(Courtesy of the Korean Federation of Sustainable Agriculture)
By Eric Bottomley, September 2012
‘Destiny’ said the South Korean Farmers when CERES visited them and offered hopes for the redevelopment of the Paldang farmlands.
‘Destiny’ said Jane Tsao, a Director with Bio Farm, a large company working on sustainable towns and agriculture in China. She is keen to work with CERES in China.
‘Destiny’ it might be for CERES to connect closely to Asia. Here we see an Asian CERES, NOT Roman goddess of agriculture representing us. 50% of the world’s people will soon be living in Asia compared to 5% in Europe. How will we relate? This quick reflection on Korea follows sustainable schools training we conducted in Thailand in readiness for the Asian century.
This stunning country. Far too complex to justifiably describe in a few lines and yet I must try.
The S.K people – I know we generalise ridiculously but they seem overwhelmingly hospitable.
New Korea has highly educated young people, but too competitive an education system according to many. And around them a society with great harmony. People seem to socialise easily, celebrate merrily, extend enormous patience and warmth to foreign visitors. Amidst karaoke we downed buckets of milky rice wine, table tops of Korean dishes packed with green health from organic/traditional agriculture.
The S.K landscape – I was amazed by its beauty – mainly forest and agriculture separated by compact high rise tower towns. Even Seoul with 10 of the 50 million people is attractive with high density commercial and residential towers of colour and architectural novelty. And around the urban towers are forested mountains, mainly untouched, intrusions of Nature like leafy volcanoes extruded through urban concrete.
Everywhere there seems to be a respect for Nature, from city parks and peaks, to the agricultural areas. These begin almost in the city with polytunnels like a 1000 giant, transparent, earthworms, crawling across padi flood plains. These become more segmented in mountain valleys which are terraced for productivity and the inclusion of orchards.
The respect for Nature is palpable – manicured eco-agricultural landscapes, designed for beauty as well as rice and apples, producing a stream of skin-shining healthy farm products
The Economy – Worried about 7% unemployment but still the 25th largest economy in the world, Australia’s 3rd largest importer, 85% of young through university, industrial giants like Hyundai, Posco, Samsung. Strong sympathy for unification with North though processes yet unclear. A feeling that changes are already occurring with the new young Leader of the North and that the next decade might allow strong links NK-SK and some reunification of families.
And I was here for CERES, not only to speak at the Conference but surprisingly as an icon for farmers and citizens establishing a 26 hectare sustainability project with the support of the National government. The following letter summarises our oblivious ascent into this role:
‘My organization, the Korean Federation of Sustainable Agriculture Organizations (KFSA) is the national federation of 40 organic organic organizations in South Korea and we were one of the organizers of the 17th IFOAM Organic World Congress last year. In early November 2010, some 20 representatives of our member groups visited CERES, under the guidance of the President of IFOAM and the Organic Federation of Australia, Mr Andre Leu. There is a small organic conference in South Korea on September 14th and we would be grateful if a representative of CERES can come and showcase the success of CERES to the local organic community.
For the past three years, a struggle continued in the Paldang region (which is the birthplace of modern Korean Organic Agriculture), to preserve the organic farmlands which were in danger of being destroyed under the central government’s ambitious “4 Rivers Restoration Project” – plans to turn the organic farmlands into bike trails and recreational facilities on the pretext that organic agriculture in watersheds influences the quality of water. This led to a 3-year struggle by the local and global organic community, see IFOAM Declaration:http://www.ifoam.org/press/positions/IFOAM_Declaration_of_Support_for_the_Paldang_Farmers-2.html) as well as local religious, environmental and civil groups to preserve the organic farmlands.
Last week, the government and the farmers came to an agreement: It was agreed that the organic farmlands will be managed as a CERES style organic education centre – we see this as resulting from our organic groups’ visit to CERES in 2010. We would like to learn more about CERES – its history, activities and growth and the implications to the Paldang region.’
CERES looks forward to working on ‘sustainable schools and communities projects’ with so many inspiring people in Asia. For the full report, please view the attached document.