In addition to improvement in the standard of living of small farmers, sustainable agriculture also helps restore biodiversity. The shift towards sustainable agriculture in the production of rice including by employing System of Rice Intensification (SRI) and Integrated Pest Management (IPM) often recovers organism living in the ecosystem of farming area such as insects, amphibians, and fishes.
Regional Representative of VECO Indonesia, Mr. Rogier Eijkens, conveyed the fact in his speech at Conference on Biodiversity in Trondheim, Norway, May 27 – 31, 2013.
According to Rogier, Indonesia being a large country with a large agriculture production has a lot of issues with adverse environmental effects of agriculture. But is now slowly moving towards more environmentally sound principles, although still at a relatively small scale.
Interestingly the private sector now plays an increasingly important role to introduce new standards and practices for sustainable agriculture production.
Rogier mentioned example of rice. For the most important food crop in Indonesia there is growing concern among (urban) consumers about food safety and healthy food issues. This fact offers good opportunities for farmers to transform conventional rice production using more environmentally sustainable principles.
There are some considerations mentioned by Rogier.
First, direct collaboration between private sector and farmer organizations offers a big potential to develop business models (pilots) and its wider application (up-scaling) with the support or collaboration of companies, NGOs and Government for sustainable agriculture and linked Biodiversity practices.
“A Win-Win both for companies and farmers. Livelihood of small holders improves,” Rogier said.
Second, certification support needed to apply sustainability standards including Biodiversity (Rainforest Alliance, UTZ Certified, Organic, local standards). Improvement of these standards (both National and Int. standards) to include better/new sustainability criteria and inclusion of Biodiversity is important.
Third, while import supply chains and distribution systems are very well functioning and consumers in big cities are fed by these imported (and in the past often cheap) products, local farmers face enormous problems to sell their products. All too often in southern countries market systems for those commodities are not designed and/or not functioning in favour of local smallholder farmers.
Fourth, conversion to sustainable rice production methodologies (e.g. SRI and IPM) implying a reduction of agrochemical use, often leads to a restoration of fauna: insects, amphibians and fish species in surrounding ecosystems
Interestingly the application of sustainability principles (excluding certification) for rice cultivation does not have a large effect on the price, approximately 15, so it does hardly have an effect consumer purchases (low purchasing power).
Hence, Rogier concluded that if smallholder farmers want to continue to feed a growing world population and are willing to take this as an opportunity to escape from poverty, then they would have to adapt to the realities of modern markets and comply with the demands of society. “There is a huge potential for including sustainability principles (Biodiversity included) into small holder agriculture production in supporting these processes of change,” Rogier emphasized.