WWW Irkutsk Newsletter 19 Aug 1996
Sustainable Agriculture Farming Conference
October 10 to 19, 1996
REAP International has been requested by the Ministry of Agriculture of the Irkutsk Oblast and the President of the Irkutsk Farmers Union to conduct a conference on sustainable agriculture in Irkutsk. We will recruit eight persons from the US to take part in this conference. Russian participants will include the membership of the Irkutsk Farmers Union (1,600 farmers), educators, researchers, environmentalists, governmental officials, rural residents and members of local nongovernmental organizations. The Ministry will pay all the local expenses of American participants, including four days in residence on local farms, conference costs and an excursion to Lake Baikal. We believe that it is necessary for American participants to start out staying on farms, seeing the farm and hearing the concerns of real farmers, before convening a formal conference.
American participants will need to fund their own transportation to the lake, including expenses in getting through Moscow. The total cost from Chicago to Baikal, including visas, will be $2,100. The same cost applies to persons opting to stay two weeks and then going on to Buryatia for a second conference.
In March 1995 REAP conducted a conference in Irkutsk hosted by the Ministry of Agriculture. This conference was extremely well-received. In making their offer to us for a second conference, it was agreed that sustainable agriculture should be the theme. American participants will find the challenges facing their Russian counterparts to be enormous. The survival strategies which we have developed in the past 15 years can be very useful to Irkutsk farmers. They include management ideas, information-sharing and marketing. They also includes coalition-building between the farm and nonfarm sectors of the society. The same kind of tension is rising at Lake Baikal.
Farming is viewed as an environmental problem by many Russians who care about the welfare of Lake Baikal. Poor management practices on State and private farms contribute to contamination of Baikal. Soil erosion is a monumental problem here, because local farming practices do not include contour plowing, planting winter cover crops or adequate crop rotation.
In the future, regulation of farming will grow more intense. The pressure to farm in environmentally safe ways will be intensified. The question is -- which farmers (if any) will survive at Baikal? As with our own situation, farmers must band together with environmentalists, scientists and others to approach this problem holistically, and with an organized plan of attack. If they do not do this, others will do it for them.
Interested persons should contact:
Bill Mueller REAP International 1427 4th Street SW Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52404 (319) 366-4230 Fax. (319) 366-2209
REAP International is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.