Climate Resilient Sustainable Agriculture: A Real Alternative to False Solutions

Climate resilient sustainable agriculture: a real alternative to false solutions
Author(s): Youjin Chung, Christina Billingsley
Source: ActionAid International
Publication Date: 01/06/2012

ActionAid believes that agroecology-based Climate Resilient Sustainable Agriculture (CSRA) is an effective way to respond to both the climate and food crisis. CRSA proposes to overcome the gaps of contemporary mitigation and adaptation programmes in agriculture by bringing to the fore the actual priorities, needs, and knowledge of farming communities themselves. CRSA prioritises the right to food, environmental conservation, and long-term community resilience in order to reduce food insecurity at the local level, and contribute to effective national and international climate change policies that support self-sufficiency and sustainability in agricultural systems worldwide.
However, rich countries and multilateral agencies are turning a blind eye to the potential of agroecology as a long-term strategy to tackling climate change. Instead, they are promoting “false solutions”– in the form of biofuels, carbon markets, and soil carbon sequestration which comes packaged with “Climate-Smart Agriculture” – to shift their responsibility and mitigation burden onto poor countries and communities.
In short, this document illustrates the relationship between climate change and agriculture; review and demonstrate how current climate change policy responses fall short of addressing the realities of poor rural farmers who are the most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change; and paint an alternative way forward by defining CRSA and suggesting recommendations to national governments.

Pesticide use in bt cotton: Dr. Kesavraj Kranthi

Dear Dr Ramanjaneyulu,

I have come across in some of your web sites A STATEMENT that there are unpublished data on pesticide usage on cotton which mention the source as Keshav Kranthi, and these are at variance with the pesticide use data.
Please find herewith a link to the published document
which has the table. I will stand completely by the pesticide use data presented in the document.
I compiled the data from various sources and databases. In my view, these represent the actual pesticide use scenario.
The recent increase in insecticide usage on cotton is also because of increase in area apart from the fact that several Bt-hybrids are susceptible to sucking pests. I preferred to present the pesticide situation in terms of the net value rather than the volumes. However, the data may need normalization in consonance with inflation rates.
The quantity of pesticide generally shown in litres or Kgs do not actually represent the correct trends. The new generation insecticides are recommended to be used at 100-200 ml per hectare with 10-50 gms active ingredient in them, as compared to the conventional insecticides which were used at 3-5 litres per hectare with 500 gm to 2 kg active ingredient. Insecticides such as BHC were recommended at 15 to 20 kg per hectare. Therefore, the net insecticide quantity per hectare would get reduced significantly, despite the fact that farmers may have spent more.
Insecticide usage on cotton in India 1999-2010 (Rs crores)

 

Year

1999

2000

2001

2002

2003

2004

2005

2006

2007

2008

2009

2010

% Bt Cotton

0.38

1.2

5.59

11.51

41.42

67.1

80.8

82.43

90.67

cotton, Insecticide

879

839

1052

597

925

1032

649

579

733

791

834

880

Cotton fungicide

11

10

6

3

8

6

8

11

25

31

52

67

Cotton herbicide

2

1

1

1

3

4

8

12

22

26

45

87

Total Insecticides in Agrl.

2128

2052

2268

1683

2146

2455

2086

2223

2880

3282

3909

4283

% share of cotton 41 41 46 35 43 42 31 26 25 25

21

21

Total Pesticides in Agrl.

3004

2972

3207

2622

3147

3581

2439

3396

4697

5293

6999

7684


Regards
Kranthi

Pesticide use in Bt cotton: Dr. Keshav Kranthi

Dear Dr Ramanjaneyulu,

I have come across in some of your web sites A STATEMENT that there are unpublished data on pesticide usage on cotton which mention the source as Keshav Kranthi, and these are at variance with the pesticide use data.
Please find herewith a link to the published document
which has the table. I will stand completely by the pesticide use data presented in the document.
I compiled the data from various sources and databases. In my view, these represent the actual pesticide use scenario.
The recent increase in insecticide usage on cotton is also because of increase in area apart from the fact that several Bt-hybrids are susceptible to sucking pests. I preferred to present the pesticide situation in terms of the net value rather than the volumes. However, the data may need normalization in consonance with inflation rates.
The quantity of pesticide generally shown in litres or Kgs do not actually represent the correct trends. The new generation insecticides are recommended to be used at 100-200 ml per hectare with 10-50 gms active ingredient in them, as compared to the conventional insecticides which were used at 3-5 litres per hectare with 500 gm to 2 kg active ingredient. Insecticides such as BHC were recommended at 15 to 20 kg per hectare. Therefore, the net insecticide quantity per hectare would get reduced significantly, despite the fact that farmers may have spent more.
Insecticide usage on cotton in India 1999-2010 (Rs crores)

 

Year

1999

2000

2001

2002

2003

2004

2005

2006

2007

2008

2009

2010

% Bt Cotton

0.38

1.2

5.59

11.51

41.42

67.1

80.8

82.43

90.67

cotton, Insecticide

879

839

1052

597

925

1032

649

579

733

791

834

880

Cotton fungicide

11

10

6

3

8

6

8

11

25

31

52

67

Cotton herbicide

2

1

1

1

3

4

8

12

22

26

45

87

Total Insecticides in Agrl.

2128

2052

2268

1683

2146

2455

2086

2223

2880

3282

3909

4283

% share of cotton 41 41 46 35 43 42 31 26 25 25

21

21

Total Pesticides in Agrl.

3004

2972

3207

2622

3147

3581

2439

3396

4697

5293

6999

7684


Regards
Kranthi

There’s No Tomorrow : a film on resource depletion

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=VOMWzjrRiBg

There’s No Tomorrow

There's
            No TomorrowThere’s No Tomorrow is a half-hour animated documentary about resource depletion, energy and the impossibility of infinite growth on a finite planet.

Inspired by the pro-capitalist cartoons of the 1940s, the film is an introduction to the energy dilemmas facing the world today.

“The average American today has available the energy equivalent of 150 slaves, working 24 hours a day. Materials that store this energy for work are called fuels. Some fuels contain more energy than others. This is called energy density.”

“Economic expansion has resulted in increases in atmospheric nitrous oxide and methane, ozone depletion, increases in great floods, damage to ocean ecosystems, including nitrogen runoff, loss of rainforest and woodland, increases in domesticated land, and species extinctions.”

“The global food supply relies heavily on fossil fuels. Before WW1, all agriculture was Organic. Following the invention of fossil fuel derived fertilisers and pesticides there were massive improvements in food production, allowing for increases in human population.The use of artificial fertilisers has fed far more people than would have been possible with organic agriculture alone.”

Watch the full documentary now

 

 

Making farming organic: CMSA in agency areas of AP

DRDA promoting CMSA practices in Agency areas.
———————————————————————–——————-——————————
Idea is to dispense with the use of pesticides, urea, and DAP
SRI paddy cultivation is also being promoted under CMSA
———————————————————————–——————-——————————
Community Managed Sustainable Agriculture (CMSA) practices promoted by the District Rural Development Agency (DRDA) among farmers in the district is meant to support them to adopt sustainable agricultural methods to reduce the cost of cultivation, increase their net income, boost soil fertility, and produce pesticide-free food products.
Under the CMSA mandate, promoting household food security models, establishment of a non-pesticide management shop, a custom hiring centre for renting out neem pulverisers, markers, weeding machines, and seed drums etc., implementation of poverty alleviation strategy with farm families, and setting up of retail outlets of organic farming produce at the district headquarters were some of the initiatives taken in the 2011-12 financial year.
The idea is to promote cultivation of all agriculture and horticulture produce with organic manures, totally dispensing with the use of pesticides, urea, and DAP.
Under the CMSA, organic farming was introduced in 626 villages in 30 mandals benefiting 45,371 farmers. The extent of acreage brought under organic farming is 78,690 out of which 17,873 acres are in the Agency areas and the rest spread in several mandals in the district.
CMSA district project manager P. Ramana told The Hindu that farmers, realising the value of organic farming and the demand for the products on health grounds, were reverting to agricultural basics and re-inventing the practice.
In a phased manner, the farmers are being made to toe the CMSA line.
Training
For realising the mandate, farmer field schools at the village level are being involved. A group of 20-25 farmers who are resourceful and already well-versed with the agricultural practices are engaged in educating farmers on farming ways and sharing their skills.
Besides, farmers are trained in organic cultivation, including identification of harmful and useful insects in soils and preparation of Nadep manure through a three-month process, at the divisional and village level before the onset of kharif and rabi.
Nadep compost pits are intensively promoted with 10 feet, 6 feet and 3 feet dimensions to prepare compost by using less dung and more organic matter.
Under the poverty alleviation strategy, the landless labourers are being given land on lease for promoting organic cultivation.
The SRI paddy cultivation is also promoted under CMSA. SRI cultivation is being encouraged to boost paddy production. In traditional paddy cultivation, 30 bags are produced in an acre, and under SRI Paddy 40-50 bags acre are being produced. The rice is totally organic. A target to produce SRI Paddy rice in 760 acres was fixed for the year 2011-12, but the farmers achieved 931 acres.
Meanwhile, the Department of Tribal Welfare and the ITDA too had taken a conscious decision to promote organic farming in the Agency areas under which vermin composting is promoted.
The State government too issued orders basing on the endorsement of all departments, including forest, agriculture, coffee board, spices board, and NGOs, and approved the branding of products as of organic nature and certification of the same after adopting the practice for three years.
The idea is to bring the entire cultivation in the Agency areas under organic farming in phased a manner in the district.

Campaign for pesticide residue-free food

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/delhi/Campaign-for-pesticide-residue-free-food/articleshow/14390654.cms
, TNN | Jun 25, 2012, 06.56PM IST

NEW DELHI: The farm fresh vegetables that you hand-pick from markets everyday are in most cases deceptive. As much as you try to pick the ones with no pests or rotten edges, they may be much more toxic within.
According to the Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture (ASHA), out of the top 15 most-consumed pesticides in India, 11 figure in the list of 67 globally-banned pesticides. ASHA launched ‘India For Safe Food’ campaign on Monday, to raise awareness among consumers about the health impacts of consuming pesticide laced vegetables and urged the government to ensure safe food for all.

Interestingly, pesticide residues in food was also the theme of actor, Amir Khan’s latest television chat show aired on Sunday. ASHA members who participated in the show presented data to substantiate their claims about how pesticide residues can lead to chronic health problems like cancer.

“Scientific studies have shown that pesticide exposure is correlated with serious health risks including cancers, endocrine disruption causing reproductive health disorders, organ damage, and immune system impairment. There is also much that is wrong with the regulatory system and approach related to chemical pesticides in the country. There are fundamental ways in which the issue has to be addressed, by changes in our technological approach to agriculture as well as in our regulatory approach. We hope to bring about a change collectively, through citizens’ involvement””, explained G V Ramanjaneyulu of Centre for Sustainable Agriculture, Hyderabad.

He added that studies have indicated that in India, vegetables, fruits, staple cereals and pulses, meat, milk, eggs and poultry, drinking water and processed foods/beverages are contaminated with poisonous residues to various degrees. “”Delhi High Court’s own testing showed impermissible pesticides in the samples that were picked up. Our export consignments being rejected for their toxic residues are another indicator of the state of affairs,” Ramanjaneyulu said.

The campaign will have a public outreach effort mainly through online mobilization and cyber-action through emails. In Delhi, an organic food mela is being organized on June 30 and July 1 as part of the campaign; in Bangalore, a safe food mela, combined with urban gardening orientation is scheduled for the next weekend. There will be a public march against pesticides at Bathinda, in Punjab’s Malwa belt June 27.

ASHA demanded that the government make appropriate investments be made to promote ecological farming, to ensure access to organic food by establishing safe food outlets and using public distribution system (PDS), providing pesticide-free food under various food schemes to pregnant and lactating women and children and banning those pesticides that have been banned in other countries and known to have chronic health impacts.

From horse’s mouth: Bihar farmers best


GAYA: It’s not often that a non-Bihari of repute hails Bihar and the whole nation, including Bollywood biggie Aamir Khan, cannot help but nod in the affirmative. The subject this time was not the ‘sushasan’, or good governance, of CM Nitish Kumar but two brainy Bihari farmers’ model of organic farming and giving them the pat of the superlative degree was none other than the Hyderabad-based Centre for Sustainable Agriculture’s executive director G V Ramanjaneyulu.
The public applause of the feat of Bihar farmers, one of them being the Bihar CM’s namesake and both hailing from, again coincidentally, from the CM’s “very own” Nalanda district, came during Aamir’s popular TV programme, ‘Satya Meva Jayate’, which this Sunday focused on the harmful effects on humans of the chemicals used to propel and protect the produce in agriculture fields. The debate and discussions sent the shivers down the spine: Consumers of such produce end up accumulating four to five times the permissible limit of pesticides in their bodies.
Organic farming gives quality produce that do not cause such health hazards and the quantity of the yield is also as high as chemically-boosted yield. “Any examples?” asked Aamir and pat came the reply from the agri scientist: Potato farmer Nitish and paddy farmer Sumant Kumar of Bihar have taken the lead and comprehensively beaten their counterparts in the Netherlands and China.
When TOI reached Ramanjaneyulu in Hyderabad over phone soon after the telecast, he said cultivating potato through the organic method (without using chemical fertilizers and pesticides), Nitish recorded a yield of 72.9 tonnes per hectare while the previous best yield record was held by a group of the Netherlands farmers who produced 45 tonnes per hectare. Sumant harvested 224 quintals of paddy per hectare beating the previous record of Chinese farmer Longping who produced 190 quintals per hectare.
The great admirer of Bihar farmers, has, however, a word of advice for both the state’s farmers and the policymakers: The farmers should learn from the mistakes of Punjab where the Green Revolution, while increasing the yield, has left behind deadly health hazards and depleting water table. Owing to the excessive use of chemical fertilizers, the incidence of cancer in Punjab has assumed mind-boggling proportions. One out of every five Punjab farmer suffers from the deadly disease, the scientist said.
“Go for tenancy reforms if you have to really sustain the Bihar version of the ‘Green Revolution’,” was the scientist’s message to the Bihar policymakers as tiny plots and absentee ownership of land spawn stumbling blocks to proper agricultural growth in the state. A strong advocate of SRI (System of Root Intensification) method, the scientist also favours changes in cropping pattern in the south Bihar areas where water is scarce. Replace paddy with pulse crops in such areas as over-withdrawal of groundwater creates more problems than it solves, he says.
Watch: Toxic Food – Poison On Our Plate? http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=o9uForVzTOA

Bt crops are everyone’s concern: Justice Sujata Manohar

http://www.tehelka.com/story_main53.asp?filename=Fw230612concern.asp

Justice Sujata Manohar on how the Biotechnology Bill is fundamentally flawed

Illustration: Sanjoy Naorem


IN THE last few years, regulatory systems across the board have been undergoing an overhaul to fit the needs of a new era. Likewise, new laws are being chalked out to meet new needs, and several are receiving flak owing to the loopholes and regressive grounds on which these have been drafted. The relatively more recent one to regulate modern biotechnology is one such case.

This year marks 10 years of commercialisation of Bt cotton, the only commercially cultivated genetically modified (GM) crop in India. Yet there is no effective regulatory mechanism in place to assess their necessity or the long term safety of GM crops, especially food crops, their impact on health, nor a balance sheet being drawn up of benefits versus detriment.

Earlier in June 2004, the Task Force on Application of Biotechnology in Agriculture, led by MS Swaminathan, recommended the setting up of an ‘autonomous, statutory and professionally-led National Biotechnology Regulatory Authority’ (NBRA) that would have ‘two separate wings — one dealing with food and agricultural biotechnology, and the other with medical and pharmaceutical biotechnology.’ The previous drafts of a biotechnology legislation have fallen short of its intended outcomes more than once, and following several rounds back and forth, it has been renamed as the BRAI (Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India) and is being brought back to Parliament, once again in a far from satisfactory state.

Proposed by the Ministry of Science and Technology, the draft BRAI Bill, 2011 does not justify a new legislation, when effective changes in the existing framework — the 1989 Rules issued by the Ministry of Environment and Forests — could well be made. In fact, its handling by the Ministry of Science and Technology alone without the association of other ministries dealing with food, agriculture or health is itself a cause for concern.

An assessment titled ‘BRAI Bill: A Threat to Our Food And Farming’ by Supreme Court lawyer Ritwick Dutta ,brought out recently by Greenpeace, underscores that given the serious and possibly irreversible risks genetically modified organisms are associated with, the overall focus of a regulatory regime of this nature should be based on a precautionary approach/principle. In the current draft, however, the approach is adaptive, going on the assumption that modern biotechnology is to be considered necessary and a fait accompli. India is a signatory to the Cartagena Protocol, which means we are under the obligation to ensure that our domestic laws are in compliance with the provisions of the Protocol. While the preamble of the Bill mentions this obligation, it fails to reflect it in letter and spirit.

This piece of legislation also circumvents the RTI Act, 2005 curtailing bio-safety information to the public, and safeguarding the interest of commercial entities over larger public interest. Given that the RTI already has provisions for safeguarding information pertaining to ‘commercial confidence, trade secrets or intellectual property’, this clause is not only unnecessary but one which completely disregards larger public interest. Likewise, public participation in decision making has been restricted to only once at the time of the final decision. Since the effects of biotechnology are far reaching, and there is little public confidence in GMOs owing to growing concerns from across the world, public participation in decision making should be made mandatory.

As regards food safety, doctors have sounded warnings and aware consumers across the world are rejecting GM foods. Down to Earth magazine says that genetically modified food is even banned at a canteen of the biggest GM seed producer, Monsanto. The Granada Group, which runs the canteen, says, ‘We have taken the above steps to ensure that you, the customer, can feel confidence in the food we serve.’ A Monsanto spokesperson said that this was done because the firm believes in choice. For the consumers in India to have the choice, it is necessary that all products using GM crops should mandatorily state on the package that GM crops are a part of the ingredients. This entails compulsory packaging and proper monitoring. This is not feasible in a country where most food is sold unpackaged.

The essential role of the state governments in such vital decision making is now proposed to be reduced to a recommendatory capacity, as specified under Clause 35 of the Bill, despite the fact that agriculture is a state issue. One of the key roles of BRAI is to consider applications for initiating research, transport, import and use or manufacture of GMOs. Moreover, a significant number of these applications would be forwarded by the Department of Biotechnology housed under the Ministry of Science and Technology. When the promoter is also the regulator, there is potential for an inherent conflict of interest.

ONE OF the key parameters based on which Bt brinjal was put on a moratorium in 2010, was the absence of independent, long-term tests. This has been completely overlooked in the BRAI. Given the inherent, irreversible and potentially adverse effects of GMOs, these criteria should be made a requisite before taking a decision to introduce GM crops. Jairam Ramesh had wisely stated that India should adopt such technologies as genetic engineering only where alternatives do not exist.

Finally, whether a GMO should be considered for environmental release or not should be based on the Polluter Pays Principle ensuring absolute liability for harm to the environment. The manufacturer and the promoter should compensate victims of pollution as well as pay up for restoring the environment in case of damage. The resistance that GM crops have faced in other countries from consumers and farmers, environmentalists, human rights activists and even from governments, makes India’s enormous seed market of prime interest to GM seed corporates. The contention that high costs of patented Bt cotton seeds and false representations regarding their performance have contributed to increasing debts and despair of farmers needs to be investigated, and severe penalties affixed. Similarly the health and environmental impacts need to be studied. There is no necessity to rush through a Bill that has the potential to empower a small group of persons to clear genetically modified crops which could irreversibly impact consumer health, the economics of small farmers and the environment.

There is little doubt that the Bill needs to be redrafted before being considered for tabling in the Parliament, and for which widespread consultations with all the relevant stakeholders by a broad-based committee should be done as a priority.

Justice Sujata Manohar is a former Supreme Court judge. The views expressed here are personal.

Blinkered focus on cereals

http://www.indiatogether.org/2012/jun/pov-nutrients1.htm

22 June 2012 – A national consultation of health experts has called for a stop to the history of bad science and misconceived advice that has long dominated India’s nutrition policies. They stress the need to “put nutrition back into our food” and understand what it would mean to initiate comprehensive policies that enable the healthy survival of India’s children.

The government’s effort to combat India’s malnutrition crisis has long focused on providing cereals, in the belief that the body only needs calories – energy rich foods – to grow and survive. This erroneous thinking is severely damaging the health of India’s poor, who are slipping deeper into a malnutrition crisis, warns Veena Shatrugna, former Deputy Director, National Institute of Nutrition, Hyderabad.

Dr. Shatrugna was on a panel of health experts speaking at a national consultation on India’s malnutrition crisis, organised by the Mumbai-based Narottam Sekhsari Foundation, a private funding agency that works in the field of health and education. The foundation has recently released its comprehensive document on issues linked to malnutrition in India, which is based on two national consultative workshops with a panel of health experts, a review of existing literature, and research into the missing policy linkages.

Historically, India presents an example of what can go wrong when ‘experts’ cross their academic disciplines and draw interpretations from narrowly focused scientific studies, Dr. Shatrugna says. In the absence of a broad reading and understanding of the wider issue, these experts fail to read the small print on scientific studies and make erroneous recommendations. The consequence of this approach, seen over the past 60 years in India, is the serious compromise of metabolic function and rising indices of malnutrition. Children’s bodies are shrinking in height and weight, due to the severe food deficiency they suffer from.

According to Dr. Shatrugna, about 33 per cent of men and 36 per cent of women have a Body Mass Index (BMI) below 18.5 in India, while seven per cent have BMI below 16.0. BMI is a measure of weight for height, and any figure below 18.5 is considered to be unhealthy. BMI values below 16 are unheard of even in Sub-Saharan Africa, she says.

Meanwhile, according to the World Health Organisation, almost 50 per cent of Indian children, who suffer severe deficits in weight and height, are in this condition because of food deprivation. In Maharashtra, a relatively developed State, questions raised in the December 2011 Assembly session led to the revelations that 65 infants are dying each day, with 13,683 infant deaths occurring between January to September 2011, raising questions about the abysmal nutrition status of mothers. (According to official figures around 7.4 lakh births were recorded during this corresponding period). Despite this the State government remains in denial of its looming malnutrition crisis.

The anomalies in deciding the right nutrition go back to the years of the British Raj. In 1937 British experts analyzed and gave nutritive value to over 300 foods, classifying them under calories, proteins, carbohydrates, fats, etc. (Government publication, Health Bulletin No. 23(5), 1937, 1st edition). It was recognized by then that some foods like cereals (rice, wheat), potatoes, sugar, are concentrated sources of calories, but most other foods contain multiple nutrients such as proteins, vitamins and minerals, along with calories.


The anomalies in deciding the right nutrition go back to the days of the British Raj. (Pic: A tribal village in Bastar, a part of the central Indian tribal crescent: Children under five years are paying the heaviest price, with high mortality and morbidity due to malnutrition.) 


•  The way we used to eat
•  Adding millets to the food basket

During the Second World War in the 1940s, the colonial government diverted food to the war front, causing dire food shortages in India, including the ‘great Bengal famine’. Reflecting the “great confidence of science”, nutrition experts at that time came up with a book: The Nutritive value of Indian foods and the planning of satisfactory diets. This speaks of the calorie requirements of different populations – based on the nature of their work and activity. The text however, stresses, “…it is important to plan a diet which first provides foods rich in vitamins, minerals, proteins, iron and other nutrients and then fill the calorie gap with cereals, potatoes, sugar etc.”

This basic rule was unfortunately forgotten by the colonial masters, as also by subsequent governments in Independent India. From the late 1940s onwards, government food programmes have focused on cereals, which are high in calories, and – perhaps more importantly – a cheap source of energy for the poor. “There was no pause to consider the non-cereal portion of the diet, which provides most of the essential nutrients in requisite amounts”, Dr. Shatrugna says.

During the late 60s, when famine raged in some parts of the country, many ‘giants’ in nutrition claimed that if people eat enough calories, they get to consume sufficient protein – tissue, muscle and bone building nutrients – as well. But there is a fatal flaw in this thinking. Such ‘macro’ food sources do not provide the ‘micro’ nutrients – vitamins and minerals – which contain enzymes needed for physiological function of the body. In planning diets, the first requirement is proteins, fats, minerals and vitamins. The need for carbohydrate-rich foods that fulfil energy requirements follows thereafter.

“The planners and scientists, with their own Nehruvian tryst with destiny, were in a hurry and ignored the small print in the studies. Indians lost the war even before it started. It was our own government – which looked up to science more than the people it governed – that took away the right to food, scientifically”, Dr. Shatrugna says.

The dietary recommendations of the planners, meanwhile emphasised vegetarian food and homogeneity for the whole nation, overlooking the varied cultural and regional differences across the country, where many eat meat. The plans also overlooked the question of how many Indians can bring balance to their daily diet when they cannot afford to buy dal and the two or three vegetables needed to accompany their rice or roti.

Foisting a diet based on a laboratory understanding of nutrition, the government’s public food support programmes and its agriculture policies have thus condemned the poor to eat a monotonous daily diet of cereals that are of limited nutrition value.

Hailing from the upper caste and class, these planners overlooked the fact that their own children ate a balanced diet rich in a variety of fresh vegetables, fruits, milk and its products, nuts, sprouts, seeds, apart from cereals. They did not conceive a reality where the poor only ate a cereal with chillies and tamarind water. A diet consisting of bajra roti and chutney has calories and fibre. But if foods rich in proteins and vitamins are not included in the diet, the calories merely get converted into fat.

A cereal-based diet takes no account of the special needs of growing children, pregnant and lactating women. Children for instance, have small stomachs and seek to eat a variety of food in small quantities through the day. A sesame seed ladoo of around 250 grams could be a highly nutritive meal in itself for a child. But India’s Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) only offers one meal of khichdi (rice and dal) every day, without variation.

Even during the 1960s top nutritionists failed to reflect on how poor children could sustain themselves on a diet of mere cereals. Even if a child ate cereals for the whole day it would not get adequate calories from such a diet.

“By then it was well known that children needed fat in their diet, and many middle class mothers added a small dollop of ghee to their children’s daily diet. These children were also offered variety through fruit, egg and milk. The children of the poor, however, had to make do with low-cost, scientific choices and not crave any of these foods, as a sacrifice to the nation”, Dr. Shatrugna says.

As a result of this over-emphasis on calories India’s poor now face a massive inadequacy of minerals and vitamins, leading to the diagnosis of “micro-nutrient deficiencies”. This has given rise to the lobbies that argue endlessly over macro or micro nutrients. Taking advantage of this scenario is the multi-million dollar micro-nutrient industry that vociferously lobbies to sell its pre-packaged, ready-to-eat foods, vitamin tablets, fortified or genetically modified foods, amongst others chemical-laden products, to the government food programme for malnourished children.

In Narsapur Mandal, Medak district of Andhra Pradesh the community was sensitised to the domestic and economic value of nutrition gardening – growing dark green leafy vegetables, yellow-orange fruits and vegetables and vitamin C-rich fruits. At the end of six years, up to 90 per cent of households saw its health value for their children, and were growing these foods. Women farmers here are responding to diversification from water-intensive paddy and sugarcane cultivation to nutritionally relevant horticulture after receiving training and support, the study reports. 


•  The way we used to eat
•  Adding millets to the food basket

Synthetic Supplements

Instead of focusing on improving household diets with a basket of nutritious foods like green leafy vegetables, seasonal fruits, sprouts, nuts and seeds, not just wheat and rice, the government programmes are increasingly looking at quick technology fix solutions to under-nutrition. But experts say synthetically produced, single nutrient fortification of food, vitamin tablets, or ready-to-eat packaged foods cannot combat overall macro and micro nutrient deficiencies and can even cause harm.

For instance, unsupervised mass pumping of vitamin-A tablets along with polio immunisation, especially amongst malnourished or sick children, is known to cause fatalities. In a mass campaign where the object is to achieve targets and “capture” children, such supervision is scarce and fatalities will occur, leading to an erosion of faith in government sponsored programmes.

The tendency towards quick fix solutions is evident in government’s encouragement to industry to fortify cereals with synthetically produced iron and zinc. In Gujarat, for instance, wheat flour is being fortified with iron, despite the fact that wheat is rich in phytates which inhibit iron absorption. (Phytates are phosphorus compounds found primarily in cereal grains, legumes and nuts. They bind with minerals such as iron, calcium and zinc and interfere with iron absorption). Furthermore, the marketing of fortified wheat flour is pushing small enterprises such as chhakis (small flour mills) out of business.

“Micro-nutrient fortification of our food is going to create a nutrition mess and the body will face a new range of burdens and problems. It will foreclose any attempts to improve the diets of children, both qualitative and quantitative”, Dr. Shatrugna says. While such measures may be warranted in short-term crisis situations, it is not normal and the bulk of our efforts must be geared towards the long-term goal of putting enough of real food on the plates of our poor, she says.

NGOs at the workshop criticised the Maharashtra government programme of purchasing corporate produced, ready-to-eat packaged foods for children in the ICDS programme. This programme has been challenged in a writ petition filed with the Mumbai High Court. While the State wastes large amounts of money in procuring such foodstuff of questionable value, tribal families have no taste for it. Neither has anyone shown them how to add value to it. There are other localised, cheaper and more nutritive methods of ensuring that poor households get access to food, they say.

No chemical, industrial additive, genetically modified, fortified or therapeutic food should be introduced in the health and public food programmes, the experts held. Every effort must go towards obtaining food that is fresh, wholesome and locally available. This should be encouraged through the growth of kitchen gardens and agriculture policies that provide water, promote horticulture and vegetable cultivation for local consumption.

Studies meanwhile show that green vegetables and fruits contain 40-50 bio-active chemicals vital to prevention of diseases like cancer and in arresting degenerative processes. It is not just satisfaction of hunger that we have to talk of, but nutrition education and nutrition security through food that is locally grown, fresh and wholesome. Such natural foods provide a more effective and cheaper source of folic acid, vitamin C, iron or calcium. The promotion of local kitchen gardens and large-scale food-based programmes that boost production and consumption of fruits and vegetables, needs financial and infrastructure support.

India’s rich biodiversity provides a gold mine at our doorstep. Today one-third of its fruits and vegetables perish for lack of facilities to store and conserve them. Development of agro industries could provide enormous income generation capacity for village women. The National Family Health Surveys shows high levels of anaemia in states like Punjab or Haryana where the focus of agriculture is rice and wheat. The difference is evident in Himachal Pradesh, where anaemia rates are lower because of the plentiful fruits and vegetables grown there, and are a part of the local diet.

The emphasis on small scale agro-industries in villages could focus on the production of ‘dehydrated leaf powder’ (from alpha/beta-carotene rich sources such as spinach and drumstick leaves). Pilot studies indicate its feasibility and demonstrate their good nutritive value and acceptance in the community. These products, from natural, indigenous sources, produced by local labour, could be used to “fortify” food offered to millions of children through the ongoing national supplementary feeding programme, nutritionists suggest. 

Rupa Chinai 
22 Jun 2012

NSSO’S 66TH ROUND SURVEY REVEALS SHOCKING DATA ON RURAL EMPLOYMENT

http://www.transparentchennai.com/2011/08/24/nsso%E2%80%99s-66th-round-survey-reveals-shocking-data/

New employment data released by the National Sample Survey Organization (NSSO) shows that the UPA government generated only 2 million jobs between 2004 and 2009, even as the economy grew at the rate of 8.43 percent annually. The employment numbers present a stark contrast to the Planning Commission’s target of 58 million jobs in the five years between 2007 and 2012. The new NSSO survey numbers have added on to the pile of problems and corruption charges that the UPA has been embroiled in during its second tenure. Many are now referring to this tenure as the phase of jobless growth. The figure, 2 million new jobs, looks worse when one looks at the number of new jobs the NDA government generated between 1999 and 2004 – 62 million.

NSSO’s survey, presently the most credible and widely respected sample survey in India, is now drawing flak from some very influential officials, including the chief statistician of India and the Deputy Chairman of Planning Commission. Right from the methodology to the survey process and analysis, everything is being questioned, maybe to sidetrack the nation from real issues in hand.

Let’s look more closely at what the 66th Round says. According to NSSO data, the employment rate has actually declined in the five year period ended 2009-10 to 39.2 per cent from 42 per cent in 2004-05. This means, if the growth in population is factored out, there has been a decline in employment in absolute terms. When one looks at these statistics along with Census of India projections, it seems that during this 5 year period, only 2 million jobs were added compared with 55 million who joined the workforce aged between 15-59 years.

The report by NSSO also shows an increase in the number of casual workers[1] by 21.9 million, while growth in the number of regular workers nearly halved between 2004-05 and 2009-10, compared with the previous 5 year period. This means that there has been a substantial shift in the structure of labour force in the Indian economy during the period in question. Planning Commission’s Prinicipal Adviser, Pronab Sen, quickly came to the rescue of the UPA government by saying something on these lines– 2009-10 was a severe drought year, possibly forcing some among the self employed (includes farmers) into casual labour.

NSSO’s director general himself spoke of these numbers. He said: “Discussion on these topics in India often loosely uses language of employment and labour market from the more developed world, with misleading and confused conclusions.” He went on to say that these bunched numbers (2 million jobs vs 62 million) hide many distinct structural problems. His explanation suggests that fewer jobs were created because of an improvement in other socio economic indicators; 1. Many young individuals, previously employed in menial jobs have quit, and joined back school. This is evident from increased school attendance and decline in child labour. 2. Fewer people have multiple jobs now because their primary job is enough to help them make ends meet.  3. Participation of women in the labour force has declined sharply, also because of an improvement in other socio-economic indicators (eg: spending more time in school).

However, neither does this explain the increase in the number of casual workers, nor does it tell us about the second jobs that people abandoned. It is still unclear from reports as to what people are finally drawing from the NSSO data. The 64thRound also hinted that we be cautious, but went largely ignored. Should the government be alarmed? Are there some serious corrections required in the economy, to include rapid growth in labour intensive manufacturing as one of our primary objectives? Should we be reminded of the reforms in the 1990s and promises of new jobs in the factory that were made? Whatever the final verdict is, we know the debate that is being generated in academic circles was much needed. Job creation has again gained the importance it always deserved. It also acts a reminder to the government to check how far we have drifted from our vision of inclusive growth.