Thursday, December 31, 2009
If you ate locally grown produce today, thank a farmer – while you can still find one.
According to author (and farmer), Thomas Pawlick, the Canadian family farm is on the verge of extinction and only a concerted effort by urban dwellers can ensure its survival.
In his new book – The War in the Country – Mr. Pawlick uses his own part of the world (eastern Ontario) to draw attention to what he believes are some of the problems family farms are facing. These include: too much government regulation, poor remuneration and competition from multi-national factory farms.
Another issue that concerns him is the diminishing nutritional value of produce that is shipped into Canada.
Mr. Pawlick has studied international food tables for several years and he is alarmed at what they show.
“What I found that was so shocking was that for virtually every food on the shelf, the nutrient content was dropping at an astounding rate since 1950,” said Mr. Pawlick in a telephone interview.
Mr. Pawlick gave the example of the white potato. He says the studies show that the level of vitamin A in white potatoes has dropped 100 per cent since 1950.
The reason for this is because of the way the food is produced, processed, shipped and stored. It may take months before something grown outside of Canada reaches your dinner table. By that time the nutrients are gone.
Mr. Pawlick believes eating locally grown organic food is a much healthier option for Canadians.
Having lived in Africa, the Middle East and Europe for many years, Mr. Pawlick has been able to eat and drink locally produced food and wine and says Canadians need to embrace that.
“We have lost that culture (that promotes local produce and wine),” said Mr. Pawlick. “That culture goes back a couple thousand years.”
It is not all negative though. He is encouraged by the upsurge in the formation of community groups that support sustainable agriculture and local farmers’ markets.
“What I want Canadians to take from this book is the fact that it (rural life and local food production) concerns them, even if they don’t live in the country.”
The War in the Country contains a 15-point to do list, which spells out how urban Canadians can get more involved in protecting their food security.
Whether or not you believe that factory farms are producing food that is less nutritious and healthy is something each individual consumer is going to have to decide for themselves. However, with his book, The War in the Country, Thomas Pawlick has given Canadians ample food-for-thought as to why they should care about not only what they eat, but also, where it comes from.
Sunday, December 20, 2009
The world came to Cartagena, Colombia recently to take part in the second review conference of the Mine Ban Treaty.
What emerged from the Cartagena Summit was a collective will to improve the lives of landmine/explosive remnants of war (ERW) survivors.
The 127 states that took part in the summit hammered out the comprehensive 67-step Cartagena Action Plan (CAP) that will guide the mine action community for the next five years.
Landmine survivors and people who work directly with mine-affected communities provided input to the plan as well.
“The CAP provides a clear and concrete roadmap of what is required to bring us significantly closer to a mine-free world,” said a spokesperson with the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL), in an email interview.
The amount of money required to implement all the plans is not yet known, although the ICBL is asking donor countries to contribute the same amount of funding as previously committed, to ensure the objectives of the CAP are met (US$626.5 million in 2008 according to Landmine Monitor).
Before anyone cries “donor fatigue” the ICBL points out that many actions in the CAP do not require additional funding – just heightened interest, commitment and energy by affected State Parties.
“It does not necessarily require money to engage in effective and inclusive planning on victim assistance,” said Tamar Gabelnick, ICBL treaty implementation director. “Furthermore, coordination on developing and implementing a victim assistance plan with other actors inside and outside of government should lead to less costs if it can show that the needs of landmine survivors will be satisfactorily met through existing mechanisms.”
In addition to stable funding, accountability is also important to ensure that donor money actually gets to where it is supposed to go. The ICBL says it will be vigilant in monitoring the progress of the CAP implementation.
Unfortunately, there were only a few funding announcements in Cartagena that will have to be monitored.
“Australia pledged 100 million Australian dollars over the next five years, the UK pledged a three-year commitment of over 30 million GBP, the Netherlands stated it would contribute 15 million euro annually in the two coming years,” said the ICBL.
For Canadians, the Cartagena Summit was a mixed bag. No new funding announcements were made, although a pledge to stay engaged was welcomed by experts with Mines Action Canada.
“We are glad that they attached enough importance to it to send a minister,” said Nancy Ingram, manager of programs and organizational development at Mines Action Canada.
“Canada was one of the major donors to our Youth Leaders Forum that ran alongside the Summit, which enabled the training of 36 aspiring youth leaders, 25 of which were from affected countries. Minister of State of Foreign Affairs (Americas), Peter Kent took the time to come to the Forum and present graduates with their certificates, which they and we really appreciated,” said Ms. Ingram.
Canada is one of the top five donors to mine action.
“In the past two years, Canada has contributed more to the mine action effort than at any point in our history,” said a spokesperson with the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT).
Other good news to come out of the Summit was the announcement that Albania, Greece, Rwanda and Zambia are now mine-free. However, there are still approximately 70 countries with a landmine problem. There is much work left to be done.
Landmines weren’t the only topic of discussion in Cartagena. The cluster bomb issue and rights for disabled people were also raised.
“One thing that was really underlined at the Summit was the importance of ratification of the Convention on Cluster Munitions and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities,” said Christian Champigny, programme support officer, Handicap International Canada.