The future of agriculture in Gozo and Malta – AD
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During a seminar about the future of agriculture and sustainability organised by Green socio-political foundation ‘Fondazzjoni Ceratonia’ in collaboration with the United Staes Embassy in Malta earlier last week, American students studying in Malta for a Masters in sustainable resource management shared their views and research about agriculture and sustainability. Fondazzjoini Ceratonia president Ms Nighat Urpani welcomed the speakers and spoke of the importance of sustainability and policies which encourage the small farmer to keep on producing fresh produce.
AD Chairperson Michael Briguglio opened the proceedings by delving on some pertinent issues. He said that various measures can be introduced to safeguard the interests of Malta’s farming communities and at the same time promote sustainable agriculture For example, Malta can be declared a GMO-free zone. Priority can be given to organic agriculture. Farmers’ markets can be created, where farmers directly sell their produce to customers. This would result in fresher and cheaper products, and possibly, higher returns for farmers. This is a plea for rendering agricultural production more sustainable while at the same time safeguarding the interests of farmers and the consumers of agricultural products. One should also keep in mind that rural development is often associated with a triple role for farmers, fist as producers of food, second as wardens of the environment because rural areas sustain considerable biodiversity and third as embellishing the countryside and therefore attracting visitors including tourists.
Another speaker, Victor Galea explained how the Ager Foundation brings people closer to agriculture and farmers and the opportunities for Gozo if the agri-tourism sector is developed further.
AD spokesperson on sustainable development and local govenment, Carmel Cacopardo discussed the roles of agriculture which went far beyond food security. Building on Victor Galea’s earlier contribution on eco- and agri-tourism he explained the importance of agriculture in developing eco-therapy. Quoting various studies he explored how agri-tourism could serve as an alternative to traditional cures for minor mental health ailments.
AD spokesperson Simon Galea touched upon AD’s proposals for the agricultural sector. He noted that stretches of arable land should be earmarked as organic farming areas where the farmers are brought together and provided technical support. The general public should be educated in order to better appreciate the health and environmental benefits organic produce hold.
Simon Galea emphasised the need to improve financial income from sustainable agriculture. This will serve as an initiative towards either farmers continuing farming or even more people taking up farming in the first place instead of leaving land untilled. Fetching a better price for the produce is essential. So much time, energy and fuel is lost through transporting produce to the vegetable market (pitkalija) which is then sold to street vendors or green grocers who then sell to the general public (consumer). Simon Galea said that Alternattiva Demokratika – The Green Party always stressed the need of a number of local farmers’ markets where the farmers sell their produce directly to the consumer. A better price is fetched by the producer while the consumer pays a lower price for fresher products. Finally the environment will benefit through the reduction of the number of vehicles trips to and from the cenrtalised ‘pitkalija.’