Taghi Farvar who promotes ecological farming among nomads in Iran has unusual wish of his country be subjected to more international sanctions, if only to enable it to attain food sovereignty.

“These sanctions practically reduced oil production to one third of what it was and made it look for innovative alternatives, away from the model of exporting oil and importing food grains”, he told The Hindu on the sidelines of the COP 11 CBD.

“I say this with conviction as the food for oil is not a sustainable model. Apply squeeze to get the best out of a country as then it would be forced to depend on indigenous food production. More than food security, it is food sovereignty that is important and then you can ward off threats from the new imperialists”.

Mr. Farvar of Centre for Sustainable Development (CENESTA), said long years of dependence on oil made Iran lose out native varieties of wheat and barley. “We started restoring the situation virtually seed by seed, getting some from the seed bank of the International Centre for Agriculture Research and Development in Arid Land.”

Through a participatory and "evolutionary" plant breeding programme among indigenous people, 1600 varieties of these crops were revived, on lands that they were traditionally dry and drought-prone. In doing so we disproved the myth that illiterate farmers are incapable of taking up such research based programmes. Their native knowledge keeps them in good stead, which is often undermined.

Along with ecological farming native breeds of sturdy two-humped camels, cattle and sheep that thrive in adverse conditions were reintroduced, he said.

A similar experiment was shared by Sutej Hugu of Tao Foundation on a tiny 45 square km Orchid Island off Taiwan. His worry was to retain the last of the small indigenous population of 2000 in the island and introduce youngsters to fishing and farming.

“With limited opportunities in the island, they want to migrate to Taiwan for jobs. They are prepared to work as labourers there than being independent fishers and farmers here. We counsel and try to bring them back”, he told this correspondent.

Tourism indeed has come to the rescue of the local communities and that was one reason why they want to stay in the island. “But we ensure that it is sustainable and ecological tourism and does not exceed the carrying capacity of the island”.