I just stumbled on a great interview with Agroecology professor and activist Miguel Altieri of FoodFirst.org fame.

And the American scientist said, “Your productivity is very low.” He did some measurements and then drew up how they would grow it in Iowa—every six inches, and very dense. “Do this, and you’re going to increase your productivity.” All the farmers were watching, as I was translating, and finally one said, “And how do you feed your animals?” “What? They don’t have animals [in the Iowa corn fields], they just grow corn.” “Well, we do. And the grass in between is to feed the animals.”

For small farmers in developing countries, it’s not important to increase the productivity of one crop, but rather of the whole system, because they grow many crops, many trees sometimes, many animals. They’re complex farming systems. But Western agronomists have been trained to understand agriculture from a unilateral perspective.

On top of that, these farmers were on hillsides, and the grass was protecting the soil. They were not interested in per-hectare production; they were interested in optimizing production of grain per plant, because they select the best seeds to keep for the next year. But all these reasons the peasant had for growing corn his way were just dismissed.

Sounds like a stable, sustainable policy in the making, Agroecology.

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