This is the full paper presented by the Jesuit priests Father Roland Lesseps SJ and Father Peter Henriot SJ at the International Symposium on “Genetically Modified Organisms, Threat or Hope?”, held in Rome 10-11 November 2003. It was organized by the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and presided by Council Prefect Cardinal Renato Martino. Fr Roland Lesseps SJ is Instructor at the Kasisi Agricultural Training Centre and Fr Peter Henriot SJ is Director of the Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflection, both in Luska, Zambia.
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For 40 years Desmarais has run the Kasisi Agricultural Training Centre in Zambia. But over the last 20 years Desmarais has rethought almost every aspect of conventional Western agriculture and how it’s applied in Africa.
Ploughs, tractors, chemical fertilizers, commercial herbicides were once all part of Desmarais’ gospel of modern agriculture. But no more. The Canadian Jesuit now promotes organic, ecologically sustainable, no-till farming for small scale farmers.
Promising Practices brings together the collective knowledge of SCIAF Programme Officer Stephen Martin and the four Zambian organisations that partnered with SCIAF to deliver the Promotion of Rural Food Security Programme (PRFSP) to look at the successes and lessons which came out of the programme
The experience, dedication and commitment of Kasisi Agricultural Training Centre, Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflection, Caritas Livingstone and Caritas Mongu, supported by Catholic Relief Services have laid the foundations for making the PRFSP a success.
The idea underlying sustainable agriculture is that farmers should co-operate with nature and not fight it. To be sustainable, agriculture must be environmentally friendly, economically viable, and socially just. This 5-day course covers the importance of soil organic matter, compost, green manures, agroforestry, conservation tillage, natural pest management, and rotation, diversification, and interplanting of crops. In part of one session we discuss sustainable agriculture’s ability to mitigate the impact of HIV/AIDS on the farming family.
KATC promotes the formation of study circles in the villages. This is a method of adult participatory education. A small group of 7 to 12 farmers come together to form a study circle group. The group chooses the topic it would like to study. There is a group leader, who need not be an expert in the subject matter, who is trained in study-circle leadership skills, and whose task it is to animate the group. All participants contribute to the learning process by sharing information and working on practical exercises together.
Kasisi Agricultural Training Centre (KATC) is a farmer-training institution near Lusaka, Zambia. It is operated by members of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits). From its beginning in 1974 until 1990 it taught conventional (industrial) agriculture, but then shifted to organic, sustainable agriculture. KATC offers a series of short courses (3 days to 2 weeks) in organic agriculture (e.g., biological pest management, animal draft power), conducts field days at its own demonstration plots, farms, rural areas, and schools in the area.