blogjul23

This article, “A World Population Balancing Act: Food, Agriculture, and the Environment,” featured in the Landscapes for People, Food, and Nature Blog brings up some important considerations for the world food future. As we move forward trying to advance food sovereignty worldwide, we must do so in a way that is economically viable and sustainable while simultaneously paying attention to environmental impacts. Read the article to see how this pressing issue is being framed in a manner of positive opportunities for change.

 

 

Photo by FAO/Simon Maina

Photo by FAO/Simon Maina

“We need to be able to focus CAADP on sustaining the momentum on three or four issues. One is women’s engagement in agriculture, in decision making and in policy formulation. Secondly youth engagement is critical for us to be able to move the younger generation forward. And thirdly, we need to be conscious of and responsive to the needs of climate change, in terms of building resilience of communities.” – Buba Khan, ActionAid International

Although this quote from the New Agriculturalist Article, Investing in Agriculture, refers to agricultural development in Africa, it is a statement that could easily apply to key focus areas for agricultural development in Peru. In fact, these are really focus areas for any country hoping to advance its agricultural sector and most of all to strengthen it. Resilience to climate change, reduced vulnerability to shocks, and just general development of food systems depends on key actors such as women and the future leaders of any country. So even though here at AASD we often focus on very localized, solutions, it is always useful to pay attention to the larger trends going on around the world in regards to agriculture and development.

 

 

 

 


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Seed saving is a hot topic around the world. Growers and consumers alike are rebelling against the seed monopoly that comes hand in hand with industrial agriculture. They are rejecting the role of genetically modified seeds that require agrochemicals to properly propagate. The biggest qualm centers on the idea of the terminator gene found in many modified seeds sold by big agriculture companies such as Monsanto, Cargill, and Dupont. Growers are unable to save seeds from such seeds, as they are genetically modified in such a way that the next generation of seeds will not produce. The debate over the ethics of such a seed is nothing new. But as more and more people across the world turn to an alternative agriculture path, supporting food systems that are ecological and healthy both for humans and the environment, they too have begun to speak up more about control over seeds. The movement is well underway to promote open-pollinated varieties  to foster seed saving and seed exchanges. That’s why the new Community Seed Toolkit, a joint undertaking by Vandana Shiva‘s organization, Seed Matters and the International Recue Committee’s New Roots program, is worth checking out. It makes it easier than ever to share and create a thriving seed exchange in your own community. Pretty exciting!

Did you know that McDonald’s uses over 1 million pounds of potatoes EACH DAY? Think about it. Truly try to conceptualize one million pounds of potatoes. It’s… unfathomable. And, grant it, maybe McDonalds isn’t the best example to show the importance of the potato, but you know what? Get over it.

What is the origin of the potato? How did this magnificent, delicious food come to be? Peru, of course. It is believed that between 7,000 and 10,000 years ago the potato was domesticated in what is now Peru. The Inca people are famous for selective breeding, resulting in approximately 4,000 different types of potatoes. Moray is a well-known archeological site built and used by the Inca for agricultural experimentation. Here they learned which types of potatoes grew best in different climates and crossbred potatoes to make more resilient varieties.

 

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The potato was a staple food (and continues to be the fourth largest food crop in the world!) of the Inca. It also served medicinal purposes. Raw slices were fixed to broken bones, eaten to end a bellyache, and carried to prevent rheumatism.

In the 1530s, a group of Spaniards entered an Inca village and discovered a funny-looking vegetable inside all of the empty homes. Originally searching for gold and silver, they were saddened to come out empty-handed. Little did they know they found something much more precious – the potato.

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Sailors carrying melted gold and silver back to Spain brought the potato as food for the long journey. Shortly after arriving in their homeland, the potato was cultivated and used to feed the masses. They used it to strengthen their society, ultimately leading to the rise of the West. Historian William H. McNeill stated, “By feeding rapidly growing populations, [it] permitted a handful of European nations to assert dominion over most of the world between 1750 and 1950.”

What this basically means is that thanks to the potato, places such as McDonalds are possible today. I’ll take mine super sized. ~Cheryl

 

Buzzing about the bees

Curious what this whole bee thing is about on the farm? Find out directly from Amanda, who is leading the development of the Sacred Valley Honeybee Sanctuary. We’re excited about the addition of these  buzzing bees and their beautifully painted hives on the AASD’s demo farm. Below is a post co-opted from Amanda’s blog, explaining their work more. Enjoy!

Make the Connection! – A post co-opted from the Sacred Valley Honeybee Sanctuary

So much has been happening here in Calca in terms of the development and planning of our soon to bee Honeybee Sanctuary. We are really honing in on our vision and mission for the project. What we hope to become is a world-class honeybee sanctuary – the leading honeybee sanctuary in Peru and the only in the Sacred Valley. It will be a place where visitors from around the world will come to learn about and experience first hand the wonder and complexity of the bees. We will continue to hold educational workshops where participants will learn about the biology of the honeybee and how the hive functions as a super-organism – a unified whole supported by its integral parts (the bees).

Our Sanctuary will be situated within a botanical garden with bee-friendly flowers and medicinal herbs that will make our honey, infused with the nectar from those plants visited by the bees, more medicinal itself. We will be developing our production of natural medicines, balms and lotions made from hive byproducts – honey, beeswax, honeycomb, propolis, pollen and royal jelly. All of these substances are manufactured within the bees’ little bodies after collection at their plant source, and used for various functions within the hive, and are medicinal for them and for us.

So, you might ask, “Why are we doing this?” First of all, the simple fact is, without the bees we would be S.O.L. and that’s the direction we are headed. Honeybees pollinate 40% of the food we eat. That means, in the words of Michael Pollon, “four out of every 10 bites of food we consume, we would not without the bees.”

In the U.S. we are losing millions of honeybees each year with the emergence of Colony Collapse Disorder. Bees are 150,000 years old and they are just now beginning to disappear. The crisis began in the U.S. in 2006, and that year, 50% of bee colonies in America died. What beekeepers began to see was the disappearance of their bees. The crazy thing was, in the hive there was stored pollen, honey, larvae and eggs – all the signs of a healthy hive. But one day, the beekeeper would visit the hive and there would be no bees.

Why this vanishing of the bees? When this phenomenon started to occur, there were lots of theories such as the invasion of parasitic mites (a problem, but doesn’t explain why the bees seemed to disappear all together) and the interception of cell phone towers which would interfere the bees navigation.

These theories all missed the mark. What has been proven through extensive research, but which big corporate agriculture companies like Monsanto (the leading producer of GMO seeds) and Bayer (top insecticide manufacturer) will deny, is that the application of systemic pesticides, which go hand in hand with the practice of monoculture agriculture, have been the demise of the honeybee.

Systemic pesticides, particularly neonicotinoids (in whose name you can see the main culprit – nicotine), are applied to the seeds of crops and when put in the ground, travel up the vascular system of the plants. When the bees forage on the flowers of these plants, they are infected with a chemical that affects their nervous system and their ability to learn, to remember, and to navigate – the most important functions that contribute to the intrinsic coherence of the hive. Thus, the bees, who are experts in navigation and are hardwired to travel from a distance of up to 7 miles and still make it back to their own hive, when intoxicated by these chemicals, are unable to find their way home. And on their own, they are unable to survive.

So, part of our mission is communicating these truths and to join the movement in pushing for people to discontinue their support for the companies that have taken it upon themselves to control our food sources, to modify them with chemicals and to actually change laws so that we have no choice in what we ingest.

Another, yet connected, motive of our project is to address the common illness of NDD (Nature Deficit Disorder), which afflicts millions worldwide. While common, the illness is destructive to those inflicted and to the world at whole. We’ve become disconnected from the very thing that keeps us alive and of which we are a composite part. We have decided to manipulate nature, basically communicating to it that it hasn’t done a good enough job.

In industrial beekeeping, starter honeycomb is manufactured from low-grade wax, with prefabricated, hexagonal holes that are all uniform in size. They even had the bright idea of making the holes bigger so as to encourage the growth of larger bees, the postulation being that they could force larger bee growth.

Naturally, problems emerge with this kind of manipulation: First of all, in the enlarged holes, Varroa mites are able to grow in the cells with the larvae as they develop. These are parasites that feed off the blood of the bee. Second, bees can actually get too big. They are able to store more honey, yes, but once engorged, they are unable to support their own weight when flying back to their hive.

Bees at industrial farms are fed high fructose corn syrup, produced from GMO corn, which has been treated with antibiotics. Thus, those antibiotics and show up in the honey we consume.

So in sustainable beekeeping, we venerate the bees’ intrinsic knowledge and trust in their ability to structure the hive as they see fit. We feed them honey we store from their own hives during low season.

At The Sacred Valley Honeybee Sanctuary, we have both kinds of hives – those used in industrial beekeeping (Langstroth hives) and a newer, more sustainable style of hive called a top-bar hive, which allows the bees to construct their own wax comb. Visitors will learn the difference between the two hives and why top bar hives are more sustainable than the traditional, Langstroth hives.

The top bars, which make up the design of the hive, have a thin crevice through the center in which a small amount of quality wax has been provided so that the bees construct their combs in a straight line, making it easier for the beekeeper to inspect the hive.

 

 

 

 

 

 

In agriculture, we have manipulated the natural methods the Earth uses to make herself abundant. We have taken out natural pesticides – partner crops and diversity – and applied our own chemical versions so that we can grow acres and acres of one single crop. These are festering grounds for pests (requiring the application of more pesticide) and deserts for pollinators like bees. There is simply not enough variety in these monotonous fields for bees to find food source.

Through observing the collective nature of the hive, we can see that we too are the constituent parts of an intricate whole. We can contribute to the overall health of the Earth and be instruments to bring her back to life. Or we can be catalysts for its destruction. We want to communicate that: Health of the bees = health of the Earth = health of humans.We are intrinsically connected.

So there’s some information to digest regarding some basic issues we are seeing and some choices we have. If you think you are suffering from NDD, know that it’s not your fault, but that you have been conditioned to believe that you are distinct from the environment that surrounds you, and have been taught to buy into certain lies. But we have a cure! We can help you to see that you are connected to the Earth. ~ post by Amanda Sidman. Click here to read the post on her blog.

With all this talk about mulch and ecological agriculture practices, it’s easy to get caught up in the mumbo jumbo of the things we do (… uh-hem, which we love). As with many agricultural systems around the world, Peru’s food system and landscape has been shaped by generations upon generations of farmers. The most well-known, the Incas, were masters of their harsh climate, utilizing local resources to create micro-climates and complicated irrigation systems. They were also intimately connected with the land and mother earth (or “Pachamama” as they say in Quechua). The spirituality – the delicate give and take – of people with nature and it’s a balance still remains an integral part of life.

In the Socially Speaking series, we will talk about the human side of agriculture – the people, their customs and practices, and their spiritual connectedness. We’ll also tell you about local agriculture movements and what’s going on in this region of the world in comparison with other global movements.

So, are you ready? It’s time to get personal.

~Cheryl