Farming seen as road to recovery

February 2, 2011 at 9:49 am Leave a comment

From the Monterey Herald:

War disrupts farming, and farming is key to peace and stability.

Military and civilian experts gathered in Monterey this week at a conference, “Agriculture: Promoting Livelihoods in Conflict-affected Environments,” sponsored by the Naval Postgraduate School’s Center for Stabilization and Reconstruction Studies, to talk about how to restore war-torn areas of the world.

“In most places that are destabilized or need reconstruction,” said participant James Bright, senior advisor for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Agricultural Service, “the whole economy is agriculture-based.”

Bright spent a year in Iraq as a member of a provincial response team of civilians embedded with the U.S. military to work on stabilizing the country.

A colleague from USDA, John Mott, another participant, did similar work in Afghanistan.

Mott noted that Congress established the Civilian Response Corps, made up of experts from various departments of the U.S. government: Agriculture, the departments of Energy, Commerce and Justice, to “form teams to go into areas the U.S. government deems of interest” to further stabilization and recovery.

Lawyer Daniel Millares of Bolivia, justice and peace manager for for the Organization of American States’ Mission to Support the Peace Process in Colombia, said his area of interest is in the return of approximately 4.5 million people displaced into neighboring countries by the long guerrilla war waged between the Colombian government and FARC — Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia — the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia.

“There are groups that can’t return,” he said, even though the country is calling for them to come back from their refuges in Venezuela, Ecuador and Bolivia, fearful of being killed. “Human security is a main issue.”

Their lands have been occupied by others in their absence, Millares said, and unraveling the chain of land ownership and title conflicts is one of his focuses of interest.

“I didn’t realize how many farmers are affected by conflict,” said Nona Fisher, senior program officer for the Enterprise and Agricultural Group of Arkansas-based Winrock International, when she began her work in agricultural development in 1993.

Winrock has workers in 30 to 40 countries and operates on a $40 million budget, she said.

“I thought the problem was low income. Economics. But the roots are in conflict. It destroys infrastructure, you can’t go to school, you can’t farm.”

Her last assignment in Sudan included road trips where drivers were warned not to pull off the highway because of land mines.

The conference drew 45 participants from the United States, Africa, Latin America and Asia, and included military officers, civilian government workers, international government organizations and nongovernment organizations, said Matthew Vaccaro, program director for the Center for Stabilization and Reconstruction Studies.

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Kathryn Shallenberger on Ag’s Promise PA Farmers at the National Institute

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