Caritas Asia, the relief, development and social arm of the Catholic Church in Asia has decided to develop sustainable agriculture and revive food sufficiency with the aim of boosting the income of farming communities.
The commitment was made by representatives of Caritas organizations of 13 Asian countries when they gathered for a conference in Indonesia’s Ruteng Diocese, May 8-11.
Donor agencies, local government officials, students and activists also attended the conference.
Ruteng Diocese in East Nusa Tenggara has largely farming Catholic population of some 791,000.
Father Yuvens Rugi, director of Caritas Ruteng told UCANEWS that participants discussed the development of sustainable agriculture through organic farming, which has been adopted in pilot projects in Cambodia and Indonesia.
Fr. Rugi said, "Participants agreed that using natural fertilizer can address productivity and environmental problems facing many farming communities."
In many countries, the use of chemical fertilizers for decades have damaged the environment and land fertility which have led to reduced yields, hurting the farming community.
In the last three years, Ruteng Diocese has trained farmers in organic fertilizer production, through the establishment of 16 assisted groups in villages.
The Church, he said, helps these groups find affordable ways to overcome the problem of reduced soil fertility.
"They now realize they have to change common farming methods and turn to organic farming," Father Rugi said.
He said Caritas develops a holistic approach to farmers, providing not just improved skills but also spiritual assistance through catechesis.
Conference participants from countries such as India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Philippines and Kazakhstan made field trips to two farming groups assisted by Ruteng Diocese, where farmers showed them how to make organic fertilizer.
Improving people’s lives
Father Marthen Chen, director of the Pastoral Center of Ruteng Diocese said efforts to promote sustainable farming can work if there is synergy with other parties, including government.
He said it is the responsibility of all — the government and religious institutions — to elevate the lives of farmers.
Kamelus Deno, the head of Manggarai district, in Ruteng Diocese, said sustainable farming is one of the ways to improving a farmer's quality of life.
He said, 63 percent of the total workforce of 137,440 in his district work in the agriculture sector and has been trapped in poverty for years.
He said that since starting organic farming last year involving 12 groups of about 400 people in an area of 50 hectares, the results have been very promising. (Source: UCANEWS)