The Catholic Farmers' Association has strongly opposed the use of chemicals in agriculture. (Photo: RFA)
A leading church-sponsored farmers’ group in South Korea has vowed to continue its efforts for organic agriculture and to protect the environment from pollution.
Leaders and members of the Catholic Farmers’ Association (CFA) of Korea made the pledges as they marked the 26th Peasant Sunday, a special day for prayer and well-being of farming communities on July 5.
The event also marked the 42nd anniversary of the CFA branch established in Ssangho of Andong Diocese in North Gyeongsang province.
Bishop John Chrisostom Kwon Hyeok-ju of Andong presided over the ceremony that included a Mass and talk show in the Nongeun Training Center in Yecheon-gun. Among the participants were Father Ahn Young-bae, who is in charge of pastoral care for farmers in Andong Diocese, a largely rural territory.
Monthly meetings provide a platform for farmers to share and learn about food security, innovative methods of farming without harmful chemicals, farmers’ rights and various challenges.
Since the founding of the Ssangho branch in March 1979, monthly meetings never stopped until Covid-19 struck South Korea and they were postponed twice in 2020.
The group has been vocal against the slashing of farmland for large-scale industrialization and urbanization
Even if you look at the history of the Korean peasant movement, including NGOs, it is difficult to find a community with 500 monthly meetings, said Jin Sang-guk (Sirino), president of the branch.
“The monthly meeting is very meaningful in order to continue the life-agricultural movement within the community,” he was quoated as saying by the Catholic Times of Korea.
The CFA has been a leading group promoting the rights of South Korean farmers for decades. It strongly opposed the use of chemicals in agriculture, the introduction of hybrid seeds for commercial gain against interests of farmers, and the government’s attempts to import food items instead of supporting farming communities.
The group has been vocal against the slashing of farmland for large-scale industrialization and urbanization. It also played a vital role during the movement for South Korea’s transition from a military regime to democracy in the 1970s.
The group has faced surveillance and suppression from the government in its early days.
Since the 1990s, the Ssangho branch of the CFA has promoted eco-friendly farming and technology with an aim to contribute in tackling climate change impacts“We started with the intention to save the earth,” Jin said.
Jin said the group has been producing and training farmers in natural compost fertilizer.
During winter, farmers collect willow trees from the banks of the Nakdong River, crush them into small pieces and provide a floor covering for their cows. This rug is mixed with cow dung to produce compost fertilizer for use in the fields.
The group aims for better community life and living the faith like St. Andrew Kim Tae-gon
Since the late 1990s, in collaboration with Seoul Archdiocese, the group has been conducting urban-rural exchange programs for farmers.
For its various contributions, the Ssangho branch won the Catholic Environment Award in 2019.
Bishop Kwon lauded the local unit for its journey over four decades and described it as being as eventful and challenging as the exodus of Israelis in the wilderness.
The group aims for better community life and living the faith like St. Andrew Kim Tae-gon, the first native Korean priest and patron saint of Korea.
Following the event, the Catholic Farmers’ Association, the Woori Agricultural Living Community and Andong Diocese made a declaration to participate in the "Seven-Year Ecological Life Journey for a Sustainable Common Home Earth" that seeks to save the environment and the earth through eco-friendly programs.