This is The ChangeUnderground for the 18th of April 2022.
I’m your host, Jon Moore
Decarbonise the Air, Recarbonise the Soil!
There’s going to be a tsunami of “I told you so”s.
Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa promised in his 2019 election campaign to transition the country’s farmers to organic agriculture over a period of 10 years. Last April, Rajapaksa’s government made good on that promise, imposing a nationwide ban on the importation and use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides and ordering the country’s 2 million farmers to go organic.
So a ten year plan became a “right now” plan. Surprisingly, not, the transition has not been as planned. A ten year transition was possible. An instant change was always going to fail.
I’ve mentioned the Cuban situation after the collapse of the Soviet Union but a quick reminder will help.
But when the USSR collapsed in 1990/91, Cuba’s ability to feed itself collapsed with it. “Within a year the country had lost 80% of its trade,” explains the Cuba Organic Support Group (COSG). Over 1.3m tonnes of chemical fertilisers a year were lost. Fuel for transporting produce from the fields to the towns dried up. People started to go hungry. The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (UNFAO) estimated that calorie intake plunged from 2,600 a head in the late 1980s to between 1,000 and 1,500 by 1993.
The Cubans had no warning, the Sri Lankans were, allegedly, planning for the change. The Cubans adjusted because they had no choice. The Sri Lankans might well have timed it perfectly given the rising prices of chemical fertilisers, pesticides and herbicides, if they can be acquired at all.
What appeared to have happened in Sri Lanka is the tap was just turned off, Cuban style, but with no education, production system choices or much in support. As I’ve mentioned in other episodes, I’ve seen, first hand, a “world renowned”, according to the owners, organic farm. Whilst they don’t add chemical anything, they do run through swimming pools full of diesel weekly. The key to the Cuban solution was shortening the supply chains and growing food where people were to consume it. In Sri Lanka, nothing much changed except the chemical inputs were removed.
The reason chemical poisons, herbicides, pesticides and fungicides, are needed is because monocultural production is so out of whack and so far from biomimicry that the poisons are necessary.
Could Sri Lanka have achieved its aims or full organic production? Well let’s look at a smaller version of an island that’s fully organic.
From the Daily Telegraph of 9 July 2014, a story entitled Mororo farmer helps Mel Gibson’s Fijian island.
FOR the past two years [that’s 2012/13] Mororo farmer Mike Smith has been plugging away at a top-secret project involving an Academy Award-winning actor, agriculture and an idyllic Fijian island.
Now the secret’s out.
Describing it as one of his biggest achievements, the agricultural expert spoke to The Daily Examiner about his role in helping Mago (pronounced Mango) Island, owned by actor/director Mel Gibson, gain full organic accreditation.
I should point out that Mago Island is a mere 22 km2 and Sri Lanka is 65,610 km2. And that 22 km2 had a committed owner, financial backing and qualified, experienced people driving the process.
Ten years may have been ambitious for Sri Lanka but not impossible with the right leadership. The first year has not gone well and the country is now allowing synthetic fertiliser back into the country. Whether or not this remains a failed experiment or lesson learned and implemented, only time will tell. I can’t imagine the fertiliser and other ag chemical companies were sitting around with their hands in their laps saying, “Oh well, that’s Sri Lanka’s decision, no dramas. I’m sure we won’t miss the profits. And if it all goes well, it might end our businesses but that’s ok, we’ll just watch and learn.”.
I’m not overly cynical, just proportionately so some sort of backgrounding or even sabotage would not be unexpected.
But remember when your non-organic friends point out the Sri Lankan example to direct them to the Fijian model. Direct them, too, if you are able, to your garden. The more examples we can build the better. Be it in vegetable gardening, herb, fruit, animal integrated or just animal production, think eggs, chooks and rabbits, we can all set examples.
If you’re not yet growing and would like some guidance, the discount is still on for the No-Dig garden Course over at World Organic News. It’s currently selling for $17 dollars not the usual $149 until the world starts to return to a little more normality and supply chains open up and so on.
So if you have been put off in the past, now is the time to jump in and learn. If you know anyone would be interested and the more people we can get growing the better, please let them know. I’ll have a link in the show notes or you can go to the World Organic News.com website and click the course tab. Please spread the word, we need to get as much food happening as possible as close to the people eating it as we can. The best time to move from consumption to production was probably 50 years ago, the second best time is now.
Decarbonise the air, recarbonise the soil!
Thank you all for listening and I’ll be back next week.
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In Sri Lanka, Organic Farming Went Catastrophically Wrong
Cuba’s organic revolution
Mororo farmer helps Mel Gibson’s Fijian island