Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Reviving Organic Agriculture?

Dear Laila has kindly translated my article in al akhbar

Reviving Organic Agriculture?
Recently, the ministry of agriculture decided to revive the organic farming bill as part of its strategy to organize all the agricultural sectors, particularly those connected to improving living conditions in the countryside and protecting the health of the nation. The organic farming sector has seen rapid expansion in the last three years as a result of people’s growing fear after some local newspapers published some fragmentary information about the presence of large quantities of pesticide deposits in vegetables and fruits. This fear prompted many well off people to search for alternatives, and the organic sector in Lebanon was rediscovered. 
The history of organic farming in Lebanon is more than a decade old. Many environmentalists, farmers and academics have contributed to establishing it with the aim of preserving the environment and fighting rural poverty. The sector had some support from foreign development agencies. Some projects were financed with foreign money but under the supervision of the agriculture ministry. However, this sector was never a priority for the ministry.
The development of the sector in terms of monitoring and obtaining internationally recognized production certificates came as a result of the efforts of the civil and private sectors. The ministry did not take any interest in the problems of marketing or training small farmers in organic production, leaving these issues to the whims of the market and the donors. This is what made a large number of poor farmers abandon the sector, leaving it to producers who are able to secure capital and direct marketing to the well off. 
The ministry should begin to make use of this experience and realize that the law is necessary but it is not enough. It has to engage in the direct support of small organic farmers to allow them to participate effectively in reviving the sector. They have to make it part of a strategy for social and environmental justice, so that it does not become elitist, its only aim to accumulate profit. 

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