Second World War. August 1st, 1944. German soldier Horst Rippert just shot down a French Air Force plane. The aircraft, a P-38 Lightning, and its pilot, sank in the beautiful blue sea, just a few kilometers off the coast of Marseille.
That plane had left the day before, from an air base in Corsica. Antoine, the French pilot, was tasked with gathering information about the movement of German troops around the Rhone Valley before the Allied invasion of southern France. He had turned 44 just over a month ago. He left a wife, Consuelo, and some books he wrote. Talking to friends and writing, in addition to flying, were the things he most enjoyed doing.
His most famous book was written just a year before his tragic death. The title? “The Little Prince”, which would become, years later, one of the best-selling books of all time. Yes, that pilot was Antoine de Saint-Exupéry! His body was never found, but in 1998, Jean Claude Bianco, a fisherman from Marseille, caught a silver bracelet, with the name of Antoine and his wife inscribed.
How is it possible, a pilot, in the middle of a war, to write a book so sweet, so full of love? Millions of people, mainly young people, receive, each generation, the inspiring breeze that comes from the pages of this children's book, magical, and at the same time profound. While writing "The Little Prince", sitting on the grass, in the shadow of the wing of his small plane, could Antoine imagine the influence that that book would have on the lives of millions of people? I doubt it. But if Antoine had lived just another year, he would have the joy of witnessing the end of the war, the most absurd ignorance that men can commit.
Great human decisions, for better or for worse, start from the individual actions of a few people. History is full of examples, in that sense. I sincerely believe that it is these small individual actions, or in small groups, that are gradually shaping, building our future, as a human society. As we act, we hardly ever realize that we may be connecting to an invisible world network, which I like to call tune.
Right now, we are developing new models of agricultural production, based on large-scale Agroecology. We are guiding producers and consultants towards a safe transition from the chemical model to ecologically based models. We all know that the previous model has reached its limit, but migrating to new models is not always simple. It takes holistic, multidisciplinary knowledge, it takes moderate doses of boldness and courage, it is necessary to want and believe that it is possible.
In these ten years, we met some consultants and producers who have also been carrying out actions, within this same line: that of making feasible, creating procedures, reliable parameters for this transition, in different cultures. It's not just a task for the researchers, not only for the consultants, nor just for the producers. Therein lies the key: all together we can move faster. The exchange is fundamental, but it requires more humility, less vanity. More spirit of solidarity, collective, less selfishness. Open mind, open heart; this is how new paths are built.
I realize that the practices adopted by agribusiness in the last four decades, have taken away from almost all producers the status of protagonists, in the production of food. Day by day practice, observations throughout each harvest, experimentation and the exchange of ideas with your consultant, were replaced by ready-made recipes and “packages” offered by companies that manufacture agricultural inputs. The producer was gradually becoming shy, feeling overtaken by the new “cutting-edge technologies”. They started to accept information, instead of generating knowledge. They started to obey, instead of proposing. They underestimated the value of their experience, the farm team experience, of their consultant. They became a mere applicator of inputs. And the consultant, became a "receiver" of inputs.
Then, as a reaction to all this, groups of producers and consultants began to emerge, everywhere, with the desire to return to the leading role in food production. I see this movement in a very positive way. Several actions are taking place, simultaneously, in the search for new models of agriculture and livestock. In the midst of a great diversity of interests, the focus must be on the development and implementation of better, more intelligent, sustainable and profitable models.
Those input companies that insist on being protagonists will fall off the horse. Their weapons of domination: fear, credit and flattery, their days are numbered. Producers and consultants are taking over the reins of food production. Like the auto parts industry, companies that create tools suitable for the new models will come out ahead. Producers will buy models (systems), not products (tools).
Instead of pushing their products, avant-garde companies will always try to be in tune with the new needs that will appear to meet the new models. It will be necessary to reduce sales and marketing teams, and increase teams responsible for creating and developing new solutions. The new producer will know very well what he needs to buy; you won't need someone to convince you. You will discuss this with your consultant depending on the production model you have chosen. There will also be a need for a closer exchange between companies and these independent consultants, but this time on new bases. No flattery, commissions and other questionable ethics. Companies must show a genuine interest in understanding the demands of new models and put their human assets to create compatible tools.
Food production must obviously be a profitable activity. And there is absolutely no antagonism between profitability and sustainability. I have seen that the most sustainable models are exactly the most profitable. With the advantage of allowing future generations to earn money on the same land we use today. The future is ours, and it depends on our actions and decisions now.
Mr. Maurício Brandão is a coffee producer in Patrocínio, Minas Gerais, and my client. The day he met our orientation work on agroecological models, he gave me a piece of paper. On it was written one of the best phrases of Antoine the aviator. I considered that a sign, a stimulus to move forward, in the task of building new paths. I leave it here, for you:
“The future is not a place where we are going; but a place that we are creating. The way for it is not found, but constructed. And the act of doing it, changes both the director and the destination ”.
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Antonio N. S. Teixeira
Executive Director - IBA