The Paris International Agricultural Show opens its doors on the theme of sustainable development
The Paris International Agricultural Show is being held from 21 February to 1 March 2009 at the Porte de Versailles Exhibition Centre in Paris. This showcase for the richness and diversity of French and international agriculture is a key meeting place for both those involved in the world of agriculture and the general public. This year, the main theme for this important event is sustainable agriculture, with special areas devoted to gardening, environmentally friendly housing and new energy sources. For the third year running, the international Tech for Food forum will be part of the Show, shedding light on the numerous initiatives incorporating new technologies to support agricultural development and food security in developing countries. India will be the guest of honour for the 2009 Tech for Food event, which will take place on Wednesday 25 February.
The Paris International Agricultural Show attracts over 600,000 visitors, 1,000 exhibitors, representatives from 17 countries and 22 French regions, 700 French (from the overseas territories and departments as well as the mainland) and foreign producers and 1,000 livestock farmers, not to mention over 4,500 animals including pedigree dogs, goats, sheep, cows, bulls, horses, ponies and more.
First held in 1964, the Paris International Agricultural Show is now in its 46th year. It offers a wide range of events, educational opportunities, agricultural competitions, tasting sessions for regional produce and a whole host of culinary specialities from around the world. One of the main attractions of the 2009 Show will be the Night of Agriculture on Friday 27 February, including, amongst other things, an equestrian show and musical entertainment from a number of folk groups.
French agriculture is doing well, with large areas of available land, high yields, technical skills, good soils and a beneficial climate helping to maintain regular production. The country is a major agricultural player and is also highly competitive: France alone is responsible for over 20% of the European Union’s agricultural production. It is the world’s third largest exporter, including the European market, and the eighth largest excluding European exports.
Today, one major question is being asked: how can we feed humanity? "At this 2009 Show, across all the different plant and animal sectors, we are doing everything we can to show the general public that French agriculture is ready to face the challenge of these early years of the 21st century: ensuring food security for human populations whilst preserving natural resources, i.e. producing more and producing better," explains Jean-Luc Poulain, president of the Paris International Agricultural Show.
There are 1.5 billion farmers around the world and three quarters of them suffer from hunger. Taking this as its starting point, Tech for Food, the first international forum of its kind in France, has set itself the objective of putting new technologies at the service of agriculture and food in developing countries.
An integral part of the Paris International Agricultural Show, this third Tech for Food event at Porte de Versailles will be held on Wednesday 25 February, with India as guest of honour. Between the 1950s and 1970s, India successfully led the green revolution and is now at the cutting edge of technologies in this area.
"Our aim is to share know-how in order to find solutions to the problems faced by small producers in emerging regions. The internet, mobile telephony, GPS, remote sensing: all these cutting-edge technologies can help agricultural development and food security in developing countries," explains Jean-Paul Hébrard, originator of the Tech for Food forum and editor-in-chief of the magazine Agriculture & Nouvelles Technologies. "The success of previous years has encouraged us to repeat the initiative, in order to create a network of information technologies as quickly as possible: for example, setting up an internet platform in 11 African countries to concentrate agricultural expertise; or the use of an educational software program called Educ Phyto, a multimedia program that will be developed in Madagascar and Africa".
One of the high points of the forum will be the speech by Professor Kesavan of the Swaminathan Foundation, which advocates sustainable agriculture and fights to eliminate hunger and poverty in India whilst preserving biodiversity. The event is based on presentations of new initiatives, debates between experts and delegates and launches of practical actions such as Nokia Life Tools. This innovative service, developed in India in early 2009 and then in a number of countries in Asia and Africa, is a formidable information tool. "Farmers will be able to monitor changes in meteorological conditions and market prices using a mobile phone. They will also be able to get information about the prices at which their produce is resold which will give them a basis for improving their room for negotiation," says Jean-Paul Hébrard. This highly practical application of new information and communications technologies will help to save harvests, protect animals and optimise the incomes of the populations concerned.
The symposium is open to all and will bring together business leaders, members of non-governmental organisations, consultants and representatives from the public sector. "We are now being asked to develop Tech for Food events abroad. The forum will be held again in Germany in November 2009. If other countries are interested, they are welcome to join us," emphasises Jean-Paul Hébrard.
By 2050, there will be almost nine billion human beings on the planet. Ensuring that they all have access to safe, high-quality, sustainable food is going to be a real challenge.