Since I held the proxies for all of you, I would like to give you a quick first report on the Organic World Congress (OWC) and the IFOAM General Assembly. I will write more later in the month as time permits.
As the home of organic agriculture as practiced in the US where we follow the teachings of Sir Albert Howard, India was both a fabulous and a disastrous choice for the OWC. Hundreds of organic farmers from around India were able to attend.
The organizers were able to fully fund farmer participants from Latin America, Africa, and other parts of Asia. Us North Americans were on our own – and few in number. The enormous Expo Mart in Greater Noida had ample room for the 5000 or so people who attended. The air quality, however, was an utter disaster. My lungs feel sandpapered from a week of acrid smoky air and my heart is saddened for the 25 million regular inhabitants of Delhi.
The food at the conference was extraordinary – supplied by Indian organic farmers. They introduced us to grains and combinations of vegetables and herbs I had never tasted before. Transportation on the other hand was hair-raising. Delhi drivers dart from lane to ill-marked lane while people on motor scooters weave in between. The occasional bicycle skirts the edge of the road, driven into the faster lanes to avoid stopped cars and groups of pedestrians who seem oblivious to the chaos. Along roadsides, people live in makeshift shelters, hanging their laundry to dry on public fencing. At a red light, a child the age of my grandson (7), wove between the stopped cars selling balloons and begging while his mother sat under a tree on a small grassed division in the middle of the 10 lanes of traffic.
I attended the plenary sessions, helped conduct a pre-conference on CSA in Asia, gave a short talk on succession planting for CSAs in the Farmers’ Track, participated in a panel of CSA networks, and contributed to a discussion on Fairness for All. I will write more about the OWC content later.
I also attended a meeting of Urgenci, the International CSA network of which I am honorary president. The acting President, Judith Hitchman of Ireland, a relentlessly energetic advocate of solidarity economics, announced the good news that Urgenci has signed an MOU with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN that will fund the extension of CSAs to “receiving” countries, Eastern Europe and the Global South, as well as mapping existing CSAs. The next international CSA conference will take place in Thessaloniki, Greece in November 2018, together with the third all-European CSA conference.
The IFOAM General Assembly (GA) started with a “Motion Bazaar.” Whoever proposed a motion sat in front of a poster with the motion language while members circulated from motion to motion, offering suggestions, arguing, discussing. The 16 World Board candidates for the 10 positions lobbied energetically as did the 12 countries contending to be the site for the next OWC.
The GA opened with reports from the staff and the outgoing board. I am happy to report that IFOAM is in solid fiscal health with a larger budget for the next three years and has several new projects underway, especially focused on increasing organic farming in the Global South. The “internal auditor” found that the World Board worked well with one another and with staff, and staff has increased efficiency.
A large portion of the GA is taken up with discussing the motions that will guide the organization for the next 3 years. While complicated, Roberts Rules of Order govern the process. There were excellent exchanges that strengthened some motions and eliminated a few. The many motions included confirmation of Organic 3.0 as guiding policy, renewed determination to distinguish among new technologies to identify genetic engineering so that organic systems will exclude it, a project to delineate non-certified organic farms and acreage around the world, a study of the extent of glyphosate contamination of lands, crops, humans and the environment, standard setting for the production of invertebrates (insects), greater transparency in IFOAM financial reporting to members, and clarification of the role of regional bodies such as the new IFOAM NA. There is strong support for decentralizing the organization as much as possible. The membership voted decisively against any form of aquaculture except the most natural (fish in outdoor farm ponds and lakes with systems that use renewable energy).There was extended discussion of how many resources should go into attacking mega-corporations like Monsanto as compared to putting the highest priority on building the organic alternative.
The election of the new World Board is the other central event. The members elect the WB and then the WB selects officers. The new World Board members are David Amudavi of Kenya, Choitresh Kumar Ganguly of India, Hans Herren of Switzerland, Julia Lernoud of Argentina, Edith Van Walsum of Netherlands, Karen Mapusua of Fuji, and Jennifer Chang of South Korea. Returning for a second term are Peggy Miars, US, Director of OMRI, Gerold Rahmann of Germany, and Frank Eyhorn of Switzerland. They elected Peggy Miars President, with Jennifer Chang and Frank Eyhorn on the Executive Board as Vice Presidents. With the exception of Shimpei Murakami of Japan, the slate I recommended to you was selected! The next Organic World Congress will be hosted by France in Rennes in 2020. Morocco was a close second, and Czechoslovakia gave the most creative presentation during the bidding.
The final part of the agenda is devoted to thank yous and awards. The entire assemblage gave a long and loving standing ovation to retiring president Andre Leu, and special flower wreaths to all the outgoing board members. Much to my surprise, the WB awarded me special recognition for my contribution to CSA and my “loving manner” and I too got a standing ovation from the members!
Please feel free to share this report. I will also post it on my blog in case you want to link to it.