and soy, they have not increased yields. (Heinemann et al. (2014). “Sustainability and innovation in staple crop production in the US Midwest.” International Journal of Agricultural Sustainability).[20]

As the EWG report concludes, reliance on GMO crops to reduce hunger will fall short of meeting global needs. It diverts resources from more promising opportunities. Alternative strategies of smarter resource use, supporting sustainable smallholder farming, reducing food waste, and reducing meat consumption will both increase food supplies and reduce environmental impacts from food production.


[1] “Global Hunger Index”, http://www.ifpri.org/publication/2014-global-hunger-index.

[2] Tilman, D. et al. (2011). Global food demand and the sustainable intensification of agriculture. PNAS http://www.pnas.org/content/108/50/20260

[3] Barrows et al. (2014). Agricultural Biotechnology: The Promise and Prospects of Genetically Modified Crops. Journal of Economic Perspectives

[4] Searchinger, T. and R. Heimlich. (2015). “Avoiding Bioenergy Competition for Food Crops and Land.” Washington, DC: World Resources Institute. http://www.wri.org/publication/avoiding-bioenergy-competition-food-crops-and-land. By 2050 biofuels mandates could consume the equivalent of 29 percent of all calories currently produced on the world’s croplands.

[5] Seventy percent of the world’s poor are farmers. Smallholders, food security and the environment. Rome, Italy: International Fund for Agricultural Development (2013), http://www.ifad.org/climate/resources/smallholders_report.pdf. In regions such as Africa, farmers can only afford a tenth of the fertilizer recommended for their crops. Gilbert, N. (2014). “Cross-bred crops get fit faster.” Nature 513, 292 http://www.nature.com/news/cross-bredcrops-get-fit-faster-1.15940

[6] McDougall, Phillips. (2011). The cost and time involved in the discovery, development and authorization of a new plant biotechnology derived trait, https://croplife.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/Getting-a-Biotech-Crop-to-Market-Phillips-McDougall-Study.pdf

[7] Gurian-Sherman, Doug “Plant Breeding vs. GMOs: Conventional Methods Lead the Way in Responding to Climate Change” Civil Eats, October 10, 2014, http://civileats.com/2014/10/10/plant-breeding-vs-gmos-conventional-methods-lead-the-way-in-responding-to-climate-change/

[8] Goodman, M. (2002). New sources of germplasm: lines, transgenes, and breeders. North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC http://www.cropsci.ncsu.edu/maize/publications/NewSources.pdf

[9]. Agriculture at a crossroads: Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) report (Vol. V, 2009). International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development. Washington, DC: Island Press.

[10] Viewpoint: Smallholders can feed the world. Rome: International Fund for Agricultural Development, 2011, http://www.ifad.org/pub/viewpoint/smallholder.pdf

[11] Recent analyses show that livestock and their by-products account for 51% of annual global GHG emissions. See, http://www.worldwatch.org/node/6294

[12] Mueller, N. D. et al. (2012). “Closing yield gaps through nutrient and water management”, Nature http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v490/n7419/full/nature11420.html

[13] See, http://buddhistglobalrelief.me/tag/sustainable-agriculture/

[14] Smallholders And Family Farmers, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (2012), http://www.fao.org/3/a-ar588e.pdf

[15] Nixon, Ron “Food Waste Is Becoming Serious Economic and Environmental Issue, Report Says” New York Times, Feb 25, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/26/us/food-waste-is-becoming-serious-economic-and-environmental-issue-report-says.html

[16] Reich, A. H. & Foley, J.A. “Food Loss and Waste in the US: The Science Behind the Supply Chain.” April, 2014, https://www.foodpolicy.umn.edu/policy-summaries-and-analyses/food-loss-and-waste-us-science-behind-supply-chain

[17] https://buddhistglobalrelief.wordpress.com/2012/09/05/ending-the-wasting-of-food-energy-our-environment-triple-net-benefits-2/

[18] Cassidy et al. (2013). “Redefining agricultural yields: from tonnes to people nourished per hectare”, Environmental Research Letters, http://iopscience.iop.org/1748-9326/8/3/034015

[19]   “About 85 percent of the world’s soybeans are processed, or ‘crushed,’ annually into soybean meal and oil. Approximately 98 percent of the soybean meal that is crushed is further processed into animal feed with the balance used to make soy flour and proteins. ” http://www.soyatech.com/soy_facts.htm

[20] In a detailed report, Failure To Yield: Evaluating the Performance of Genetically Engineered Crops, the Union of Concerned Scientists also analyzed GMO crop yields and concluded that GMO technology has failed to deliver on the promise:

“The lack of substantial yield increases has not been due to lack of effort. The several thousand field trials over the last 20 years for genes aimed at increasing operational or intrinsic yield indicate a significant undertaking. Yet none of these field trials have resulted in increased yield in commercialized major food/feed crops, with the exception of small increases from Bt corn.”

http://www.ucsusa.org/sites/default/files/legacy/assets/documents/food_and_agriculture/failure-to-yield.pdf

 

 

BGR’s 4th Concert to Feed the Hungry

BGR Staff

IMG_4970

On Thursday, April 30, 2015 at 7:00 p.m., legendary saxophonist David Liebman, bassist Larry Grenadier, singer/songwriter Rebecca Martin, jazz and blues vocalist Sandra Reaves-Phillips, drummer Winard Harper, organist Akiko, and pianist Mijiwa Miyagima celebrate International Jazz Day as headlining artists at Buddhist Global Relief’s 4th annual Concert To Feed The Hungry. The Concert To Feed the Hungry perpetuates the global diversity of jazz in Harlem.

This annual concert, produced by jazz saxophonist Dan Blake, brings together an all-star lineup of leading jazz artists with a global mission to assist impoverished communities around the world. Buddhist Global Relief sponsors projects around the world that help poor communities overcome hunger and malnutrition and provides education for women and girls in at-risk communities.

The day-long event will commence with 2 music workshops organizaed by Jazzmobile and The New Heritage Theatre Group.

Visit www.concerttofeedthehungry.org for more information about the concert and the artists.

Trees Are Feeding People in Haiti and Jamaica

Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi

TTFF_SFA farmer getting trees-1

SFA farmer getting trees

In October 2014, BGR made a grant to the Trees That Feed Foundation (TTFF) for 610 breadfruit trees to be distributed in Haiti and Jamaica in early 2015. With the grant, TTFF secured 610 breadfruit trees, which were grown to the appropriate size in Haiti and Jamaica for distribution in February and March of this year. Approximately 305 of the trees have been sent to the Smallholder Farmers Alliance (SFA) in Gonaives, Haiti. SFA has over 2,000 community members and works with small-scale farmers and their families in Haiti to help restore tree cover and increase food production.

In March, SFA Co-founder and Director Timote Georges started picking up the trees at TTFF’s partner nursery in Port-au-Prince for delivery to the Alliance headquarters in Gonaives. Mr. Georges has distributed an initial small batch of breadfruit trees and will continue to pick up the trees until all 305 reach Gonaives. Once trees arrive in Gonaives, they are distributed among 11 nurseries within the Alliance, and then further distributed to Alliance members and their families. The members are all very experienced in agroforestry and TTFF is confident that the trees will continue to grow and thrive.

TTFF_StudentsAndTeacherPlanting-1

Students and teachers in Jamaica planting trees

Approximately 305 of the breadfruit trees were delivered to schools across Jamaica as a part of TTFF’s Trees That Feed in Schools (TTFIS) initiative. Through this initiative, Rotary, TTFF and the Ministry of Education work to provide food-bearing trees to schools in Jamaica as a sustainable source of food for students. Planting breadfruit trees in schools not only helps alleviate childhood hunger, improving diets and academic achievement, but also improves the environment. Approximately 30 breadfruit trees were distributed to seven schools in Kingston and approximately 275 trees to 20 schools in Portland.

The mission of the Trees That Feed Foundation is planting trees to feed people, create jobs, and benefit the environment in developing countries. The foundation provides sustainable food sources to communities through fruit-bearing trees with edible fruit and high yields. TTFF supplies trees, equipment and training. This model improves nutrition and also provides long-term independence from food imports and agrochemicals.

The first tree selected by TTFF for distribution is the breadfruit tree. The nutritional benefits of breadfruit were recently featured in the article “One Food Security Remedy in the Face of Global Crises,” published April 4th on the progressive website Truthout. The article quotes Global Breadfruit’s Josh Schneider as saying: “One tree can change the life of a family for generations; ten trees can change the fortune of a village. It can do everything a potato can but in a more sustainable way.”

Caribbean breadfruit pie

Breadfruit bears a fruit somewhat smaller than a soccer ball. One fruit can easily provide the carbohydrate portion of a meal for a family of five. A mature tree can produce up to a half ton of fruit per year. In controlled orchard settings the trees are heavily pruned for easy reaping. A hectare, planted at a density of 125 trees, out-produces all tropical starch crops, yielding upward of 30,000 kilos of fruit annually. Since some varieties of breadfruit have high provitamin A carotenoides, a diet heavy in breadfruitcan greatly reduce afflictions like infant blindness.

(Based on a six-month report to BGR from the Trees That Feed Foundation)

Ending Extreme Poverty by 2030: A New Initiative

Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi

HKI-Bangladesh Markets

Over the past few months, global leaders representing a wide spectrum of faith communities collaborated on a  project convened by the World Bank Group to send forth a collective moral call to end extreme poverty by 2030, a goal development experts consider feasible. The group worked together to draft a narrative titled “Ending Extreme Poverty: A Moral and Spiritual Imperative,” due to be officially released tomorrow (April 9th) at noon EDT. The statement, which grounds the imperative to end extreme poverty in humankind’s spiritual and religious traditions, should open a new front in our global efforts to create a more just and equitable world, a world that works for everyone.

Buddhist Global Relief has been an integral partner in this project, whose aim corresponds to our own guiding vision: “the vision of a world in which debilitating poverty has finally been banished; a world in which all can avail themselves of the basic material supports of a meaningful life.” I had the privilege of serving as a member of the committee responsible for drafting the statement and helped to ensure that the final formulation would be acceptable to Buddhists as well as to representatives of the monotheistic faiths.

According to the document, achieving the goal of ending extreme poverty will take two commitments: to be guided by the evidence of what works, and to use our voices to compel and challenge others to join in this urgent cause. While meeting the first commitment will be the task of policy experts, members of the faith communities must rise to the second. To fulfill our responsibility we must continually insist that no one suffers the indignities of chronic hunger, destitution, homelessness, and medical neglect. We must affirm that everyone has an intrinsic human right to sufficient nutritious food, shelter, medical care, and a sustainable environment. And we must do more than speak; we must also demand and inspire concrete action.

The document calls for a holistic approach, proposing that we go beyond mere cosmetic patches to tackle the underlying causes of poverty, including preventable illness, lack of access to quality education, joblessness, corruption, and violent conflicts. It calls for an end to discrimination against women, ethnic minorities and other groups, and demands that women and girls be able to enjoy the same basic human rights as men. It also highlights the need to mitigate climate change and combat extreme inequality, both of which increase the extent and severity of poverty.

The narrative proposes a deep systemic shift, calling on the global community to move away from a paradigm that focuses narrowly on the quest for ever-expanding profits toward “a new paradigm of socially inclusive and environmentally sustainable economic growth.” It sees faith and spirituality as playing an essential role in facilitating this transition, which must be “rooted in the spiritual visions of our respective faiths, and built on a shared recognition of the intrinsic dignity and value of every life on Earth.” It reminds us that our faiths tell us that “the moral test of our society is how the weakest and most vulnerable are faring.”

A media teleconference with global faith leaders and World Bank President Jim Yong Kim on the call and commitment to end extreme poverty will be held on Thursday, April 9, 2015 at 12 p.m. EDT. Call-in information is as follows:

Within the US and Canada –
Free phone/Toll Free Number: 888-469-1378
International number: 1-415-228-3891
Participant passcode: 1619782

Small Is Not Only Beautiful … It May Be the Key to Our Survival!

by Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi

As climate change advances ever more ominously and leads us closer to climate chaos, the key to reducing carbon emissions may lie not in ambitious market-based solutions but in a transformation of the dominant model of food production.

Members of peasant farmers group La Via Campesina demonstrating outside the UN climate talks in Copenhagen. (Photo: Friends of the Earth International)

Last month the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists announced that it had moved the hand of its Doomsday Clock ahead from five minutes to three minutes before midnight, a decision due to the unchecked advance of climate change and the modernization of nuclear weapons systems. At almost the same time, the National Climatic Data Center of NOAA confirmed that 2014 was the hottest year on record. They also pointed out that the previous ten hottest years ever recorded have all occurred since 1998.

These revelations that our survival as a species–or at least as a civilization–is in jeopardy add to the urgency of the UN’s climate conference, COP 21, to be held in Paris next December. While hopes ride high that a rigorous and legally binding agreement on reducing carbon emissions will finally emerge in Paris, it would be a mistake to assume we can just sit back and trust negotiators to devise an effective accord on their own. We should never underestimate the power of the fossil fuel corporations and their allies. Time and again, at COP conferences from Copenhagen to Lima, they have used their influence to dash hopes and shatter promises, and it’s unlikely they will keep aloof from the talks in Paris. Strong pressure, indeed relentless pressure, will be necessary to prevail against them. 

Even without the meddling of the fossil fuel agents, high-level climate summits seldom deviate from the premises of free-market economics. They always assume that growth is essential to a sound economy, despite the fact that the relentless pursuit of production and consumption is pushing the earth to its geophysical limits. A durable solution to the climate crisis requires not only technological ingenuity but new ways of thinking. It must flow from an organic understanding of the place of human beings in the biosphere, one consistent with hard fact, not with greed and ambition.  Our assumption that we’re a  privileged species entitled to exploit the earth’s natural treasures for our own advancement lies at the root of the crisis. We need instead a vision committed to both ecological sustainability and economic and social justice. We have to realize that we are an integral part of the earth’s web of life, and as such must accept our humble place within the whole. At the same time, we must enable  human communities to flourish in harmony with each other and the natural world. In short, we must shift our priorities away from the pursuit of endless economic growth toward an affirmation of the integral human good, which involves both a thriving natural world and social justice for the human population.

One key to meeting both objectives at the same time lies in transforming our models of agriculture. Roughly half of all global greenhouse gas emissions come from agriculture and food production, which currently depend on fossil fuels for energy, chemical inputs, transportation, and preservation. Few proposals to mitigate climate change brought forward at international meetings take account of the close correlation between climate change and agriculture, yet the connection has been strongly emphasized by Oxfam, the World Resources Institute, the Earth Policy Institute, and peasant organizations around the world.

The international peasant movement, Via Campesina, which has more than 250 million members worldwide, contends that the market-based policies offered to reduce carbon emissions—policies such as REDD and Climate-Smart Agriculture–not only fail to sufficiently cut emissions but also undermine the interests of small-scale farmers and indigenous populations. REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) allows corporations and rich industrialized nations to purchase tracts of forest in the global South to offset the carbon they release at home. Spokespersons for Via Campesina hold this program permits these major emitters to continue releasing high levels of carbon in their own countries while gaining nominal credit for reductions they promote elsewhere. Since carbon emissions cannot be sealed off within their lands of origin, this policy, they argue, is closer to sleight-of-hand magic than to a real solution.

Climate-Smart Agriculture, another strategy advanced to stem global warming, basically takes the tenets of REDD and applies them to farmland. Climate-Smart Agriculture seeks to impose new biotechnology on farmers around the world—genetically modified seeds, chemical pesticides, and synthetic fertilizers—creating yet another wave of dependency on markets. Investors from the global North receive carbon credits for their contribution to Climate-Smart Agriculture projects in the global South, thus increasing speculation within the food system by expanding its profit value. Chavannes Jean-Baptiste, a Haitian Via Campesina leader, says: “There’s absolutely nothing smart about it. The climate crisis is rooted in capitalism, which is also in crisis as an economic system. Entrepreneurs are trying to emerge from this crisis, and as a way of doing so are creating green capitalism, of which Climate-Smart Agriculture is typical.”

Via Campesina and its allies hold that solving the climate crisis requires replacing the industrial model of agriculture with an alternative that respects the planet’s natural limits and takes advantage of its restorative capacities. The model they propose revolves around the twin principles of food sovereignty and agroecology. Food sovereignty holds that rural working people and their urban counterparts, not corporations and market interests, should be at the center of the global food system.  Agroecology, the practice for realizing food sovereignty, makes use of ecological methods that have proved their worth over many generations. Though fears have been expressed about its ability to produce sufficient food, Olivier de Schutter, former UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, allays these fears in his March 2011 report to the Human Rights Council: “Agroecology can double food production in entire regions within ten years, while mitigating climate change and alleviating rural poverty.”

Whereas the prevailing food system subordinates the environment to the market economy, the model of food sovereignty corrects this “inversion” by viewing the economy as a subsidiary of the planet’s larger ecosystem. The model respects the earth’s natural limits and also seeks to promote true human flourishing. Rather than looking on the food system as a source of profit, the ideal of food sovereignty is to empower the small-scale farmers who actually produce the food. It sees “small” not only as beautiful but as an essential key to our survival.

The commitment to food sovereignty unites two needs that often pull us in opposite directions: environmental sustainability and social justice, the need to block the advance of climate change and to eradicate extreme poverty, especially in rural communities.  Thus, to meet these twin goals, a shift in energy production from fossil fuels to renewable energy must be matched by a corresponding shift in agriculture, from one that extols the big and wealthy to one that respects the potentials of  small-scale farmers. As Chavannes Jean-Baptiste, the Haitian Via Campesina leader, says: “Peasant agriculture can feed the world and cool the planet.”

Battling Climate Change in the Himalayas, One Woman at a Time

by Jennifer Russ

The Indian state of Uttarakhand, in the lower Himalayas, holds the fifteenth rank in agriculture in the country. Almost 88% percent of the land holdings come under the small and marginal category, which is about 55% of the area under cultivation. In the past three years, Uttarakhand has received less-than-normal rainfall, which has affected crop production and adversely impacted the livelihood of the almost 78% of the State’s population dependent on agriculture.

On these mountainous farms, the families’ survival depends on their ability to adapt to increasingly erratic weather patterns. About 90% of agricultural lands in Uttarakhand are fed by rain and are thus highly vulnerable to climate change and degradation due to erratic and unpredictable rainfall and severe erosion of soil nutrients. This has posed a major threat to agriculture in the region, the life support for the state’s population.

1,  , thaheli village, bhilangana block, tehri district, MVDA (Kirti Nautiyal)

Meeting of seed bank group

Women play a crucial role in hill agriculture, as they undertake up to 90% of the total work in agriculture and animal care. The impact of decline in productivity due to climate change and degradation of natural resources has affected the food security of women the most.

Since 2012, Buddhist Global Relief has been partnering with Oxfam India on a project that is equipping women in thirteen villages in Uttarakhand to fight along the front lines of climate change. The core of the project is the formation of women’s farmers associations, where women meet and learn new farming techniques like the System of Rice Intensification (SRI) and System of Wheat Intensification (SWI). These techniques enable farmers to produce more crops with less labor, fewer inputs, and less expenditures.

The result has been a 40% yield increase in rice and a 30% yield increase in wheat. These increases not only result in more food for their families but more income. With the extra money, the families can stop struggling to survive. They feel less pressure to keep their children home from school.

8, Training on protection of Natural water resources (Kirti Nautiyal)

Training in protection of natural water resources

At meetings of these farmer associations, Oxfam teaches women about climate change and how to maintain farms that are resilient to it. The women establish seed banks that preserve traditional plants while promoting hardier varieties. Farmers give back twice as many seeds as they take, which reduces their reliance on the market. The project also allows farmers to take out lines of credit with low interest so they may expand their farms. Together, women have more power to demand better prices for their products in the market.

Over 550 farmers across thirteen villages in Uttarakhand have benefited from this project. In the Gewali Village, one farmer was inspired to expand the project on her own. Sarita Devi, the wife of a shopkeeper and mother of three, manages the farm and livestock that are her family’s main source of income. Before Oxfam came to her village, Sarita and her husband were unable to support their family. Sarita joined a farmer’s association right away and was among the first to adopt SRI and SWI. That season, she enjoyed a higher yield and more income, but she didn’t stop there. She held demonstrations in her field and persuaded twelve other women in the Gewali village to adopt sustainable farming practices. Oxfam India reports that “Sarita Devi is an inspiration to all!”

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Indian women farmers, taking control of their own destiny

India is not the only country in which BGR has been sponsoring crop intensification programs. With your support, Buddhist Global Relief is planting many seeds of responsible farming in vulnerable communities around the world: in Cambodia, Vietnam, Haiti, Ethiopia, Côte D’Ivoire, Rwanda, and Malawi. To learn more about these projects, please visit our Current Projects page at http://www.buddhistglobalrelief.org/active/projects2014.html.