Documentary on Vidarbha Agrarian Crisis ‘Cotton for my shroud’ won Gold at the IDPA Awards-2011

Documentary on Vidarbha Agrarian Crisis ‘Cotton for my shroud’ won Gold at the IDPA Awards-2011 and Nominated for the Vatavaran Environment and Wildlife Film Festival-2011

Nagpur -26th October 2011

The story of the cotton farmers suicides of Vidarbha produced as documentary film ‘Cotton for my shroud’ by Top Quark Films and directed by Nandan Saxena & Kavita Bahl has been overwhelmingly viewed and got a very good response at the Mumbai Film Festival, organised by MAMI which was screened at Cinemax, Versova on October 15, 2011which has won the gold for script at the IDPA Awards-2011 and It has also been nominated for the Vatavaran Environment and Wildlife Film Festival at Delhi, to be held in December 2011, Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti president Kishor Tiwari informed today.
“This is first documentary film which gives true picture of ground reality and exposes the reason of mass genocides of farmers done bt the state and US base Bt.cotton seed company Monsanto We are trying to organize screenings in different cities in other Indian metros too so that we can get civil society support which has turned it’s blind eye on this very serious issue over years .we are indebted to producer who has dared to release this documentary even after getting big hurdles from administration ”Tiwari added.
‘Cotton for my shroud’ shows story of dying field of vidarbha where more than 10,000 cotton farmers have committed suicides since 2004 after the introduction of American Bt.cotton seed as it report and
You need iron in your soul to walk through the villages in Vidarbha region of India. There is hardly a farmer here who is not under debt and rarely will you come across a village where there has been no suicide. This cotton-growers belt once known for its fine cotton produce is known for cotton farmers’ suicides today. It is now termed as the ‘graveyard of farmers’ by statisticians.

Vidarbha region in the state of Maharashtra – one of the richest states in India – has the highest instance of farmer suicides in India. With over 2.5 million tribal people, it is a classic case of a forest and mineral-rich region languishing while the funds for development are siphoned off to the ‘influential’ districts in the state. The voice for a separate statehood for Vidarbha is gaining momentum.
The feature-length documentary, ‘Cotton for my shroud’ is not reportage. The film tries to understand from a grass-roots perspective what is driving cotton farmers in India to despair – is it just a crisis of farm credit and the stranglehold of the moneylender or are they victims of faulty paradigms of development.

The agriculture policies of the Government and their collusion with multinational corporations eyeing the vast market in India – are exposed by the testimonies of farmers and scientists. Torn between aggressive marketing of supposedly ‘better varieties’ of transgenic crops by the State and his traditional wisdom of low-cost and eco-friendly agriculture, the farmer ultimately lands up in the honey trap of Bt. The result is in an unending cycle of debt and misery.
‘Cotton for my shroud’ was shot over two extensive visits to the hinterlands of Vidarbha.
In the summer, the lack of resources and bank loan for sowing the fields drives poor farmers to end their lives. In the winter, the depressed rates of cotton become the proverbial last straw.
If one farmer kills himself, we can call it a suicide. But when a quarter of a million kill themselves, how can the government call it suicide? It is genocide.
The Indian state has created conditions that are not conducive to the survival of small farmers. They want them to go, just as the small farmers disappeared in the west. In their place shall step-in large corporations that own vast swathes of farmland, growing pesticide-laced, genetically-modified food for an unsuspecting nation.Narrated in the first person, from the p.o.v of the film-makers, the film looks at the macro picture while following the lives of three families.
While the state and the media label these deaths as suicide, the cotton fields of Vidarbha remain a mute witness to genocide.The film was shot over two visits to the hinterlands of Vidarbha.
Narrated in the first person, the film looks at the macro picture while following the lives of three families. It gives us a window into the drama and despair that forms the warp and weft of life at Vidarbha.

About the Directors: Nandan Saxena & Kavita Bahl

Nandan Saxena & Kavita Bahl work in the genre of documentary and poetry films.
Their oeuvre spans the domains of ecology, livelihoods, development and human rights.

Having spent almost a decade as news-journalists, they turned a new leaf and started as independent documentary film-makers in 1996. Their films explore man’s relationship with his environment through diverse themes and issues: culture, poetry, water, climate change, sustainable livelihoods and human rights.

Their voluntary initiative ‘Via-Media’ is an effort to catalyse change by taking positive stories to receptive minds, and to build the capacity of citizens groups and movements. They take workshops to initiate inquisitive minds into film-making and photography.

Before studying journalism, both of them were students of English literature at the University of Delhi. Kavita reported for The Indian Express for seven years, of which, two were spent covering special features in the North-eastern states.


VJAS has thanked Nandan Saxena & Kavita Bahl for their grate work and pain while touring dying field of vidarbha and ‘Cotton for my shroud’ documentary will certainly boost cause of innocent cotton farmer who are victims of wrong policies of state and will force the law makers to stop this massive corruption leading genocide of farmers in future ,Tiwari said.

Mother Earth

Mother Earth – New future for small farmers (December 2008)
Mother Earth is a very inspiring documentary by the Dutch filmmakers Paul Enkelaar and Jan Paul Smit. Central theme of this documentary is the development of small-scale organic agriculture in Andhra Pradesh, one of the poorest regions in the south of India. It is a film about empowerment, self-confidence and pride of women who with cooperative effort take their future in their own hands.

Weed Management in Paddy

The war on weeds

The war on weeds.jpgThe war on weeds_1.jpg

In his search for a solution to the problem of weeds that limit African rice production, Jonne Rodenburg works at many levels, from genetic research to production systems. One of his findings is that farmers’ practices and considerations must be included in crop and weed management strategies. There is no silver bullet or one-size-fits-all solution.

In his many publications, Jonne Rodenburg has presented some frightening statistics. For example those on the losses in African rice due to uncontrolled weeds. In lowland areas, as much as 28%–74% of the rice crop may be lost, while in upland systems the losses can be 48%–100%! Weeds represent a huge threat to food security in Africa, and indeed worldwide. One of the major culprits is the parasitic weed Striga hermonthica, also known as witchweed, an attractive plant with bright pink-purple flowers. ‘You could almost grow it as a houseplant,’ Rodenburg says.

As urbanization is changing the patterns of nutrition across Africa, rice is rapidly becoming one of the most important staple crops across the continent. More and more people are migrating from the countryside to the cities, where it is not practical to consume traditional staple crops, like sorghum, because the preparation time is too long. Rice is far more suitable for consumption in the cities. This means that there is tremendous pressure to increase the production of rice. Already about half of the rice consumed in Africa is imported. It is essential that production increases in the next decades.

In Africa there is still enough land that can be turned to agricultural use. New land is being used for rice production, for instance in inland valleys where seasonal floods mean that rice is the only crop that can be grown. But land that was previously used for maize and sorghum production is also increasingly being used to grow rice. These new environments are the habitats of parasitic weeds. One could say that rice is encroaching on the territory of weeds like Striga hermonthica and Striga asiatica in upland areas (rain-fed dry land rice), and of another killer weed known as Rhamphicarpa fistulosa in inland valleys (rain-fed lowland rice).

Know your enemy

Jonne Rodenburg received his PhD in 2005 for a WOTRO-financed study of resistance and tolerance against Striga in sorghum. At the Africa Rice Center, he is facing his old adversary once again. In all wars it is vital to know your enemy, and this is particularly true in the war against weeds. ‘We are studying different kinds of weed. We want to understand their biology and their ecology. In the knowledge of how these plants live, reproduce and compete with rice lie the keys to effective weed management strategies.’ While much of the research is done at the Center’s laboratories and fields in Africa, Rodenburg and his team commission more sophisticated research, at the cell and even gene level, for example, to his alma mater Wageningen University in the Netherlands, and the University of Sheffield in the United Kingdom.

Crops can fight parasitic weeds in two ways: resistance and tolerance. Resistance refers to the abilities of the host plant to keep parasites at arm’s length. Tolerance is the ability of plants to cope with certain parasites. Considerable attention has been given to increasing resistance, Rodenburg says, but less so to tolerance. Rodenburg and his team are looking at ways to integrate both mechanisms. ‘Resistance to certain parasitic weeds is usually temporary, and after some time resistance will inevitably break down. Unfortunately, tolerance enables the parasitic weed to grow and reproduce, but also lowers crop production losses due to infection. Combining both mechanisms, reducing infection through resistance and reducing the negative effects of infection through tolerance, would result in the most stable defence.’

In the war on weeds, the stakes are high. Rice is an important element in global food security. It is the only staple food that can be produced in wet and dry conditions. In Africa, rice is grown in irrigated and rain-fed lowlands as well as in rain-fed upland areas, and the potential for increased production is huge. No wonder that Chinese and Korean companies are currently buying huge stretches of land for rice production.

At the Africa Rice Center in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, Rodenburg and his team are screening a large number of rice varieties to determine their ability to fight different kinds of weeds (normal weeds as well as parasitic ones). ‘We have come a long way in this process’, says Rodenburg. ‘On the basis of our findings we can advise farmers on what varieties to use in certain conditions.’ But knowledge of rice varieties and their interactions with different kinds of weeds is not static. Faced with changing climatic conditions, farmers constantly have to adapt their way of producing. More rain, less rain, higher temperatures, higher levels of CO2 – all of these factors will affect the ways that crops and weeds interact. Farmers can never take things for granted.
Rodenburg and his team recently discovered that Striga seems to be able to adapt to rice varieties – clearly it is smart as well as deadly. ‘It appeared that many of the newly introduced varieties were resistant to the Striga we found in some rice fields, whereas the local varieties that had been grown for over 30 years in these Striga-infested fields were devastated by this parasite. This is only explicable if this particular Striga ecotype has adapted to the local rice variety.’ This is pretty exciting stuff, Rodenburg explains enthusiastically. ‘We will certainly explore this further. How long does it take for Striga to adapt to new cultivars? How does the process of overcoming resistance take place? The answers we find could very well contribute to more sustainable solutions to help farmers in Africa fight these noxious parasites.’

The Africa Rice Center aims to assist small-scale farmers, and this poses several other challenges. ‘There are many ways to fight weeds. For farmers with resources at their disposal, weeds don’t have to be a major problem. But it is different for resource-poor African farmers. These people are often illiterate, have few financial resources, live in remote areas and are often difficult to reach by extension and crop protection services. Fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides are usually not available to them, and even if they are, farmers don’t know how to use them. Using too much or too little herbicide, or in the wrong phase of the production cycle, will have adverse effects.

The results of Rodenburg’s research and that of his colleagues are now being used by an outreach programme organized by the Center. Through radio broadcasts and farmer instruction videos in local languages, farmers throughout Africa can learn about weeds and weed management and practical ways to implement the findings.

Practical solutions

In a recent study, one of Rodenburg’s PhD students examined the controversial System of Rice Intensification (SRI). This alternative, but rather rigid method of rice cultivation, involving the use of greater distances between plants and intermittent irrigation, was developed in Madagascar more than 40 years ago, but recently SRI has found new supporters in Asia and elsewhere who claim that SRI results in higher yields with lower water inputs. Although there is scant scientific evidence to support these claims, which in turn causes widespread controversy, Rodenburg is reluctant to discard any opportunity to address the challenge of augmenting rice production in Africa.

Rodenburg’s work with his PhD student involved testing four rice production practices simultaneously with farmers on their own farms under similar conditions. The first system involved the methods used by farmers (‘farmer practice’). The second used best management practice, whereby the farmers applied the most recent management recommendations. The third was SRI, and the fourth was a mix whereby farmers were free to choose from the techniques used in the other three systems. The results were striking, Rodenburg says. The ‘farmer practice’ yielded the lowest production, but the other three scored about the same.

That the labour-intensive SRI could yield about the same as the input-intensive best management practice was to be expected. The surprise was that when farmers were able to make use of modern techniques, and combine and adapt them following their own considerations and experiences, their production levels remained high but with fewer (water and herbicide) inputs and less labour, thus creating a superior management system. ‘Even the farmers themselves were surprised that without much extra labour and expensive inputs compared to their own usual practice, they were able to get much higher rice yields from their land.’ For Rodenburg this was further evidence that the development of effective strategies for marginal farmers in Africa – or anywhere else – must involve the farmers themselves. The results of this study have been submitted for publication in Agricultural Systems, a leading agricultural journal.

Some of the team’s research results are promising and at times even exciting, but silver bullets and one-size-fits-all solutions don’t exist, Rodenburg says. ‘There is enormous pressure from the outside world to come up with such solutions. I try not to give in. Flexibility is vital. We shouldn’t put all our money on just one solution, and at the same time, in the search for global food security we don’t have the luxury of being able to exclude any technology beforehand.’ The approach adopted by Rodenburg and the Africa Rice Center is to reach out to farmers, provide them with new potential technologies and management strategies and to encourage farmers to experiment with them. ‘Especially in view of climate change, it is important that farmers keep all their options open and are able to adapt quickly to new circumstances.’

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More information:
Produced by: Africa Rice Center
Year: 2011
Language: English


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