Integrated Planning and Management of Land ResourcesFAOCSDUNEP
World Summit on Sustainable Development, South Africa 2002


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Looking Forward to Rio+10: Reporting Progress on Land and Agriculture

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Message 19

        Message 19 - Contribution offered by Ryan Curtis from a colleague in Australia
        Tue, 13 Mar 2001 18:25:22 +0100

This is a comment that has just been faxed to me from a colleague in
Australia, regarding water table management.  I think that it is an
excellent demonstration of the amount of frustration there is amongst
farmers that want to use sustainable principles because of the pressures on
them from the globalised markets, etc.


"Perhaps if more of these Americans could see how modern scientific
industrial farming has left - at 1997 estimates - 25% of Australia's arable
land useless for all agricultural purposes, blighted by salt, with sterile
eroded soils, at current rates in 50 years we will have lost another 25% and
we are currently repeating the mistakes that caused the problems in new
areas of the continent.  Would you believe that farmers in the Murry Darling
Basin (the river will be as salty as the sea in 30 years) are still flood
irrigating and not using micro-irrigation and water table management?  We
need to maintain at least 30% tree cover to prevent the water table from
rising to the surface, but farmers are still clearing all of their available
land under pressure from the bankers to compete with world's worst practice
and the heavily subsidised American and European farming sectors. It was
estimated that to make one standard loaf of white bread in Australia costs 7
kg of topsoil due to erosion caused by "modern scientific farming practices"
and that if we keep going on the current path we will have lost all of our
farmland in less then 150 years.  Not bad for a nation only 200 years old.
We have already made a third of the native animals that existed here 200
years ago extinct and the rates have accelerated dramatically in the last 25
years as the push for a more industrialised farming system has increased.
We also have big problems with nutrient run-off from farmland and
residential development.  In dry weather toxic blue green algae blooms
spread on the inland river systems, our soils and water situation are
totally unsuitable for the American industrial 'factory farm' model and we
risk our future food security if we continue to follow the corporate path,
which is the plan of course.  Once the conventional farmlands are all
destroyed we will have to pay through the nose for that hydroponic salad."

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