IFOAM – Organic International’s tri-annual Organic World Congress was a combined festival, fair and conference. It was an event of contrasts, not least as the mega-city of Delhi was covered in its worst smog ever, exposing the 10,000 participants originating from 121 countries to inhaling the equivalent of two packages of cigarettes a day. But more importantly, the three-day meeting offered visitors an intensive mixture of visual, intellectual, spiritual, practical and visionary impressions.
Chief Minister Pawan Chamling of India’s Federal State of Sikkim was celebrated for making his country the first ever in the world to go one-hundred-per-cent organic. Thanks to his leadership and vision, the entire country and its 65,000 farmers switched to organic agriculture in just twelve years, inspiring many others, including a woman from Sudan at the conference who now hopes to initiate an organic movement in her own country.
The BioFach Trade Fair held in parallel showcased professional companies and their ready-for-export products, such as high-quality basmati rice and delicate spices. The conference’s “Marketing Track” emphasised the role of local marketing, smallholders, Participatory Guarantee Systems and other direct consumer relationships as well as the importance of building alliances with like-minded sectors such as Fair Trade.
And while hundreds of Indian small farmers dove into the subject of soil health in the “Farmers track”, designed especially for practitioners to discuss hands-on farmer topics, representatives of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), policy-makers and advocates for organic farming discussed global environmental issues like climate change and biodiversity loss, and, how organic agriculture can contribute to halting or even reversing these devastating processes.
All this was accompanied by a “Scientific Track” placing organic agriculture in context, figures and evidence of its boundaries and benefits. The event was also shaped by the plenary sessions, where speakers broadened the perspective of organic in relation to current world crises and needs. Speakers focused on pesticides and GMOs, incoherent political agendas and farmers’ rights.
Furthermore, the festival focused on local food and varieties, from which the participants could taste the delicious and nutritious vegetarian meals during breaks. The hallways were filled with local seed collections, stressing the work and ownership of local communities and insisting on their rights to multiply local seeds, now and in the future.
In closing, the event showed that Organic Agriculture is on the edge of a new phase of development, ‘Organic 3.0’, which is about bringing organic out of its current niche into the mainstream and positioning organic systems as part of the multiple solutions needed to solve the tremendous challenges faced by our planet and our species.
Louise Luttikholt, HELVETAS
More information: Organic 3.0. Website