An estimated 5 billion people “engaged” with the World Cup in 2022, according to figures just released by FIFA. That’s more than half the people on our planet. This big number tries to count every social-media interaction, and it also includes the nearly 1.5 billion who turned on their television sets and watched last month’s dramatic championship game, which first went into overtime and then a winner-takes-all shootout.
As viewers of the World Cup, we saw something more than that. We witnessed the value of teamwork – the power of being a team. We saw that when you have a common goal and the whole group works toward it, strengths multiply, and weaknesses are minimized. That no one is more important than the other, because it is the role that each one contributes to the group that allows success. It doesn’t matter if you are big or small, with more or less, important or unknown, because your achievements are possible by being part of a team.
And that’s what we are, together, in the Global Farmer Network: the Dream Team!
As a country with a long history of developing technological, organizational and institutional innovations for sustainable agricultural production based on the farmer-to-farmer knowledge transfer model, Argentina is a fitting location for a February meeting of the Global Farmer Network, focused on amplifying farmers’ voices in promoting trade, technology, sustainable farming, economic growth, and food security.
Our Global Farmer Network meeting may not be as exciting to millions as the World Cup, but FIFA’s boast about 5 billion engagements makes me smile: Every single day, farmers beat that number by a lot.
That’s because, together, farmers feed the world.
Accomplishing that requires a massive effort of teamwork that unites farmers with academics, scientists, seed companies, fertilizer and crop-protection suppliers, the makers of trucks and tractors, the people who drive trains and operate container ships, the stockers and cashiers who work in grocery stores and markets, and more.
At the heart of it all, however, are the farmers—and we’re a team unto ourselves.
As farmers, we depend on many people for agriculture to flourish, but we trust farmers first. We have a strong bias in favor of the men and women linked to sustainability, producing on the land and facing the daily challenge of securing food, but also caring for the environment with nature as our guide and inspiration, using science, and strengthening communities.
Unfortunately, we don’t see enough of each other. We don’t work in offices with conference rooms. We’re often out in the fields, in remote locations. Many farmers can go a whole day without seeing another person.
At the same time, farmers need each other. To thrive, we must share stories, compare struggles, and trade information about solutions. We require opportunities to engage in farmer-to-farmer knowledge transfer.
I’ve seen the benefits of this firsthand for more than 30 years. On my own farm, I learned how to implement no-till and follow system improvements like integration of livestock and grain production, from other farmers in Argentina. They showed me how to build a system that improves resilience and promotes biodiversity. Their advice has made me a better farmer, as I pursue the vision defined by this slogan: “Always green, always alive.” (Aapresid dixit)
Today, we view our farm as an entire ecosystem, and we want not only to have a great harvest each year but also to keep our soil healthy, improve biological activity, cycle nutrients, use water efficiently, and control the constant threats of weeds, pests, and disease.
In the give-and-take of knowledge transfer, I’m not just a student. I’m an agronomist and consultant—and I’ve shared with many other farmers how to introduce no-till approaches that improve both productivity and sustainability, as well as how to handle the disruptions caused by the adoption of a radical new technique.
We can learn much of this from books and articles, as well as online videos and even tweets.
This event is so important because it is put together by the producers, taking into account our needs and inviting our fellow farmers so that we can all listen, learn and exchange in order to continue improving our commitment to sustainability in all areas while attending to our businesses and humanity’s demands. We are from different countries, cultures, and climates as well as large farms and small farms—but we feel the need to be connected, to have initiatives together, to design common messages that strengthen our voice at the highest level of discussions and policy decisions.
The face-to-face meeting is the most powerful force in farmer-to-farmer knowledge transfer.
At the GFN meeting in Argentina, we will seize the opportunity to connect and increase knowledge transfer with our extended networks in the private and public sector: representatives from companies, NGOs, government, and more who are aligned with our knowledge that agriculture is part of the solution to the challenges facing humanity today and in the future.
First and foremost, however, farmers will meet with other farmers. It all comes down to teamwork- All together!