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E.U. and FAO project to promote sustainable agriculture in Asia
by Anna Luisa Cherenti
Cotton is one of the plants most dear to the human race: a small and precious plant, the fibres of which enable us to create covering for our bodies. The major producers are three countries in the eastern part of the globe: China, Pakistan and India, which together account for about 50% of the world production of cotton.

Cotton cultivation in these three countries, which together number over two billion inhabitants, represents the source of income for millions of farmers. These peasants, often extremely poor, have to struggle every year against a series of parasites which attack the plant and destroy the harvest.

For years these three countries, together with the Philippines and Vietnam, have represented the major market for the pesticide industry, since these constitute the peasants’ only hope of saving the harvest. The massive use of chemical substances has resulted in extremely serious environmental and social consequences in these countries, to the extent that the European Union has decided to allocate 12 million US$ to the funding of an FAO (World Nutrition Programme) project for integrated organic pest control.

The objective of this project is to reduce the use of pesticides in the cotton fields of these countries by 50%, and it envisages the setting up, within 2004, of 3800 field schools where about 100,000 peasant farmers will be able to improve their knowledge of the local ecosystem and learn the techniques of organic farming, including crop rotation and the breeding of the parasites’ natural predators. This is just the latest in a series of enterprises promoted by the FAO in favour of sustainable agriculture; in Asia for example more than a million peasant farmers have benefited from similar help projects in the sphere of rice production.

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