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. FAO report urges paying poor farmers to be green

by Staff Writers
Rome (AFP) Nov 15, 2007
The UN food agency called Thursday for cash payments for poor farmers to encourage them to become eco-friendly.

"Modern agriculture provides ever growing quantities of agricultural, fisheries and forestry products, feeding today six billion people," FAO chief Jacques Diouf told a news conference launching the agency's 2007 report on the state of food and agriculture in the world.

But this progress "has often come at the expense of the climate, water and biodiversity," added the head of the Food and Agriculture Organisation, which is based in Rome.

The report urges "incentive measures to ensure that farmers consider the impact of their production decisions on the environment," Diouf said.

He urged that such schemes "contribute to the fight against hunger and poverty by encouraging poor farmers to participate in them and benefit from the payments."

Compensating farmers for eco-friendly practices "is a new policy approach that is generating growing interest among policy makers, NGOs (non-governmental organisations) and private decision makers," he said.

The approach is "only one policy tool among others for addressing environmental problems," Diouf said, but in combination with other policies it "can be a promising instrument for stengthening the role of farmers in sustaining ecosystems."

Prabhu Pingali, head of the FAO's agricultural development division, cited an example in New York, where 10 years ago surrounding farms polluted the water supply.

"Instead of installing lots of powerful filters, the city decided to compensate farmers for cutting down on the pollution they were causing," he said.

In the foreword to the report titled "Paying Farmers to Protect the Environment," Diouf wrote: "Poverty reduction, food security and environmental sustainability have all moved to the top of a crowded international agenda. At the same time, the close relationships among poverty, hunger and ecosystem degradation are becoming ever clearer."

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