Sustainable Agriculture and Small holders: Dr. J. Venkateswarlu

111231 Sustainable Agriculture and Smallholders – JV

We are very happy to welcome the New Year 2012. The passing out year was very eventful. The Planning Commission organized several working groups and one of the groups was to address agriculture. The recommendations made by each of the working groups were very meaningful and useful for the country and for the Planning Commission to evolve the strategies for XII FYP.

We are happy that there is a growing realization at various levels (CBOs, researchers, planners, activists, thinkers as well as Government) to look for alternate production systems. Need for biomass generation is gaining ground. It is also good to note the efforts of the committee on “Works on individual land in MGNREGS” prepared by Gopal (CEC) and his associates bearing a fruit as the MoRD is now expanding the horizons of the MGNREGS to meet these goals.

We hope while launching more KVKs, the DARE would address the problem of “Udyog Vikas” as part of the activities of the existing and upcoming KVKs by augmenting the strength of the trainer units. Similarly we fondly believe that the Government would look into the effect of climate change on the natural resources (land, water, vegetation) and not limit to crops and livestock production systems. Lastly there is a need for converging several of the programmes that provide “doles” to the farmers with on-going programmes like IWMP and MGNREGS.

We are enclosing a brief note on “Sustainable Agriculture and Smallholders: for your perusal and consideration.

Dr. J. Venkateswarlu

Former Director, CAZRI

Acharya NG Ranga Agriculture University spends only 10% of funds for Research

Acharya NG Ranga Agriculture University, once a premium agriculture university in the country is now suffering from paucity of funds.   The university which has over rs. 50 cr budget spends Rs. 45 cr for salaries of the scientists and about Rs. 5 cr. for research.  Even in the research budget much of the budget goes for hi-tech research which never reaches the field.  There is an urgent need to make an assessment of the funding and outputs.

Based on news paper reports

ndigenous Seeds – Key to end Agrarian Crisis

Bhopal, Dec 31 (ANI): India, for several years remained synonymous to agriculture whose reflections are still visible with more than 60 percent of its population being dependent upon it.

Earlier, our farmers were proud owners of manifolds of indigenous seeds, which besides being visually attractive possessed significant features, high nutrient value and diversity in taste.

Farmers used to rely on traditional methods of farming. Kathia, Jalalia, Mundi Pissi, Red Pissi, White Pissi, Bansi, Bangesia and Soharia were the available local (Desi) wheat seeds, while Kardhana, Jheena, Bagh Moonch, Kali Moonch, Batro, Kshatri, Lalai, Bhadel etc. were the local paddy seeds.

Similarly, there were different types of Sorghum, Chana, Lentils, Green Lentils and Corn Seeds available in the market.

With the advent of Green revolution, India adapted new advanced methods to become self sufficient in food production after suffering a lot during world’s worst recorded food disaster – Bengal Famine. High-yielding varieties of seeds and the increased use of fertilizers and irrigation were introduced to several districts of India with Hoshangabad of Madhya Pradesh being one of them.

Tawa project was launched and along with that, novel hybrid varieties took over the indigenous seeds. For many years, these hybrid varieties produced great yield but now the situation has completely altered. Unfortunately, despite of nurturing the land with high quantity of fertilisers, the production rate is suffering a huge downfall. Farmers, disappointed, have started committing suicides recent being the case where three farmers committed suicides in Hoshangabad District within four days.

This, in a way, is an upheaval of green revolution. This also sets the limit for miraculous GM seeds (Genetically Modified Seeds), which are being produced as an alternative to the Green Revolution. These seeds, if sowed, will produce more disastrous consequences.

Recently, excess rain destroyed the entire crop of Soybean in various parts of the district.

The average production of this crop was twenty kg to two quintal. Farmers fraught under debt committed suicides. Two farmers committed suicides in Hoshangabad’s Dolaria Tahseel and one in Siwni Malwa Tahseel.

But I believe, the government has become used to the “figures” of farmer suicides. In spite of taking grave steps about this unprecedented matter, government is trying hard to bring in the GM seeds produced by methodology based on biotechnology.

Recently in Bhopal, ABLE-AG (Agricultural Group of the Association of Biotechnology Led Enterprises) organised a meeting in which GM seeds for Soybean were proposed.

In the past, a combined farming of chana and wheat was quite popular. Elders of the house loved the chapatis of this mixture. Combined farming like Utera or Satgajra had a stronghold in the region wherein 4-5 crops are sowed in the same field. Such practices still breathe in the forest belt of the country. The benefit of this sort of farming is that if one crop fails, the other would compensate for it unlike the Cash Crops.

In case of an attack of insects and mites or a natural disaster takes place, the entire crop gets ruined as was the case of Soybean crop this year. The loss in the such type of mixed farming is because post the Tawa Dam irrigation facility, wheat and soybean are the only crops which are sowed in the Rabi and Kharif period, respectively.

According to Jeevan Singh Patel of Jamada Village – “Earlier, farmers used to sow Desi or local seeds. They used to save some grains from the crop to be used as seeds the next sowing season or borrowed some from the neighbouring farmers. Women used to play a vital role in storing and preserving the seeds. As compared to the indigenous seeds, which were available for free, farmers have to pay for the crossbred seeds. The farmers on whom the entire Nation was dependant became critically dependant on the companies and the government agencies.”

Desi seeds had the capacity to fight against disease and famine. Dung fertilisers used to be the only supplement added to the soil with no need of irrigation. Complete damage to the crops was never the case. But now, continuous spraying of the insecticides and tonics along with supply of water has become the tradition, which has adversely affected the fertility of the soil.

The water level besides getting lowered is also getting affected which in turn is adversely affecting the vegetation, human and animal life. Many regions have reported the death of birds like peacock, which died after eating chemically affected grains.

The world famous doctor R.H. Richaria, from Nandwada, Hoshangabad collected 17,000 indigenous paddy seeds with features like good smell, high yielding capacity and great taste. The threat to the wealth of local Indian seeds is evident from the fact that many of these collected seeds have already crossed the borders, silently.

The first case of seed-theft came to light in the year 2002 when Syngenta- a MNC and Raipur Agricultural University signed a secret agreement wherein the latter would hand over the entire wealth of indigenous seeds collected by Dr. Richaria to the former. After stiff opposition the agreement, fortunately, was given up.

Can one “create” seeds in laboratories? No. Countries like India characterized by warm climate, were the target of western countries, which took the seeds from such fertile lands and crossbred them to produce hybrid varieties. Later, they sold these hybrid seeds to us at higher rates. After registering their patent over the seeds, national as well as international companies have set a monopoly wherein the only person paying them huge amounts is the farmer, who won’t mind getting his fertile seed back at cost of his life.


In the beginning, the government promoted the chemical farming by providing subsidy, but now it has taken a back step. The cost of farming has increased and companies are making huge profits. Jacob Nellithanam, who preserves and transforms seeds, is of the opinion that the local soil and water set the perfect tone for indigenous seeds.ccording to Suresh Kumar Sahu, who recently returned home after studying abroad, “The Indian farmer forcibly sells his crop on a relatively cheaper rate, and later purchases grain for himself on a higher price. It will be good if farmers sow crops according to their local need and consume it locally.”

The experience of genetically modified (GM) seeds has been distasteful. The trend of suicides started with the farmers of BT Cotton ending their lives. Economist Sunil, a writer with extensive focus on agriculture says, “Mostly the cotton farmers are committing suicide. Genetically modified seeds can increase the production of a crop, but along with that it also increases the risk factor and cost.” Demand for banning GM Seeds has gained momentum in several countries. Recently in India, BT Brinjal was banned after facing intense opposition from the farmers and the public.

This is the time to take steps towards sustainable development of agriculture by adopting farm activities with local seeds and dung fertilisers. It is the pressing need of the hour as the lifeline of the country, the farmers, are ending their lives. Indigenous seeds will add fertility not only to the land but will nurture lives as well.

The Charkha Development Communication network feels that such steps would make agricultural actions safe, eco-friendly while increasing the production rate. Like paddy, production of wheat can also be increased through Madagascar System. It was then and it is now, we are still fighting, writing and debating on the same issue – Food security. We need to secure our farmers first; everything else will automatically fall in place. By Baba Mayaram (ANI)

Let farmers decide the price’: Mani Chinnaswamy, Apache Cotton

Author(s): Jyotika Sood
Issue: Jan 15, 2012
Mani Chinnaswamy’s contract farming model has prompted IIM graduates to study his Appachi formula. After all, it gives farmers the right to bargain the price of their produce with the buyer. Talking to Jyotika Sood, the entrepreneur shares the hurdles in the implementation of the formula and its potential to change farmers’ lives


Mani ChinnaswamyMani ChinnaswamyWhat makes your formula a novel contract farming model?

Appachi formula differs from conventional contract farming models, especially on the price front. We do not create uncertainty by fixing the price of the produce in advance. Our contract allows farmers to sell their commodity at the prevailing market rate. Though we have the first right to negotiate, farmers are free to auction off the produce in case of a disagreement. We motivate them to form self-help groups to enhance their bargaining power.

Our pricing mechanism usually does not disappoint them as it takes into account the labour put in by the farmer and his family. My company, Appachi Cotton, deals only in cotton because it is a family business, but alongside we encourage our farmers to grow millets, legumes and vegetables, which helps them meet their daily needs and expenses.

Another component of the formula is to ensure that farmers never go short of money and material throughout the cultivation period. The contract assures them easy availability of credit from banks, quality seeds, doorstep delivery of unadulterated fertilisers and pesticides at discounted rates, expert advice and field supervision.

We hear you have stopped facilitating farm credits.

I developed the formula with a vision that everyone who is part of the contract will fulfil their responsibilities. If a farmer takes a loan, he must repay it. It worked well for 10 years. But in 2006, during the assembly elections in Tamil Nadu, some political parties promised waiving off agricultural loans in their manifesto. This led to wilful default by farmers and a bitter end to the idea. To fill the void we started looking for ways to reduce cultivation cost. This made us switch from conventional to organic cotton in 2009. Farmers are always under fear and defensive, applying fertilisers and pesticides indiscriminately, thus increasing cultivation cost. They would sanitise the entire field at the sight of a single insect. There was a need to teach them when to pick up their pesticide guns.

Is organic cotton more profitable than the conventional cotton?

In agriculture, profit can be increased either by increasing the yield or by reducing the cultivation cost. Chemicals and technologies like Bt are pushing up the yield, but they are also increasing the cost of cultivation.

Farmers are organic by default. Through Appachi, we remove middlemen, passing the benefits directly to farmers. An increasing number of farmers are switching from conventional to organic cotton lately. Since the yield reduces during the conversion period, we offer them financial support to keep up their interest in organic cotton. We help them get organic certification.

What are the challenges before organic cotton?

No doubt Bt cotton poses the threat of contamination to organic cotton, but the biggest challenge is seed. All our seed banks have run out of traditional cotton varieties. Hardly any company or agriculture university is coming forward with seeds suitable for organic farming. The government and universities are promoting Bt crops, while people want safe organic crops.

What are the other endeavours of your company?

We have an integrated model for organic cotton farmers and weavers. At present, we have 165 farmers and 50 weavers. We make products like sarees and dress material under the brand name, Ethicus. We put our craftsperson’s name and picture on every piece he creates and mention the time it took to weave the fabric.

Agricultural Policy Strategy, Instruments and Implementation: A Review and the Road Ahead

Bhupat M Desai, Errol D’Souza, John W Mellor, Vijay Paul Sharma, Prabhakar Tamboli
Economic and Political Weekly, December 31, 2011

For 40 years, India’s agricultural growth rate has averaged less than one-third of the government’s modest target of 4%. The sector’s performance has been about the same before and after the economic reforms in the early 1990s. The reforms that brought a dramatic acceleration of growth in urban sectors have essentially had no effect on agriculture. Slow agricultural growth has had ill-effects on food security, food price inflation and poverty reduction because of the inadequate level and composition of public expenditure. Agricultural education, research, extension and a wide range of ancillary public institutions have also suffered. Agricultural growth always demands massive public goods provision and that in turn requires a radical reorientation of central, state and district government activities. This paper advocates a new integrated, technology-led strategy to pull out of, what looks like, a vicious circle that agriculture is now caught in.

Importing Disaster: India’s power elite is still seeking US solutions for our problems despite the havoc they have wreaked upon American society

Author: Latha Jishnu
Posted on: 29 Dec, 2011

India’s power elite is still seeking US solutions for our problems despite the havoc they  have wreaked upon American society
Photo: Franco FoliniMany decades ago when my generation was in its early teens and was captivated by the Merseyside beat of the Beatles along with bell-bottom pants of that era, disapproving elders told us that we were mindlessly aping the West. As far as I can see, dalliance with the rock music of the Liverpool Fabulous Four did us little harm—either in the appreciation of own music or in our outlook and values, much less in our dress sense. But “aping the West” was a scathing indictment and we preferred not to be accused of such mindlessness.

One of the oddest things about the Indian establishment though is the complete mindlessness with which it has been lapping up practically anything hawked by Western governments, corporations, financial institutions and other snake oil salesmen. And unlike adolescent whims, this kind of aping is far from being harmless; they can have deleterious effects on economies, livelihoods and societies. The wholesale import of policies more suited to developed societies that have gone through their industrial and post-industrial revolutions are hardly the panacea they are made out to be for the disparate problems of a developing country, specially one which carries the burden of the largest number of the wretchedly poor, the unschooled, the diseased and vulnerable people. Nowhere is this determination to import disaster more evident than in agriculture. Farming in the US and India are as different from each other as the atmosphere in Jupiter is to that of Earth. Take some basic facts. The US has less than one per cent of its population claiming farming as their occupation and just about 960,000 persons who say farming is their principal occupation. The average farm size is a whopping 167 hectares (ha) while a large chunk of farms are between 40 ha and 220 ha. When it comes to farming in India, about 550 million people are dependent on agriculture and the vast majority of farm holdings are between 0.8 ha and 2 ha. Most of the farmers are, needless to say, dirt-poor.

It is in such starkly different circumstances that the top officials of the Planning Commission, the farm minister himself and the Prime Minister’s Office seek to transplant the US model of industrial farming here. And there’s one other detail that should not be overlooked. American farmers receive huge subsidies. Between 1995 and 2010, less than a million farmers were paid $167.3 billion under the direct payment subsidy programme. These subsidies were doled out to grain and commodity farmers as a safety net regardless of their actual production. In the very same period, a total of 256,913 debt-ridden Indian farmers committed suicide.

It is in such a situation that the government has rolled out the red carpet for seed and pesticide multinationals. It is only a matter of time before the retail giants too walk in. As for the World Trade Organization (WTO), the intransigence of the EU and the US to cut its farm subsidies has resulted in a decade-long deadlock in negotiations to conclude a new round. But it matters little to New Delhi’s power elite. Inspiration still comes from the West, and, as a corollary, subservience to its demands will also continue.

It is not anyone’s case that the West has nothing to offer us. One policy worthy of emulation is its public-funded school system of quality education that covered the entire population. But, interestingly, this is one issue policymakers here have ignored while opting for shortcuts such as the Sarva Shiksha Abhayan, which is on the whole a shabby programme of third-rate schooling. That, however, is another issue.

What is curious is why the establishment, whether it’s the political, bureaucratic, academic or scientific establishment, still continues to draw its inspiration from a system that appears to be in tatters. Europe and the US are enveloped in a pall of gloom and seething rage against a theology that has failed the vast majority of people. And nowhere is the anger more widespread than in the US where an extraordinary mix of people across racial and ethnic divides, from laid-off workers, teachers and young and middle-aged professionals to the elderly and perpetually homeless, are living on the streets to seek a more equitable system.

Here are some of the reasons that have fuelled the mass outburst:

  • Americans living in poverty: more than 46 million
  • Americans without health insurance: close to 50 million
  • Americans without jobs or underemployed: between 24 and 26 million
  • Homeless Americans: 3.5 million

All this in a country with a population of just 312 million. If nothing, these statistics should serve as a reality check for those who believe the free market economy is the solution. Does it have to be said that India needs to find its own ways of dealing with its many crises?

Farmer suicides: NGO points to Punjab reporting fewer numbers

SANGRUR: The number of farmer suicides in Punjab seems to vary according to the source providing information about that. An NGO,Movement Against State Repression (MASR), has stated that Punjab is a glaring example of neglecting the factor of farmer suicides when it comes to determining the amount of funds that should be spent on assisting agriculturists.

MASR’s convener Inderjit Singh Jaijee said, “As per information we collected, a Punjab policereport says that only seven farmers committed suicide from the period of 2002 to 2006.”

In 2008, state revenue department had mentioned in a report compiled on the basis of details provided by deputy commissioners that 132 farmers committed suicide during five years starting with 2002. Jaijee said Punjab Agricultural University’s economics department team came up with a figure of 2,890 suicides from 2000 to 2008 in just two districts. It stated that in Sangrur and Bathinda, 1,643 and 1,247 farmers had committed suicide, respectively.

MASR claimed about 1,700 farmers committed suicide from 1988 to 2008 in just two subdivisions of Sangrur district. “Going by that, the suicide figure across Punjab could be an estimated 20,000 in all these years,” said Jaijee. A Punjab Farmers’ Commission study had said that about 2,000 committed suicide in the state every year.

Bharatiya Kisan Union (Ugrahan) has claimed more than 40,000 farmers committed suicide in these years. Jaijee added, “Punjab has outclassed even Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh as data collected by MASR bares the truth on these suicides. In Maharashtra, 34,659 farmers committed suicide from 2000 to 2008 out of rural population of 5.58 crore. That comes to 62 farmer suicides per lakh population. Likewise, 18,396 farmers committed suicide in Andhra Pradesh which has a rural population of 5.54 crore. The figure of suicides per lakh there comes up to 33. As compared to highly farmer suicide-prone states, Punjab recorded 24,732 in eight years (as per NGO and farmer union figures, which have not been authenticated by state) in a rural population of mere 1.61 crore. That works out to 154 farmer suicides per lakh.”

Farmer organization BKU’s (Ugrahan) general secretary Sukhdev Singh Kokri said, “Till now, Union government has meted out gross injustice to Punjab. That was proven when Punjab got just Rs 1,000 crore as assistance, when nationally, the figure was Rs 71,000 crore. That means a bit more than 1% of total assistance came the way of the state. Even if a parliamentary panel is formed, it will ignore Punjab.”