«Gwen Varley, Student Participant West Central Valley High School Stuart, IA Sustainable Agriculture in Honduras On March 8, 1968, William S. Gaud ...»
Just as important as the flow of information from researcher to farmer is the involvement of farmer in relating his experiences back to the researcher. In the process of encouraging Hondurans to abandon the detrimental methods of slash and burn in favor of proposed agroforestry systems, the farmers cannot be viewed merely as vessels for new information, but active participants in the search for sustainable farming. One cannot forget that many of the techniques being embraced by researchers (including agroforestry) are based on traditional methods. And in the end, it is the farmers who make the final decision as to the usefulness of a technology, and who may find flaws in areas that outside researchers overlook. For this reason, farmers should be allowed to be involved in decisions about seed selection and plant breeding. One might dismiss this aspect of education as simply an attitude or philosophy versus a component of agricultural research, but I find it essential to efficient research and feel it must be included as a valued part of government programs.
The final contact that must be established in order for subsistence farmers to be fully educated is between other farmers of the area. Aside from their struggles with farming in harmony with their environment, one of the greatest challenges plaguing Honduran subsistence farmers is their inability to communicate with other locals and work in cooperation to create stable markets. In this area, national governments and private organizations can be of enormous influence. Subsistence farmers would benefit from learning to collaborate with other farmers through extension programs. This is especially needed for women farmers, who are significantly disadvantaged by isolation. National governments could also provide assistance to small farm cooperatives by setting regulations which will balance the presence of corporate plantations and their economic influence and monopoly over the land. Otherwise, the subsistence farmers of Honduras will be left without a voice in the selling of their crops. Without access to and understanding of stable markets, farmers will be unable to sustain a livelihood through economic means, regardless of how efficient or environmentally sound their farming practices are.
These principles, of gaining as complete an understanding as possible of the environmental microcosms in which farmers operate and providing that information in full to farmers, are not ones that apply to Honduras alone. Indeed, they may be central to the success of the next Green Revolution. But the focus on the differences of farmers across the globe does not necessarily mean the isolation of farmers. Instead, it suggests a mentality of building from the bottom up. For many subsistence farmers, such as those in Honduras, solutions lie in rejuvenating local markets. This must be established before they may become viable in global markets. However, when that does occur, it will be a more balanced and diverse system, because farmers will be dependent first on local systems that they have created themselves, and are ideally suited for their needs, before the happenings in the international arena.
Globalization does not mean simplification, if local communities are able to create stable environments which function independently as well as in cooperation with the rest of the world.
The international community may encourage this type of development by supporting research which is tailored to the needs of subsistence farmers and being quick to recognize the ways in which new technologies can be integrated into the lives of those farmers. Richard Manning describes it well in his book, Food’s Frontier when he writes, “Our culture knows how to develop technology. We are at a loss to explain how it filters in to society... If science is weak in this area, government is a complete failure.” The next Green Revolution will not be a matter of developing a miracle and then delivering it to the people. We must go to the roots of agriculture, to the lives that are built around it, and from there glean our miraculous solutions.
The future of a world in which none go hungry is just as promising as that day in 1968 when Gaud coined the term that has been applied to our hunt for sustainable agriculture. In some ways, we are sitting in the same position as we were forty years ago, when Gaud said, “To accelerate [the Green Revolution], to spread it, and to make it permanent, we need to understand how it started and what forces are driving it forward.” Today we are doing just that - digging further into our understanding of how the world feeds itself and how technology manifests itself in society. If this can lead to the completion of the Green Revolution, then we may finally reach green reality that is available to all.
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