Category Archives: Issue: Sustainable Agriculture

Ramon Magsaysay award for Cambodia’s Dr. Yang Saing Koma

AFA congratulates Dr. Yang Saing Koma, founder of the Center for Cambodian Center for Study and Development in Agriculture (CEDAC) for being one of this year’s recipients of the Ramon Magsaysay award. CEDAC help found the organization of small farmers in Cambodia called Farmer and Nature Net (FNN), which is now a close partner of CEDAC and an active member of AFA. FNN’s Chairperson, Mr. Uon Sophal, is also the Chairperson of AFA. Dr. Koma delivered a lecture series for the Ramon Magsaysay Center on August 29, with AFA Secretary General Esther Penunia as discussant. Dr. Koma will formally receive the RM award tonight, together with other recipients. Below is the link to an article about Dr. Koma that appeared today in the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

Cambodian rice expert produces ‘more with less’

When he introduced his novel rice production method to Cambodian farmers more than a decade ago, Yang Saing Koma had to battle skeptics who laughed at his idea. How could less irrigation and shallower planting result in higher yield?

But Koma, founder of the Cambodian Center for Study and Development in Agriculture (Cedac), only had to tap one brave farmer to get his program going.

Today, his System of Rice Intensification (SRI) is an official rice production method endorsed by the Cambodian government, credited for doubling the country’s total rice output in the last decade.

And while other Asian nations, the Philippines included, still depend on rice imports, the country of almost 15 million is looking to expand its market internationally as grains constantly grow by Koma’s design.

Continue reading Ramon Magsaysay award for Cambodia’s Dr. Yang Saing Koma

Cambodian farmers learn natural farming in India

Natural/organic food mean to our lives and nature friendly, especially it reflects a responsiblity of producers for themeselves and for customers

(written and translated into English by Pan Sopheap, FNN)

Karnataka, India — Farmer and researcher representatives from 12 countries paid a 4-day field visits plus a one-day reflection workshop in Karnataka state, south of India, in order to expose ideas and experiences on food sovereignty.

The event hosted by Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha (KRRS), in cooperation with La Via Campesina (LVC) from November 2-6, 2011. The participants learned vast experiences from the Indian farmers regarding food sovereignty through application a method of Zero Budget Natural Farming and had also exchanged experiences with other participating countries.

Farmer leaders from 9 national level organizations in South and Southeast Asia, as well as 3 partner countries (researchers) from Latin America, Europe and North America shared their experiences and analysis of a common issues and challenges of the farmers and came up with some recommendations for the farmers, governments, inter-government bodies, and civil society organizations.

Continue reading Cambodian farmers learn natural farming in India

Agroecology studies now available for download

By Karen Hansen-KuhnYang Saing Koma, (CEDAC/FNN); Tony Santos, PAKISAMA; Ika Krshnayanti, API
Published October 14, 2011

Rising food prices, climate change and food riots have put agriculture high on the international agenda. Too much of the current policy debate focuses narrowly on increasing the volume of food, and assumes that industrial agriculture and biotechnology are the only options for feeding a growing global population. Alternatives do exist. The Asian Farmers’ Association for Sustainable Development and the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy have produced a new report documenting successful approaches in three countries:

– In Cambodia, the Center for Studies and Development of Cambodian Agriculture (CEDAC) and Farmer Nature Net (FNN) have promoted the System of Rice Intensification (SRI), increasing rice production by 61 percent, bolstering incomes, reducing chemical fertilizers and using water resources more efficiently. The groups have educated local officials on the program’s success. Now more than 130,000 farmers are involved, and the Ministry of Agriculture is seeking to expand SRI throughout Cambodia.

– In the Philippines, the local agroecology movement emerged as an element of resistance to the Marcos regime and the dominance of transnational corporations in local production. Since then, national farm networks, working with local NGOs and the faith community, carried out public campaigns to reclaim Philippine agriculture and to develop appropriate organic agriculture standards.

– In Indonesia, members of Boyolali Organic Rice Farmers Association (APPOLI) and the Indonesian Peasant Alliance (API) joined forces to make organic certification processes affordable and culturally acceptable to farmers while meeting consumers’ needs. Learning from similar approaches in Brazil, the networks developed a local Participatory Guarantee System to ensure farmers get a fair price, while consumers are able to buy organic goods at lower cost.

Agroecology and Advocacy: Innovations in Asia is available at and

Click here to download the one-page flyer

Click here to download the full document

Voices from Fukushima: J?kichi Ishizawa

The following article was written by Mr. Jukichi Ishizawa, a 78-year old organic farmer from Fukushima, Japan. His place, Kouriyama City, is located 60 kilometers away from the Daichi nuclear plant that was damaged by the tsunami and is emitting nuclear radiation. He has been farming in Fukushima for the 61 years and is a member of Ainoukai, an organization of organic farmers in Japan, which is a member of AFA. (Translated into English by Abe Chatterjee Shantonu, also an Ainoukai member.)

Summer in Fukushima has come a week early after a brisk rainy season which brought perfect conditions for growing vegetables and rice. I grow rice using natural farming methods, and every other year, my crop is attacked and weakened by rice water weevils, so much so that it is impossible to make out the rice plants among the fast-growing weeds. This year it is different. The various tests that the prefectural government had to carry out to measure the radiation levels from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Accident led to delays in rice-planting. Apparently, this delay allowed my crop to be spared the weevil infestation, so this year my rice plants are growing proud and tall, dwarfing the weeds. I can only pray that the bountiful harvest is not contaminated by radioactive substances.

My vegetables too, are growing well. Cucumber vines are growing vigorously, and the summer crop of eggplants, bell-peppers and tomatoes has not been damaged by pests. Sadly, with no market to sell these vegetables, I will have to rethink my plans for the next few years.

It is thanks to the tireless efforts of people involved in and supporting organic agriculture that I am still somehow selling my produce. All the same, it is disheartening to hear customers who have supported us for the past 35 years say that they cannot buy my vegetables anymore because they are afraid of radioactive contamination.

As a member of Ainoukai, I have always been proud of the fact that my produce is safe and delicious, and that my customers place their trust in me. It is therefore worrying for me that I cannot guarantee the safety of my crops and dispel the anxieties of my customers because of the accident at the nuclear facility.
Continue reading Voices from Fukushima: J?kichi Ishizawa

Voices from Fukushima: Michiko Ouchi

(The following is an article written by a Japanese farmer for the magazine of Ainoukai, an AFA member in Japan.)

The earthquake suddenly struck at 2:46 pm on the 11th of March.

I was on the second floor of the local agricultural cooperative’s office with about 20 other people, and we hid under the desks and prayed for the tremors to subside. The skies which had been sunny till then suddenly turned gray and large flakes of snow started to fall. It was a very eerie experience, as if the devil himself had appeared. The men on the first floor called out for us to come down, but because there were people as old as 80 among us, we decided to stay under the desks. After the first shock passed, we made our way down to the store, only to be confronted by the sight of the store in complete disarray.
Continue reading Voices from Fukushima: Michiko Ouchi

AFA pushes rural development agenda in ASEAN

Civil society organizations concerned with rural development have been engaging ASEAN in order to pursue agriculture, fisheries and people-centered development, which promotes the well-being of the rural poor and marginalized sectors, especially farmers, fishers, and indigenous peoples.

In the process, they also aim to develop institutionalized mechanisms for the regular consultation and participation of farmers, fishers, indigenous peoples, rural women, and rural development NGOs on matters affecting these sectors.

AFA had another opportunity to push forward this agenda in the recently concluded ASEAN Special Seniors’ Officers’ Meeting for the 32nd ASEAN Ministers of Agriculture and Forestry (SSOM-AMAF) held at Angkor Era Hotel in Siem Reap, Cambodia last August 8-9, 2011.

Continue reading AFA pushes rural development agenda in ASEAN

Voice from Fukushima: Mr. Jukichi Ishizawa

The following article was written by Mr. Jukichi Ishizawa, a 78-year old organic farmer from Fukushima, Japan. His place, Kouriyama City, is located 60 kilometers away from the Daichi nuclear plant that was damaged by the tsunami and is emitting nuclear radiation. He has been farming in Fukushima for the 61 years and is a member of Ainoukai, an organization of organic farmers in Japan, which is a member of AFA. (Translated into English by Abe Chatterjee Shantonu, also an Ainoukai member.)

There is a saying that “Old soldiers never die, they just fade away”. These were the words of General Douglas MacArthur, Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers in charge of the occupation of Japan, when he was relieved of his duties by the American President on grounds of insubordination.

In the article I wrote for the March and April issues (The Age of Agriculture: 60 Years as a Farmer) I mentioned my desire to work in my fields until the day I am unable to move anymore. However, I fear that the recent happenings may force me to go the same way as General MacArthur. I may need to disappear from my fields.

It was a pleasant, sunny spring afternoon on the 11th of March, 2011. I had taken my truck into the fields in order to harvest carrots. It was then that I suddenly heard a deep rumbling, and the ground started shaking under my feet. My truck was bounced about like a toy on a trampoline, and what little water there was in the irrigation canal leapt to and fro. The tremors made it hard to stand without support, and lasted for nearly 8 minutes. As the quake subsided, the sky to the west became overcast and it started snowing with strong gusts of wind. As the wind quieted down, I could only wonder at the fury of Nature that I had just witnessed.

The radio in the car repeatedly blared out warnings of the imminent approach of tsunamis more than 7 meters high. Glancing at the town, I could not clearly make out the extent of the damage, so I could only pray that it was limited as I headed for home. The road back was full of obstacles, as fallen gate-posts and concrete walls blocked the road. I felt the true extent of the damage then.
Continue reading Voice from Fukushima: Mr. Jukichi Ishizawa

AFA joins ASEAN food security conference

AFA participated in an ASEAN food security conference held in Manila, Philippines last July 18-19, 2011.

The conference aimed to enable the private sector to participate in efforts to address food security in the region and focused on food production, post-harvest, and rural-market linkages.

AFA was represented by Mr. Uon Sophal (FNN President) and Mr. Pan Sopheap (FNN Executive Director) from Cambodia; Mr. Vicente Fabe (PAKISAMA National Council Chairperson) and Mr. Raul Socrates Banzuela (PAKISAMA National Coordinator) from the Philippines; Ms. Victoria Serrato (AFA Marketing Ofifcer) and Ms. Ma. Estrella Penunia (AFA Secretary General).

Mr. Sophal delivered a presentation on the the topic “Improving Food Security through Improving Productivity: Perspectives from Producers,” while the rest made interventions during the sessions.

Through the conference, an action agenda was developed for discussion at the first-ever ASEAN Private Agrifood Sector Consultation with the ASEAN Ministers of Agriculture and Forestry (AMAF), which will meet on October 3-8, 2011 in Jakarta, Indonesia.

Click here to download Uon Sophal’s powerpoint presentation.

Click here for more information about the conference.

In the News: The Pope Highlights The Importance Of Family-Run Farms

VATICAN CITY, 1 JUL 2011 (VIS) – This morning in the Clementine Hall of the Vatican Apostolic Palace, the Pope received participants in thirty-seventh Conference of the Rome-based Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO).

Benedict XVI greeted the newly elected head of the organisation, Jose Graziano da Silva, thanking the outgoing president, Jacques Diouf, for the “competence and dedication” he had shown during the years he was in charge of the FAO.

“Poverty, underdevelopment and the resulting hunger are often the outcome of selfish attitudes which, arising from man’s heart, find expression in his social activities, in economic relations and in the conditions of the market, … and are translated into the denial of the primary right of all individuals to nourishment and freedom from hunger. How can we remain silent before the fact that food has become the object of speculation and is tied to the movements of financial markets which, lacking clear rules and moral principles, seem fixated on the single objective of profit? Nourishment is a factor which touches on the fundamental right to life”, he said.

Read more at EWTN

Farmers to raise native chicken the natural way

By Jun Virola (

Tiaong, Quezon, Philippines, 17 June 2011 – Farmers can augment their income from farming by raising native chicken through the natural farming system.

Following this lead, PAKISAMA farmers and their supporters visited the Earthkeepers learning farm in Quezon province today to see how such a system works.

Vicente Fabe, PAKISAMA National Council Chair, sees a huge potential in raising native chicken naturally.

“It looks sustainable and can earn good income, but we need to watch out for diseases, which can also be cured naturally,” he said.

Read more…

In the News: Putting nature back into agriculture: Save and Grow farming model launched by FAO

13 June 2011, Rome – FAO today announced the launch of a major new initiative intended to produce more food for a growing world population in an environmentally sustainable way.

FAO’s call for sustainable crop production intensification, more than half a century after the Green Revolution of the 1960s, is contained in a new book, Save and Grow published by FAO’s Plant Production and Protection Division.

Smallholder farmers

The new approach calls for targeting mainly smallholder farmers in developing countries. Helping low-income farm families in developing countries – some 2.5 billion people – economize on cost of production and build healthy agro-ecosystems will enable them to maximize yields and invest the savings in their health and education.

Read more

In the News: Africa: Successful Alternatives to Corporate ‘Green Revolutions’

In the face of the Rockefeller and Gates foundations-funded AGRA (Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa) lobby ‘to extend outdated 20th century industrial agriculture’ to the continent, Carol Thompson and Andrew Mushita look at alternative African approaches for improving agriculture that focus instead on farmers’ rights and build upon local knowledge.

‘How can a green revolution be achieved in Africa?’ After more than a year of study, the expert panel, commissioned by then UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, replied as follows: ‘no single technological bullet is available for radically improving African agriculture.’ African agriculture will require numerous ‘rainbow evolutions’ across the diverse African farming systems, ‘rather than a single Green Revolution.'[1]

By 2007, however, Annan agreed to be executive director of the Alliance for a Green Revolution for Africa (AGRA), funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates and Rockefeller Foundations. AGRA proposes exactly the kind of agriculture the panel of agricultural experts (from South Africa, Nigeria, Uganda, Morocco, Brazil, Mexico, Japan, China and more) rejected: Monoculture of one or two crops with the goal of increasing yields through the high use of fossil fuels, chemicals (fertilisers, pesticides) and biotechnology (patented genetically modified seeds). AGRA finances agricultural research and lobbies across the globe (e.g., January in Davos) to extend outdated 20th century industrial agriculture to the African continent.

Read more at All Africa

News Digest: Herbicide-Resistant and Pest-Resistant Genetically Modified Seeds Incompatible With Sustainable Agriculture

Two possible uses of genetically modified seeds, herbicide-resistant and pest-resistant, both lead to unsustainable agriculture. Herbicide-resistant seeds may be able to withstand heavy application of chemicals and increase yields, but these substances will end up in the soil and water systems and affect plants, animals, and humans. Pest-resistant seeds, on the other hand, may reduce the need for application of chemicals, but they will also restrict biodiversity and can contaminate nearby fields with genetically modified cross-pollination. Further, the impact of genetically modified foods are still unknown, while genetically modified seeds leads to economic determination of our ecosystem as plants get patented by a few companies that control them.

Source: Just Means, January 17, 2011

In the News: Feature article: Who Speaks for Small Farmers, Earthworms and Cow Dung?

[Authors note: Dr Philip Revatha (Ray) Wijewardene, who passed away on August 18 aged 86, spent a lifetime being unpigeonholeable – which won him many admirers and a few detractors. Despite being an accomplished engineer, aviator, inventor and Olympian, he chose to introduce himself as a farmer and mechanic ‘who still got his hands dirty’. Unpretentious and always enthusiastic, he was one man who somehow managed to have his head (literally) in the clouds and his feet firmly on the ground.

Read the full story at Ground Views

In the News: Masanobu Fukuoka: The man who did nothing

More than 30 years after it was published, farmer sage Masanobu Fukuoka’s cult book One-Straw Revolution, continues to inspire. On the occasion of his second death anniversary, DNA talks toIndian farmers whose lives were transformed by Fukuoka’s radical vision of farming, nature, and life.

Do-nothing’ or minimal interference is a radical idea. Especially for a civilisation obsessed with jumping from one complexity to another while simultaneously idealising simplicity. In 1983, a group of 20 farmers in Rasulia, a small village near Hoshangabad in Madhya Pradesh, was trying to find an alternative to chemical-intensive agriculture. Since 1978, they had been battling the legacy of the Green Revolution — hybrid seeds, pesticides, fertilisers — to redeem the promise of rishi kheti (farming as practiced by ancient sages), a practice that involves letting nature take its course. They had been successful. But there was more to be done, or rather undone. What that was, they weren’t sure. But they were open to learning.

Read the full story at DNA

In the News (Thailand): Sufficiency economy can solve poverty problem

The only way to solve the poverty problems in rural areas is to adopt His Majesty the King’s sufficiency economy. This approach not only solves the poverty problem, it also helps reduce farmers’ accumulated debts as well as promoting unity in the community,” said Ennu Suesuwan, executive vice president of the Bank for Agriculture and Agriculture Cooperatives as reported by Thai Rath.

Mr Ennu expressed his thoughts to the media while leading a group on a visit to a sufficiency economy village at tambon Nong Sarai, Phanom Thuan district, Kanchanaburi, which received His Majesty’s trophy for outstanding achievement.

After the village adopted the sufficiency economy principle, within a few years the villagers had risen above the poverty line.

Read the full story at Bangkok Post

In the News: Agriculture’s next revolution within sight

(An interesting development in ecological agriculture using perennial grain crops. — Admin)

Earth-friendly perennial grain crops, which grow with less fertilizer, herbicide, fuel, and erosion than grains planted annually, could be available in two decades, according to researchers writing in the current issue of the journal Science.

Perennial grains would be one of the largest innovations in the 10,000 year history of agriculture, and could arrive even sooner with the right breeding programs, said John Reganold, Washington State University (WSU) Regents professor of soil science and lead author of the paper with Jerry Glover, a WSU-trained soil scientist now at the Land Institute in Salina, Kansas.

“It really depends on the breakthroughs,” said Reganold. “The more people involved in this, the more it cuts down the time.”

Published in Science’s influential policy forum, the paper is a call to action as half the world’s growing population lives off marginal land at risk of being degraded by annual grain production. Perennial grains, say the paper’s authors, expand farmers’ ability to sustain the ecological underpinnings of their crops.

“People talk about food security,” said Reganold. “That’s only half the issue. We need to talk about both food and ecosystem security.”

Read the full article at 7th Space

In the News: Thailand’s Other Protests: Pro-Sustainable Food

In a remote Thai village, a 24-year-old New Jersey man named Bennett Haynes farms rice and vegetables. But Haynes also plays a more sinister role: in a recent farming folk opera about rice, he’s been cast by villagers in the part of sticky rice #6. This type of rice is an “improved” variety—a commodity crop sold by seed companies—that has supplanted local varieties.

In the opera, Haynes’s evil character wanders the countryside, stealing the hardy brown and black grains sown for centuries and infecting the paddies with his own seed. Sticky rice #6 is white, and so is Bennett, which makes the audience chuckle.

It is difficult to downplay the significance of this crop in this part of Southeast Asia. Sticky rice is the staple of the Isaan and Lao diet. It is eaten at every single meal, plucked from rattan baskets and rolled into dense balls between fingertips. The rice then becomes utensil—used to soak up simple curries, spicy dips, or sour salads of herbs and chewy meat. But some argue against the industrialized model that produces this staple crop. Many farmers here are in debt. Alcoholism is rampant, as farmers become idle during the dry season. And the region’s political discontent has raged all the way down to Bangkok. Upcountry Thai farmers are not faring well.

Read the full story

In the News: More Cambodian farmers shift toward organic crops

PHNOM PENH, March 5 (NNN-AKP) — The number of organic farmers producing crops in Cambodia is growing thanks to efforts aimed at training agricultural worker in organic farming techniques.

The number of organic farmers registered with the Cambodian Center for Study and Development in Agriculture (CEDAC) reached 61 in 2009, up from just five in 2004 when the centre started to train farmers in the use of natural fertilizers.

Organic produce amounted to just 30 tons in 2009, according to CEDAC, which helps farmers earn a fair price for their produce at five shops in Phnom Penh and another located in Preah Sihanouk city.

Read the full story