A documentary exploring the future of agriculture

Summary

Three years ago, French fiction director Coline Serreau made a documentary film on a vertiginous subject: how can we counter the bad habits our agriculture developed in the 20th century? The result is militant, invigorating, full of ideas… and still valid in these times of “crisis”.

16Jan.
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« Local solutions to a global disaster ». That is how the title of French filmmaker Coline Serreau’s latest film could be translated. And that title says it all. The documentary, shot around the world and released in France in 2010, has a dual ambition: to report on what the author calls the “global disaster” of agriculture, and to present solutions that are being trialled all around the world to counter the process. The film lasts a little less than two hours and is entirely made up of interviews with experts, engineers, biologists, farmers, activists, etc. Coline Serreau met them in France, Brazil, India, Morocco and Ukraine, filmed them in their everyday lives and activities and gathered their words to make this socially committed film, a film that aims to awaken consciences and, above all, show that another future is possible for agriculture.

 

The problem and its solutions

 

The effects of agriculture on the environment have been known for around twenty years now, and there is growing awareness of the need to change our production system, globally, in order not to completely exhaust our planet.

This idea is conveyed by every single participant: the industrialisation of agriculture – with growing use of hybrid seeds, pesticides, artificial fertilizers, and globally derivatives of oil – has impoverished our soils, those who work on them and the biodiversity of our resources.

Aside from the criticism of the choices made over the past sixty years, which help put the issue into context, the film is mainly of interest in that it focuses on what can be done. And, actually, on what is already being done. Near Paris, Serreau met the founder of an AMAP (Association for the Maintenance of Family Farming), an association that brings together producers and consumers to support local agriculture. In India, she saw the work of a farmer who owns an independent organic farm and has made it out of poverty. In Morocco, she witnessed how the locals learn to make compost and fertilize arid soils. In Brazil, she talked to members of the MST (the Landless Rural Workers’ Movement), who fight to give land to farmers who have been deprived of it. In Ukraine, she visited the farm of a man who has not used any herbicide or pesticide in the last 30 years, and has a better yield than his neighbour. Almost everywhere, people have created seed banks where they can gather, store and exchange seeds and thus gain autonomy.

The film explores a variety of techniques that aim to produce more food with less damage to the environment. The farmers Serreau met do not resort to ploughing, have abandoned monocultures and use only 100% natural pesticides. Some of them practice agroforestry, others have “mandala gardens” that respect the principles of biodynamic agriculture. All share the will to “return” to a time when we simply used manure as a fertilizer and relied on a local, food-producing agriculture. All also have in common a deep love for nature, and the absolute certainty that a “new civilisation” must rise up. They believe that tomorrow, each and every one of us will be, to a tiny extent at least, a farmer, and that it will mean the “reinvention of democracy.” As philosopher and farmer Pierre Rabhi puts it,

cultivating your own garden is a political act of resistance.

For the sake of future generations, Coline Serreau’s film clearly calls out to all of us to become – or support – local farmers. We’d better get to work.

Photo © Shutterstock / wellphoto