On 26 November 2022 at the community house in Zurich, the annual symposium of Biovision took place, a swiss nonprofit foundation established in 1998 by Hans Rudolf Herren using the money he won by achieving the World Nutrition Award. Together with many partner organisations, this foundation supports sufficient and healthy nutrition of mankind whilst preserving natural basics of living. By transforming the nowadays dominating industrialised production of food into an agroeconomic agriculture in alignment with the “International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development” (IAASTD)published in 2008, famine and poverty shall be conquered in the long term.
The main topic at the conference was in which way such a sustainable, health-supporting nutritional system can be achieved in the long term, facing the realities of ever-growing global warming and political crises. Staff members of the foundation led through a three-hour event where guests from Africa as well as committed volunteers got their chance to speak.
Biovision is being active to this day primarily in Kenia, Tansania and Ethiopia, where over a million peasant families are educated and supported in running agriculture on their own and biologically successful – which means by saving resources and without dependencies on seeds, chemical fertilizers and pesticides. As one of Biovision’s numerous projects supported in Africa, the conference introduced the daily work of an Education and Research Centre for Agroeconomic Agriculture situated in the southwestern African state of Malawi, one of the poorest countries in the world. Two female Malawians reported that in former times, many children got sick by eating maize as their only source of nutrition, while the cultivation of maize drained the soil from its nutrients. With the help of agroeconomic methods (for example by using self-produced natural fertilizers and catch crop cultivation of legumes etc.), which were adopted by more and more peasant families, the situation has dramatically improved for many: Over 10,000 peasants are now able to feed themselves well permanently and sell surpluses on the marketplace.
More examples for agroeconomics (see box) being on the rise in Eastern Africa were shown in various video reports: An entrepreneuse from Nairobi runs an organic vegetable shop, where all products are grown on her farm and on the farms of regional peasants. To the north of Nairobi, vegetable and fruit gardens, which are fertilised with precious compost soil, have been laid out and furthermore, an education centre has been established, both following agroeconomic principles.
All of Biovision’s achievements are the result of constant accompanying research on site – in close cooperation with the peasants – as well as of education and advanced training of the population involved.
In the second part of the programme, the Biovision initiative for a so-called “Citizen’s Council for Nutrition Policy” was introduced, which was launched this year as a novelty for Switzerland. This council has discussed the questions about future sustainable nutrition in Switzerland over several months. Eighty individuals, who represent a cross section of the swiss population, but who had been chosen randomly, worked together with scientists and visited farming operations for five months to answer the question of how the future nutrition system of Switzerland could or should look like.
Two participants reported on the process and Basel-Country Councillor of State and Councillor of the Biovision foundation, Maya Graf, presented ideas on how the suggestions made by the “Citizen’s Council” may be implemented. A national congress for the nutrition system will take place in Bern in early February of 2023, on which a catalogue of recommendations, developed based on mentioned ideas, will be handed over to politics, administration and practice.
To conclude the conference, founder and president of Biovision as well as recipient of the alternative Nobel Prize, Hans Rudolf Herren, presented his speech. He reminded the audience that the globally practiced industrialised nutrition system is responsible for 30 % of global warming.
In presence of ongoing crises, in addition to sustainability the resilience, meaning the power of resistance of the nutrition system against crises must be strengthened. To accomplish this, an integral kind of thinking is needed, where production, processing and marketing of food up to the point of consumption play a role and are influencing each other. In the field of production, much progress has been made in the sense of agroeconomics. The main focus now has to lie on the field of marketing and on empowering the personal relationship between producer and consumer, so that peasants will be able to sell their products well.
During the break, information and respective brochures could be gathered at various stands. Upon the end of the conference, the audience expressed its appreciation by standing ovations. •
Citizens’ Council for nutrition policy, http://www.buergerinnenrat.ch/de/prozess/
Symposium 2022 Retrospective – Nutrition moves us!, https://www.biovision.ch/story/symposium-2022-rueckblick/
cc. Agroecology is a comprehensive agricultural concept which is closely connected to nature, which in addition takes into consideration the production of the entire food chain up to consumption, and closely monitors the ecological, social, regional, cultural and health-promoting as well as equal consideration of the technical and economic aspects and conditions. According to the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD) from 2008, Agroecology provides a sustainable alternative way for agriculture to protect human health and environmental health as well as the social situation of the peasants and to guarantee global food security. The concrete goal is to enable the transformation of industrial agriculture and its technologically-oriented production increase into a resilient, solidarity-based multifunctional circular economy. Agroecology has mainly been developed, thanks to scientific studies of diverse models of regional and local agriculture and the related knowledge based on experience. Due to the mutual respectful cooperation between local peasants and agronomists, biodiversity and soil fertility have emerged as conducive forms of regionally based agriculture (e. g., organic and regenerative farming or agroforestry and permaculture). Most important is the preservation and promoting the health of the soil i. e., building humus by protecting the soil life, as the key to enabling such development. It is important to note that with Agroecology, production doesn’t suffer which means that the food security is not compromised.
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