“Running to stand still: Small-scale farmers and the Green Revolution in Malawi

ACBThe African Centre for Biosafety
PO Box 29170, Melville 2109 South Africa
Tel: +27 (0)11 486 1156

ReportThe African Centre for Biosafety (ACB) has today released its research report based on field work conducted in Malawi, titled “Running to stand still: Small-scale farmers and the Green Revolution in Malawi.” The research, conducted by the ACB in collaboration with the National Smallholder Farmers’ Association of Malawi (NASFAM), Kusamala Institute of Agriculture and Ecology and Dr Blessings Chinsinga from the University of Malawi, does not validate the argument that Malawi is a Green Revolution success story. On the contrary, the research highlights the plight of small-scale farmers at the receiving end of the Green Revolution (GR) push in Malawi. Among its findings are that farmers are trapped in a cycle of debt and dependency on costly external inputs with limited long-term benefit, and that the natural resource base is being degraded and eroded despite – or perhaps because of – GR inputs.

According to ACB’s lead researcher, Dr Stephen Greenberg, “our research found that small-scale farmers are using shockingly high levels of synthetic fertilisers at great financial costs to themselves and the public purse. Rising soil infertility is a feature of farming systems reliant on synthetic fertiliser. We found that farmers are increasingly adopting hybrid maize seed, encouraged by government subsidies and the promise of massive yields. However, adoption of these hybrid seeds comes at the cost of abandoning diversity and resilience of local seed varieties, and the ever escalating requirement for synthetic fertilisers. Indeed, our findings show net transfers away from farming households to agribusinesses such as SeedCo, Pannar (recently merged with Pioneer Hi-Bred), Monsanto and Demeter in the commercial seed industry. For fertiliser, the major fertiliser producers and distributors are Farmers World (which also owns Demeter seed), Yara, TansGlobe, Omnia and Rab Processors.”

The research is part of ACB’s multi-year research programme in southern and east Africa to investigate seed and soil fertility practices and challenges facing small-scale farmers in the region. One of the aims of the study is to offer an evidence-based critique of the Green Revolution agenda, with a particular focus on the activities of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), an institution that plays a critical coordinating role in expanding the GR agenda on the continent.

The key findings of the report include the following:

The Farmer Input Subsidy Programme (FISP) is an essential element in the expansion of GR technologies in Malawi. The programme has increased effective demand for hybrid maize seed and synthetic fertiliser, and created a guaranteed market for MNCs to profit in. Mostly the grains are limited to relatively minor yield increases, with long term negative consequences on the ecology. The money comes in from public expenditure through subsidies and development aid, and leaves through private channels (seed and fertiliser companies).

When increased input costs are taken into account, farmers adopting GR technologies realise a potential income deficit of K55,954 (US$133.22). Even if the synthetic fertiliser is also shared amongst other crops, overall production of these crops remains low and it is highly unlikely that farmers will realise a net profit by adopting these technologies. The short-term benefit of higher yields masks this net transfer from small-scale farming households to seed and fertiliser agribusinesses.

AGRA-supported seed development, production and distribution programmes cover a fairly wide range of crop types in Malawi, but farmers are still using non-certified seed. The AGRA programme has not had a major impact in the research sites to date, with small quantities of seed being distributed (less than 5kg per participating farming household) and limited returns to farmers. This is mainly due to high prices and various quality factors (including storage, processing, conversion rates of kernels to flour, taste, insect resistance both in the field and in storage, and drought tolerance). The availability of local and uncertified varieties offers farmers a range of options.

Seed recycling is a common practice, with 80% of local maize seed, 73% of cowpea, 64% of beans, 55% of groundnuts and 54% of soybean seed being recycled by respondent households. Hybrid maize is the only seed that was mostly purchased from seed dealers (59%). Yet, farmer-managed seed systems and agro-biodiversity are downplayed, with farmer-managed systems considered to be inferior to profit-generating private activity in seed production and distribution.

There is no practical support from government for the saving or exchange of uncertified seed, while efforts by AGRA and government alike tends towards replacing uncertified seeds with certified varieties. Farmers are not arguing to replace local seed with hybrid or certified seed. The quality of uncertified pigeon pea (100% from a small sample of users), beans (81%), groundnuts (81%), cowpea (77%) and soya (72%) were all assessed as good by the majority of respondents. Seed quality was not a major issue for most farmers, although seed price was, indicating a commercial market.

Independent soil testing conducted by Chitedze Research Station as part of the research reveals soils that are technically infertile, with very low levels of key nutrients and nutrient-holding capacity, despite years of synthetic fertiliser applications. This gives lie to the argument that the addition of synthetic fertiliser is necessary for long-term improvements in soil fertility. Indeed, the opposite is the case.

According to ACB’s Gareth Jones, a researcher involved in the programme,”Green Revolution interventions, of which AGRA is a leading example, are fundamentally premised on the idea that increased costs of certified seed and synthetic fertiliser can be met by increasing yields, which will allow for increased sales that can generate income for input purchase in the next year as well as expansion of farming as a business to the benefit of producers. However, this ‘endless virtuous cycle’ does not appear to have taken root in Malawi as borne out by our research. The vast majority of households appear to be caught in a relationship of dependency on GR inputs, in particular, synthetic fertiliser.”

The study recommends that input subsidies targeted at individuals should be phased out and replaced with public investment in extension, farmer-based R&D and bulk infrastructure such as water and roads with collective benefit. A key part of public investments in R&D and extension can include identifying, prioritising and supporting work around participatory plant breeding, participatory variety selection, farmer-managed seed certification and quality assurance systems, identifying and supporting the development of locally important crops on the basis of decentralised participatory R&D, farmer to farmer exchanges, identifying and expanding means of increasing organic content in the soil, an orientation to nurturing soil life as the basis of soil fertility or soil health programmes, and support agro-ecological methods of soil improvement and water retention. Work on nitrogen fixing trees and food trees could advance soil fertility and food security agendas.

The study also recommends that tobacco cultivation, an anti-social, poisonous crop, which locks farmers into production systems that are not in their long-term interests be replaced by socially and ecologically just alternative crops and production systems.

To download the Summary Report, click here: http://www.acbio.org.za/index.php/publications/seedfood-sovereignty/467-running-to-stand-still-small-scale-farmers-and-the-green-revolution-in-malawi


Dr Stephen Greenberg
African Center for Biosafety

Dr Blessings Chinsinga
Centre for Social Research (CSR) and Department of Political and Administrative Studies (PAS)
University of Malawi
Tel: +265 999 836 680/888 577 842
E-mail: kchinsinga@yahoo.co.uk/bchinsinga@cc.ac.mw

Molly Cheatum
Kusamala Institute of Agriculture and Ecology
Mobile: +265 (0) 993655468
E-mail: molly@kusamala.org



How can small and large farmers co-exist?

The discussion on ‘Who will feed the World’ goes on. To achieve global food security food must be redistributed such that it reaches the current mass of undernourished people (925 million people worldwide), food systems must be made resilient to climate change, and productivity must be raised to feed a growing population (an additional 1.4 million in 2030).

How can we achieve this? By building on small or large scale farming, low or high input systems? With surging land acquisitions by foreign investors in Africa, finding answers to these questions, a task taken up by the latest OXFAM research report, “Who will feed the world? The production challenge”, becomes an urgent matter.

The report opens with an empirically grounded list of pros and cons for small and large scale farming. Small scale farms have higher levels of productivity in terms of land and capital, have more biodiversity, have lower green house gas emissions and are more resilient to climate change.

Large scale farmers on the other hand, have higher levels of labour productivity, benefit from economies of scale for processing, packaging and marketing and have better access to markets, information and technology. Evidence however shows that investment projects, which have sought to establish large scale farms, have mostly failed and/or have provided no benefits to the local population. Targeting the, mainly access and scale related, constraints faced by small scale farmers, through for example private investments in technology, infrastructure, market access and institutions and by facilitating collaborative arrangements between large scale investors and local small-scale farmers, is more promising.

In the second part of this paper high external input systems (HEI), which refers to industrial agriculture, and low external input systems (LEI), which refers to sustainable production methods, are compared. Given the diversity of contexts and conditions, it is argued that no one-size- fits-all-model is appropriate. Nevertheless, it is argued that adopting LEI farming methods, which can be applied to both small and large scale farming, is crucial in achieving food security and climate change goals and that “successful LEI agriculture practices already in place could provide useful lessons for developing countries and in Africa in particular.” (p.38)

The research report withstands the temptation of declaring one mode of farming superior to the other. Instead the authors argue that food security and environmental policies should co-existence acknowledge and build on their co-existence. A four-pronged approach that addresses three types of farms and their complementarities is proposed.

  1. Small scale subsistence farmers are chronically poor and risk-averse smallholders and wage labourers. They mainly produce for their own subsistence. Policies should help move them to higher-risk/higher-return activities through insurance programmes, input subsidies and improved regulations to protect wage labourers.
  2. Small investor farmers have better access to assets, are less restricted by their production environment and produce for the market as well as for their own consumption. Policies should facilitate these farmers to engage more in high value agriculture through the expansion of local and regional markets; they should empower farmers’ organizations, provide training in new technologies and improve access to finance.
  3. Large scale farmers have access to assets, are situated in a favourable production environment and produce mainly for the market. Policies should ensure that the wealth created by these farms is widely shared. This means ensuring that investors’ proposals are consistent with local visions, that local land rights, particularly those of women, are secured, that land suitable for these farms is mapped together with local actors, that land acquisitions are transparent, that local governments can tax this land, that human rights are respected during land acquisition and that labour standards and sensible environmental safeguards are in place.
  4. Policies should moreover build on the complementarities between large and small scale farms through for example inclusive out-grower schemes.

While providing a rich empirically grounded overview of small and large scale farms and providing fresh insights into how to go further, the report could have been more comprehensive if pathways towards food security, other than farmer integration into global markets, were considered. It could for example have touched upon the concept of “food sovereignty”, introduced by La Via Campesina, the largest small scale farmer network organization in the world. From this perspective local and regional markets are not a transitional step towards global markets but are a means of achieving regional food security and autonomy.

Similarly, what the report refers to as risk averse behaviour, would not be considered as hampering growth but as a ways of reducing dependency and increasing farmer control over the production process. Whether farmers are always willing to give up this control, even if safety nets such as insurances are in place, is the question.

As a whole, the report makes a strong case to shift attention from the small scale versus large scale debate towards a debate on how co-existence between different forms of agriculture can take shape. This means a shift from a focus on productivity (with often an emphasis on “proving” that one form of agriculture is more productive than the other) towards a focus on collaborative arrangements and “improving”: how can we make collaboration work?

This shift is welcome and timely. There are still some major challenges ahead though. The report states: “The key question is whether large and small farms can build on complementarities instead of one displacing the other.” This is a good starting point for further debate, as well as for building new practical experience in inclusive agricultural development.


Why India is Losing its War on Hunger


Why India is loosing its war on hunger (download)

India is home to a quarter of the world’s hungry people. Since the Green Revolution, the country has produced enough food to feed itself, but it has not yet been able to wipe out mass hunger. Currently, 40 per cent of the population is malnourished – a decline of only 10 per cent in the past three decades.

Stellar economic growth has not delivered on its promise for poverty reduction and food security. Following a series of neoliberal economic reforms in 1991, India’s GDP has doubled, but despite this, 53 million more people now go to bed hungry every night.

To make matters worse, food prices have recently soared. Poor families, who spend more than 60 per cent of their incomes on food, are increasingly struggling to stretch their meagre household budgets.

Unfortunately, small-scale producers have not benefited from high retail prices for food either, as they usually low prices for their produce. Clearly, the country is in the midst of both an agrarian crisis and a nutrition crisis.

Oxfam International Case Study

Author: Swati Narayan, Independent food and education policy specialist

Games the Centre plays


States used Essential Commodities Act to lower the price of Bt cotton And states fight back

For the past five years, the Centre and the states have been fighting a battle over seed pricing with Delhi frequently changing the rules to outsmart state governments that had decided to clamp down on predatory pricing.

Although agriculture is a state subject, the power to fix prices had remained with the Centre—until the states decided to take matters into their own hands. They passed enabling legislation that allowed them to regulate prices as and when required. Andhra Pradesh has been most tenacious in safeguarding its farmers from what it terms the exploitative and monopolistic pricing by seed companies.

In 2006, it used the Essential Commodities Act (ECA) to slash the price of the genetically engineered Bt cotton seeds by more than half, after first going to the Monopolies and Restrictive Trade Practices Commission. Gujarat, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh, followed Andhra Pradesh’s example and used the ECA to slash the royalty rates which accounted for as much as twothirds of the seed cost, to bring prices down sharply. As a result, farmers in these states could buy the Bt cotton (marketed as Bollgard and Bollgard II) at `750 for a 450 gramme packet compared with `1,800 in 2002-03.

However, in December 2006, the Union government quietly amended the ECA to exclude cotton seeds from the list of essential commodities. This, according to some analysts, enabled Mahyco and the All India Crop Biotech Association (AICBA), the association of multinational seed companies, to challenge the states on their jurisdiction in fixing cotton seed prices. Most state governments got around the legal hump by passing special laws that gave them the power to do so. In 2007, Andhra Pradesh passed Act 29 to regulate the sale and prices of cotton seeds because cotton seed was not covered either by the Seeds Act, the Seeds Control Order, the ECA or the Environmental Protection Act.

This has resulted in a cat and mouse game between the states and the Union government. For instance, when AICBA challenged Gujarat’s ordinance which was on the same lines as that of Andhra Pradesh’s, the Ministry of Agriculture came to the rescue of the multinationals. It sent an affidavit to the Gujarat High Court in January 2009 that cotton seeds were out of the “purview of any regulatory and quality control mechanism”. As such, “no administered control system should be introduced in the sale of seeds”. Even more curious was that in November 2009 the Union Cabinet decided to re-include cotton seeds in the list of essential commodities for six months. It said that once the Seeds Bill, 2004, was passed cotton seeds would cease to be under ECA.

The stakes are high in the seeds business. A 2009 study estimates the market at `6,000 crore, with massive potential for growth since farmers are switching over increasingly to hybrids (seeds which cannot be reused). Traditionally farmers in India have reused their seeds and as much as 70 percent of the seed requirement of Indian agriculture is met from seeds bred and sold, or exchanged, by farmers among themselves. Growth rate is buoyant at an annual 12-13 per cent, making the prospects for private seeds companies extremely lucrative since most of the state sector seed companies have almost withered away.

The Andhra Pradesh government is insisting on a standard formula for royalty rate in the bill: not more than 20 per cent of the cost of the bare seed for the first three years and 5 per cent for the subsequent period.


Prices under the scanner in US


Did Monsanto abuse its market power?

Seeds have turned into a hotbed of political conflict worldwide. As multinational companies increase their grip on the seed market, governments in developed countries are beginning to take a closer look at how the lack of competition is hurting farmers at home and abroad.

The most significant development is the investigation by the US administration into the steep rise in prices of major food crop seeds at a time when the recession had brought down the prices of most goods. Last year, corn seed prices were reported to have shot up 32 per cent and that of soybean seeds by 24 per cent. While the Justice Department has launched an antitrust investigation of the seed industry, at least seven US states are investigating whether Monsanto has abused its market power to lock out competitors and raise prices.

Monsanto controls the biggest chunk of the market for GM seeds (see table) that are designed to make crops resistant to pests and herbicides. In the US, its Roundup Ready gene was in 93 per cent of the soybean crop and in 82 per cent of the corn produced last year.

Christine Varney, who heads the antitrust division in President Barack Obama’s administration, announced in March this year that the Justice Department is investigating whether biotech-seed patents are being abused to extend or maintain companies’ dominance in the industry. A more recent report says that the investigators in the West Virginia attorney general’s office have reviewed several studies by agriculture experts showing that Monsanto’s advertised claims of higher yields for its high-priced new soybean seed, Roundup Ready 2 Yield, have not been realised.

Industry analysts say the sharp escalation in seed prices began a little over a decade ago with emergence of GM crops and the swift consolidation of the seed industry that accompanied it.

Of more significance to India, perhaps, is a heated debate in the Canadian Parliament over a bill that seeks to amend the Seeds Regulations “to require that an analysis of potential harm to export markets be conducted before the sale of any new GM seed is permitted”.

Seeds of strife


Author(s): Latha Jishnu

Issue: Aug 31, 2010

The Seed Bill takes away states’ power to regulate seed prices, could lead to Centre-state confrontation

Photos: Surya Sen

IT WAS yet another meeting in a series that began six years ago.

On July 28, close to 40 members of Parliament and state leaders met in Room 124 of Krishi Bhavan, the Delhi headquarters of the Ministry of Agriculture, in what seemed a last-ditch attempt to thrash out the contested points in a proposed law to regulate the seeds trade. The meeting was called by Minister for Agriculture Shared Pawar, who had put together the first draft of the Seed Bill in 2004, and is set on getting it passed during the current session of Parliament.

The amended Seed Bill, 2004, is a critical piece of legislation and could underpin the success—or failure—of Indian farming. The preamble says the bill aims “to provide for regulating the quality of seeds for sale, import and export and to facilitate production and supply of seeds of quality”, but its stated objective has not found favour with farmers, several state governments and the Left parties. The reason is simple: missing in this law is any mention of price regulation. That is the core issue, although there are other concerns, ranging from the amount and method of compensating farmers who incur losses on account of poor quality seeds to the bill’s conflict with other pieces of legislation.

The July 28 meeting addressed most of the ‘other concerns’, with Pawar listing out the various amendments that the government would incorporate in the amended bill to be presented to Parliament. But on the question of price regulation, the minister was unwilling to budge. A note circulated by the agriculture ministry at the meeting is categorical that the bill does not envisage any “provision for price control” and is intended purely to regulate the quality of seeds. According to several invitees to the meeting, the agriculture minister told them that “the prime minister is against any price control”. This leaves a big question mark hanging over the Seed Bill since opposition to it shows no signs of a let-up.

Leading farmers’ organisations accuse the UPA government of Manmohan Singh of selling out the farmer to multinationals. Krishan Bir Chaudhary, president of the Bharatiya Krishak Samaj, believes the bill “is to protect the interests of multinational seed companies like Monsanto”, which, he insists, are trying to capture the seed market in India. There are other outfits like the All India Kisan Sabha which voice similar worries—and accusations.

Congress-ruled Andhra Pradesh is the biggest opponent of the bill and its agriculture minister N Raghuveera Reddy has been campaigning ceaselessly for significant changes in the proposed law. Reddy, who participated in the July meeting, told Down to Earth that “states must have the power to fix the price of seed and trait value (the royalty paid on patented seeds) whenever necessary.”

As he sees it the system should involve both the Centre and the states. “We would like an independent body similar to CERC (the Central Electricity Regulatory Commission fixes tariffs and other issues related to the power sector), which oversees state regulatory commissions. Otherwise, the seed companies will squeeze the farmer.”

Raghuveera Reddy, who has the full backing of his chief minister K Rosiah, points out, “You simply cannot have a free market without a statutory regulator.”

This is the quandary that the UPA government finds itself in. Not only is the farm lobby and the Left against the bill but so is a major state ruled by the Congress. Andhra Pradesh’s role, in fact, is central to the fight for regulated seed prices in the country. Since 2006, it has been taking on the US biotech giant Monsanto on the trait fees it charges for its genetically engineered cotton seeds (sold as Bollgard and Bollgard II). The state says the trait fees charged by Monsanto’s marketing arm in India, Mahyco Monsanto Biotech (India) Limited, are predatory and monopolistic.

But it is a course that has led to a long legal challenge—and a new state law to control prices. Gujarat and Maharashtra, apart from Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka, quickly followed Andhra Pradesh’s example. It was a revolt by the states but the Centre did its best to thwart it by deploying the Essential Commodities Act or ECA strategically (see box: Games the Centre plays).

While this backdrop is essential to understand the politics of the Seed Bill, there is another factor: the differences within the Congress high command on the issue of price regulation. The reser- vations of Congress Party chief Sonia Gandhi are said to be instrumental in putting the proposed law in cold storage for the past four years. As chairperson of the National Advisory Committee, Gandhi had, in an October 2005 letter, warned, “There is a growing perception that the Seed Bill, 2004, is anti-farmer and that it favours the seed industry and large seed breeders, including MNCs.

Government has no mechanism to control prices… Seed suppliers are under no obligation to ensure reasonable seed supply to farmers.” That concern, however, has not been addressed in India so far, although elsewhere, notably in the US, the runaway price of seeds is inviting judicial scrutiny. Simultaneously, seeds giant Monsanto, a big player in the Indian market, is also being investigated across seven American states for unfair or deceptive practices (see: Prices under the scanner on p12). Sometime back, the UN’s Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food had warned that the increasing dependence on commercial seed varieties, “controlled by a handful of very powerful multinational companies”, could have a severe impact on small farmers in developing countries.

Farmers will not benefit from new technology if prices are not controlledMany of the recommendations of the Standing Committee of Parliament, which gave its report in 2006, have been incorporated in the 2010 version of the Seed Bill, but price stubbornly stays out of its ambit. The agriculture ministry’s stance is clear. “A free and competitive market environment will spur the growth of the seeds industry. Therefore, price is better left to market forces rather than to artificial controls.”

Noted agriculture scientist M S Swaminathan said: “I hope better counsel will prevail.” Now a member of the Rajya Sabha, Swaminathan, too, has been demanding price regulation in the bill. “I have said there should be price regulation where appropriate, not everywhere. The government should have the authority to use price controls in certain situations, but not to usurp the role of the market.”

The scientist, who is referred to as the Father of India’s Green Revolution, worries that lack of price control could have disastrous consequences for the Indian farmer in accessing new technology. “High seed prices and trait fees,” he warned, “will come in the way of social inclusion on technology access—and social inclusion is fundamental to growth of the sector.”

The government’s point that the earlier law—Seed Control Order, 1983, which the Seed Bill will replace—did not have any provision for price control either is specious, said G V Ramanjaneyulu, executive director of the Centre for Sustainable Agriculture in Hyderabad. “It is clear that the government’s objective now is to encourage private trade.”

There are concerns, too, about the opening of other doors to private companies, local and foreign. For instance, Swaminathan and CPI leader D Raja say that seed certification issued by foreign agencies should be recognised only if the seed is tested on Indian soil. However, the ministry argues that Clause 30, which allows the Centre to authorise any foreign certification agency working outside India, is intended to allow global trade in seeds, and would come within the scope of bilateral and multilateral trade agreements.

But Ramanjaneyulu says there is a contradiction on the role of foreign agencies. At one level the ministry has assured the Andhra MPs that their demand that “certification should be carried only by government and semigovernment agencies” would be incorporated in the amendments. Yet, in another instance, it said foreign and foreign- based agencies would be allowed to do so under foreign trade pacts.

“In place of truthful labelling of seed, the government is making certification compulsory, but this is geared to letting in private and foreign seed certification agencies into the business,” pointed out Ramanjaneyulu, former ICAR scientist. Besides, it would also permit multi-location trials to be carried out by private agencies on foreign soil. The ministry’s justification is that seed imported into India would be subjected to multi-location trials under the rules to be framed under the seed Act.

As for that most vexing issue of compensation to farmers in case of seed failure, an issue that exercises most critics of the bill, the ministry says the quantum of compensation and the mechanism to recover it will also be prescribed under the rules.

The demand for “a role for panchayats, state and district level committees can be considered at that stage,” according to the official note. Have the opponents of the bill been assuaged by such promises? Raghuveera Reddy, for one, is mobilising more support from the states. Last week, he wrote to all state agriculture ministers inviting them to Hyderabad for talks. “We should rise to the challenge since our farmers’ interests are at stake. I have also asked them to mobilise opinion among their MPs and political leaders.”

Whether this seasoned campaigner succeeds in getting like-minded states on board—like he did on the BT cotton issue in 2006—or not, Pawar and the Centre know that the battle could turn bitter. Agriculture is a state subject, and the passage of the bill, which would repeal all other seed laws, including the applicability of ECA and the special ordinances passed by state governments on price regulation, is bound to ruffle constitutional feathers.

In the latest memorandum sent to the prime minister and the agriculture minister, the Andhra Pradesh chief minister has demanded the inclusion of a separate chapter on seed pricing and royalty fees which would give equal powers to the states and the central government. He has also detailed the mechanism for this procedure.

In a telling remark, Andhra Pradesh points out that the power to fix royalty rates is available with member-states of WTO under its TRIPS Agreement on intellectual property issues. It remains to be seen if the Centre can be persuaded by such arguments.

Create special agri zones, manage small farms: Swaminathan


Express News Service

Ahmedabad, March 30: Managers should start thinking about ways and means to manage small farms in a more profitable manner and like the Special Economic Zones, Special Agricultural Zones (SAZ) should be created.’’ Renowned agricultural scientist M S Swaminathan said this at a function here on Friday.

Swaminathan was giving away the ‘AMA-Metrochem Outstanding Manager of the Year Award 2006’ to Alan D’Souza, Acting Dean, Mudra Institute of Communication Research. The award was conferred on D’Souza by the Ahmedabad Management Association (AMA).

“While the contribution of the agricultural sector to GDP is going down every year, the percentage of population depending upon agriculture is not going down,” said Swaminathan, adding that it was important that the managers now also start thinking about ways and means to manage small farms in a more profitable manner.

Swaminathan, who is credited with Green Revolution in the country, stressed the need for the development and sustainability of agricultural sector.

“While sectors like ICT, BT, nuclear and renewable energy will dominate the world of technology in the days to come, the agri sector should also be better managed,’’ he said.

“We have seen some profitable partnership among the farmers in sectors like tobacco and sugar cotton, however the same has not happened in the case of cotton,’’ Swaminathan observed, adding that in case of contractual farming such formula need to be worked out so that a win-win situation can be worked out between the industry and the farmer.

Later interacting with the media, Swaminathan said that apart from its obvious importance, food is also becoming a political weapon in the changing global scenario and it is important that adequate impetus be given to generate sustainable and enhanced food productivity.

“Like the Special Economic Zones, Special Agricultural Zones (SAZ) should also be created,” Swaminathan said, adding that such zones would serve to conserve prime farm land for agriculture, realise the untapped production potential of rainfed areas, apart from ensuring national nutrition security and food sovereignty.

As in the case of SEZs, special support and incentives will have to be given to farm families in SAZ as well, Swaminathan said, adding that such support package would include support for conservation farming, timely supply of credit, effective insurance system and post-harvest infrastructure for value addition to primary produce, biomass utilization and for producer oriented marketing.

In this connection, Swaminathan lauded the efforts made by Gujarat government to introduce soil health cards and such measures to the farmers. He further said that such measures need to be introduced by the governments across the country.

Seven thousand farmers committed suicide in three years

Sunday, 18 February 2007

NEW DELHI, Feb 18 APP: About seven thousand farmers have committed suicide in India in just three years.

        The Asian Age in its lead story on Sunday quoting government statistics said the average is even more frightening:  it works out to six farmers killing themselves every day during the period.
       According to the daily no mechanism has been put in place to monitor the progress of implementation of the Prime Minister’s special package for  distressed farmers.
       In 31 suicide – prone districts of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala and Maharashtra.
     Quoting Union Agriculture Ministry, the paper said the figure complete only till November 2006, reveals that 6, 899 farmers have committed till that date. Of the affected states Maharashtra, which was singled out by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for a special visit, registered a tremendous increase in suicides by farmers with the toll rising from 577 in 2005 to 1,843, according to statistics till October 31, 2006. 
      Kerala, according to government statistics, has registered an increase as well from 120 last year.  Andhra Pradesh, which had witnessed 1,126 farmer suicides in 2004 -05, brought the figure down to 92 last year, while Karnataka’s highest of 78 deaths in 2003-04 has been reduced gradually to 45 till Novembers last year.
        The paper quoted the PM relief fund to improving the plight of the farmers which include setting up dams, waiving off loans,  ex-gratia assistance from the Prime Miniter’s Natural Calamities Relief Fund of Rs. 50 lacks per district, an estimated credit flow of Rs. 1, 275 crores for the current financial year 2006-07.