Yes, of course was the clear answer at the end of the Biovision Symposium on 18 November in Zurich: it was an inspiring and energising afternoon.
by Stefan Hartmann, Environmental Journalist / Observer at Symposium
A single idea lay at the heart of the Biovision Symposium, a common denominator linking both Africa and Europe: Health. Not just human health but also the health of livestock, soils and water. During the afternoon, the way to achieve that became clear: ecological agriculture.
What are things like in Africa now? Pilot villages, supported by Biovision, are achieving sensational results with the integrated approach “4 x Health” (4xH). The health of farming families and their animals is much improved thanks to simple methods that prevent malaria and eliminate the tsetse fly. The Push-Pull method keeps in check the pests that can devastate maize crops and encourages beneficial insects. In some cases, the skilled farmers have tripled incomes by setting up new businesses such as beekeeping. What is more, it is being done without the use of pesticides that ruin the environment and are prohibitively expensive for farmers. The successes in Kenya and Ethiopia give us grounds for hope.
“Learn or re-learn cooking skills”
We can learn from farmers in Africa: Switzerland uses 2100 tonnes of pesticides each year – more than anywhere else in Europe – and the loser is the environment. There has been a 75% reduction in flying insects in the last 30 years; this includes many species of bees that are essential for pollination. There is only one solution to this alarming finding: Direct investment must be linked to ecological methods of agriculture. Organic agriculture only accounts for 12% of all arable land but could easily be 50%, said the Director of the Swiss Federal Office for Agriculture during the panel discussion. But aren’t organic products expensive? Not at all, said Hans Herren, the founder of Biovision: “Organic products are only more expensive because the cost of conventional foods does not include environmental costs”. Consumers too have a responsibility. “Do something good for yourself and the environment. Buy regional products and learn or relearn how to cook,” was the appeal by German TV chef Sarah Wiener who reaped enthusiastic applause from the some 800 listeners in the Volkshaus.