Baba Ramdev demands a shift to Sustainable Agriculture

Swami Baba Ramdev is calling a fast from 4th June onwards against Corruption and Black Money Hoarding.  Sustainable Agriculture and related matters are in his major demands ( in his main letter to the Prime Minister).  Today, Swami, Acharya Balakrishna and Devinder Sharma along with others in his team was invited for a discussion with Cabinet ministers led by Pranab Mukherjee.  Kapil Sibal, Pawan Bansal and Subhodh Kant sahai and the Cabinet Secretary was also there for the discussion.  Today Swamiji’s team presented the demands.  Devinder presented the demands on agriculture.  The following are broadly the demands on agriculture

Land Acquistion

1. No Agriculture Land should be acquired for non-agri purposes
2. No Land should be acquired without the permission of the Grama Sabhas

GM and Seeds
3. A 10-year moratorium on Bt-Brinjal and all field trials and commercial release of all GM crops
4. Price regulation on Seeds
5. Every district to have a Community Controlled Seed Centre with a gene bank for traditional seeds

6. Liability in case of contamination of non-GM crops

7. BRAI Bill to be jointly drafted in consultation with civil society
8. Ban on import of all GM food products and allow imports only if they carry a GM free label

 

Pesticides
6. A ban on all the 67 pesticides that have been banned in other countries but still used in India.

Sustainable Agriculture
7. 12th Five Year Plan to have 25% of total agriculture area brought under Non-Pesticidal Management as in the CMSA in Andhra Pradesh (the NPM has been repeated in 3 places in the demand annexes)
8. A Land Conservation fund for farmers to the tune of Rs. 5000 crore to be allocated each year

Other farmers issues
9. A Farmers Income Commission to be setup and income guaranteed to the farmer through a Farmers Income Guarantee Act (FIGA)
10. MSP to incorporate the farmers contribution as a Skilled Labour and not as General Labour and the MSP be calculated after fixing at 50% higher that the C2 Cost.
11. 24-hr water and electricity supply to be given to farmers
12. Community grain banks in every panchayath

Education in the Agriculture, Health and Engineering Sectors to be in Hindi and other State languages.

Report of Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Olivier De Schutter

Download the report

The reinvestment in agriculture, triggered by the 2008 food price crisis, is essential to the concrete realization of the right to food. However, in a context of ecological, food and energy crises, the most pressing issue regarding reinvestment is not how much, but how. This report explores how States can and must achieve a reorientation of their agricultural systems towards modes of production that are highly productive, highly sustainable and that contribute to the progressive realization of the human right to adequate food. Drawing on an extensive review of the scientific literature published in the last five years, the Special Rapporteur identifies agroecology as a mode of agricultural development which not only shows strong conceptual connections with the right to food, but has proven results for fast progress in the concretization of this human right for many vulnerable groups in various countries and environments. Moreover, agroecology delivers advantages that are complementary to better known conventional approaches such as breeding highyielding varieties. And it strongly contributes to the broader economic development. The report argues that the scaling up of  these experiences is the main challenge today. Appropriate public policies can create an enabling environment for such sustainable modes of production. These policies include prioritizing the procurement of public goods in public spending rather than solely providing input subsidies; investing in knowledge by reinvesting in agricultural research and extension services; investing in forms of social organization that encourage partnerships, including farmer field schools and farmers’ movements innovation networks; investing in agricultural research and extension systems; empowering women; and creating a macro-economic enabling environment, including connecting sustainable farms to fair markets.

Organic farming – India’s future perfect?

Nishika Patel

A budding interest in organic food offers farmers soaring incomes and higher yields, but critics say it’s not the answer to India’s fast-rising food demands

MDG : Organic farming in India

An Indian farm labourer displays a cabbage grown on an organic farm in India’s Gujarat state. Photograph: Sam Panthaky/AFP/Getty Images

India’s struggling farmers are starting to profit from a budding interest in organic living. Not only are the incomes of organic farmers soaring – by 30% to 200%, according to organic experts – but their yields are rising as the pesticide-poisoned land is repaired through natural farming methods.

Organic farming only took off in the country about seven years ago. Farmers are turning back to traditional farming methods for a number of reasons.

First, there’s a 10% to 20% premium to be earned by selling organic products abroad and in India’s increasingly affluent cities, a move towards healthy living and growing concern over toxic foods and adulteration plaguing the food market.

Second, the cost of pesticides and fertilisers has shot up and the loans farmers need to buy expensive, modified seed varieties are pushing many into a spiral of debt. Crippling debt and the burden of loans are trriggering farmer suicides across the country, particularly in the Vidarabha region of Maharashtra. Organic farming slashes cultivation and input costs by up to 70% due to the use of cheaper, natural products like manure instead of chemicals and fertilisers.

Third, farmers are suffering from the damaging effects of India’s green revolution, which ushered in the rampant use of pesticides and fertilisers from the 1960s to ensure bumper yields and curb famine and food shortages. Over the decades, the chemicals have taken a toll on the land and yields are plunging.

“Western, modern farming has spoiled agriculture in the country. An overuse of chemicals has made land acidic and hard, which means it needs even more water to produce, which is costly,” says Narendra Singh of Organic India. “Chemicals have killed the biggest civilisation in agriculture – earthworms, which produce the best soil for growth.”

Umesh Vishwanath Chaudhari, 35, a farmer in the Jalgaon district in Maharashtra, switched to organic farming seven years ago after experiencing diminishing yields from his 8-hectare (20-acre) plot. He came across a book on organic farming techniques using ancient Vedic science. He started making natural fertilisers and pesticides using ingredients such as cow manure, cow urine, honey and through vermicomposting – the process of using earthworms to generate compost. Since then, his yields and income have risen by 40%, and worms have returned to his soil. He sells lime, custard apple and drumsticks to organic stores in Pune, Mumbai and other cities, while his cotton is bought by Morarka, a rural NGO.

He plans to convert another 2 hectares to organic cotton and buy 10 cows to make his own manure, rather than buying it. “Using manure instead of pesticides and fertilisers has cut my costs by half, and I get a premium on these goods,” he says. “I used to drive a scooter, but in the past few years I’ve been able to afford a bike and car – and even two tractors.”

Udday Dattatraya Patil, 43, an agriculture graduate, turned to organic farming after his crops were showing a deficiency in feed, leading to rising fertiliser costs. In addition, his banana crop was being wrecked by temperature fluctuations and climate change. “Because bananas are sensitive to temperature change, 20% went to waste. Organic bananas can withstand this. Now none are wasted,” he says. Now he has 40 cows and bulls whose manure he can use for fertiliser, as well as vermicompost units. His yields have increased by 20% and income by 30%.

Although he is hailed as a progressive agriculturalist by his fellow villagers, he is the only organic farmer out 3,000 in Chahardi, in Jalgaon district. “Some have tried but they give up if there aren’t immediate results. Organic farming requires effort, and you have to invest in organic inputs,” he adds.

Many farmers are reluctant to make the leap because they fear a drop in yields in the initial period; good results tend to show after three years. Moreover, the market is growing by 500% to 1,000% a year, according to Morarka, but it only represents 0.1% of the food market.

Kavita Mukhi organises a weekly organic farmers’ market in Mumbai, where producers sell direct to consumers. She is trying to boost awareness about organic food. “The only way you hear about it is if you stumble on an organic shop,” she says. “There’s no widespread marketing or awareness of the benefits.”

Once the awareness increases, organic agriculturalists believe more farmers will join the movement because it’s favourable to small farmers. They already have the cows and buffalos needed to recycle biomass at the farm level, which is, essentially, the foundation of organic farming.

“Unlike Europe, India’s modern farming revolution is not very old, meaning they still possess the knowhow for cultivation without modern chemical inputs,” says Mukesh Gupta of Morarka.

While critics argue that organic farming is not the answer to India’s rising food demands, those in favour say it’s the only sustainable way out for impoverished farmers

Organic farming can feed the world, U-M study shows

ANN ARBOR, Mich.—Organic farming can yield up to three times as much food on individual farms in developing countries, as low-intensive methods on the same land—according to new findings which refute the long-standing claim that organic farming methods cannot produce enough food to feed the global population.

Researchers from the University of Michigan found that in developed countries, yields were almost equal on organic and conventional farms. In developing countries, food production could double or triple using organic methods, said Ivette Perfecto, professor at U-M’s School of Natural Resources and Environment, and one the study’s principal investigators. Catherine Badgley, research scientist in the Museum of Paleontology, is a co-author of the paper along with several current and former graduate and undergraduate students from U-M.

“My hope is that we can finally put a nail in the coffin of the idea that you can’t produce enough food through organic agriculture,” Perfecto said.

In addition to equal or greater yields, the authors found that those yields could be accomplished using existing quantities of organic fertilizers, without putting more farmland into production.

The idea to undertake an exhaustive review of existing data about yields and nitrogen availability was fueled in a roundabout way, when Perfecto and Badgley were teaching a class about the global food system and visiting farms in Southern Michigan.

“We were struck by how much food the organic farmers would produce,” Perfecto said. The researchers set about compiling data from published literature to investigate the two chief objections to organic farming: low yields and lack of organically acceptable nitrogen sources.

Their findings refute those key arguments, Perfecto said, and confirm that organic farming is less environmentally harmful yet can potentially produce more than enough food. This is especially good news for developing countries, where it’s sometimes impossible to deliver food from outside, so farmers must supply their own. Yields in developing countries could increase dramatically by switching to organic farming, Perfecto said.

While that seems counterintuitive, it makes sense because in developing countries, many farmers still do not have the access to the expensive fertilizers and pesticides that farmers use in developed countries to produce those high yields, she said.

After comparing yields of organic and non-organic farms, the researchers looked at nitrogen availability. To do so, they multiplied the current farm land area by the average amount of nitrogen available for production crops if so-called “green manures” were planted between growing seasons. Green manures are cover crops which are plowed into the soil to provide natural soil amendments. They found that planting green manures between growing seasons provided enough nitrogen to replace synthetic fertilizers.

Organic farming is important because conventional agriculture—which involves high-yielding plants, mechanized tillage, synthetic fertilizers and biocides—is so detrimental to the environment, Perfecto said. For instance, fertilizer runoff from conventional agriculture is the chief culprit in creating dead zones—low oxygen areas where marine life cannot survive. Proponents of organic farming argue that conventional farming also causes soil erosion, greenhouse gas emission, increased pest resistance and loss of biodiversity.

For their analysis, researchers defined the term organic as: practices referred to as sustainable or ecological; that utilize non-synthetic nutrient cycling processes; that exclude or rarely use synthetic pesticides; and sustain or regenerate the soil quality.

Perfecto said the idea that people would go hungry if farming went organic is “ridiculous.”

“Corporate interest in agriculture and the way agriculture research has been conducted in land grant institutions, with a lot of influence by the chemical companies and pesticide companies as well as fertilizer companies—all have been playing an important role in convincing the public that you need to have these inputs to produce food,” she said.

Organic agriculture and the global food supply
Catherine Badgley,Jeremy Moghtader,Eileen Quintero,Emily Zakem,M. Jahi Chappell,Katia Avilés-Vázquez,Andrea Samulon and Ivette Perfecto (2007).

Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems, Volume 22,
Issue 02, June 2007 pp 86-108

http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayAbstract?aid=1091304

The modern farmer and (un)common sense

Anil Bhattarai

FEB 22 –
In 2004, Community Managed Sustainable Agriculture (CMSA) began with all of the 200 farming families in Punukula village of Khammam District of Andhra Pradesh, India. That year, they decided to stop using pesticides and chemical fertilisers and to adopt ecological management of the soil and production process. The yields did not decline, and for the first time, farmers did not have to borrow from moneylenders to pay for their cultivation expenses. Through active involvement of small and medium farmers, these practices spread like wildfire in the subsequent years. By early 2010, the number of farmers practicing the sustainable system had grown to over 318,000, and the acreage under ecological practices had increased to 2 million acres, almost 8 percent of the net cropped area in the state. Between 2008 and 2009 alone, an additional 600,000 acres were added to chemical-free agriculture. 

In the mid-1960s, when the green revolution in agriculture was promoted in a few selected parts of India, many international agencies, the government of India, development intellectuals and agricultural experts promised nothing short of an agricultural cornucopia. They thought they had found answers to India’s agricultural problems. This dream lies in ruins now. Initial bumper crops have given way to widespread stresses. Dwindling water tables, erosion of soil fertility, permanent water logging, poisoning of water sources and pesticide poisoning of farmers and farm workers have become common. There has been a decline in the nutritional contents of food, and bio-diversity has declined precipitously. A very small section of large farmers reaped short-term benefits; but for a majority of the farmers, the green revolution technologies have been a source of multiple stresses. The agricultural gross domestic product might have grown, but the proportion of actual production from land has been on the decline in comparison to income from trade in inputs and trade in agricultural commodities. In recent years, the erratic monsoon caused by climate change has put further strain on the productive agricultural economy.

These stresses have had tragic consequences across India for farming communities. The dependence on high-input agriculture and lack of control over the pricing of their own produce meant that farmers were increasingly indebted; and most of them, to usurious local moneylenders. The debt-stress led to widespread suicides among farmers. Between 1995 and 2005, over 100,000 farmers committed suicide due to indebtedness and other farm-related stresses. States such as Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh topped the list in terms of the number of farmer suicides in India.

This trend is in the process of being reversed in Andhra Pradesh, and this process of reversal is nothing less than revolutionary. What CMSA practices are generating are shifts not only in the in-farm practices, but reversing the very assumptions under which conventional agriculture practices were spread. The old green revolution projects emphasised transfer of technology developed in laboratories and the field of agricultural colleges and research centres. Farmers were considered as recipients of expert knowledge. A wide network of public extension system was created and subsidised. In the 1990s, this extension system gradually collapsed as the government withdrew funding. These roles were then taken up by the private sector without much control of the farmers. They began aggressively to sell chemicals, hybrid seeds and other inputs for the farmers. Many farmers fell prey to the lure of cash crops such as cotton.

In Andhra Pradesh, a quarter of the monetised economy is contributed by agriculture that accounts for 60 percent of the employment. During much of the last three decades, when chemical-intensive, high external input agriculture was vigorously promoted by both the government and other agencies, farmers became heavily indebted. Pesticides and chemical fertilisers accounted for around 35 percent of the total cultivation expenditure. An overwhelming 83 percent of the farmers were indebted because of money borrowed to pay for these external inputs. The private extension services are so unregulated that the consumption of pesticides in Andhra Pradesh is 0.82 kg/hectare as against the Indian national average of 0.3 kg/hectare.

Things seem to have begun to change. Farmers are becoming an active part of building institutions of learning. Those who have been involved in practicing ecological practices have become local resource persons in what has come to be known as farmers’ field schools. This is a complete reversal from the earlier approach where knowledge flowed one way from experts whose lives did not depend on farming to farmers. Massive amounts of resources were poured into designing information, education and communication (IEC) activities to get the messages across to the farmers about the benefits of chemical-based conventional agriculture.

Development of ecologically sound technologies is now occurring in the farmers’ fields under the leadership of the farmers. This is also the reason for the spread of new practices among such a large number of farming families in such a short period. Demonstrations and trials for a variety of technologies are conducted in the farmers’ fields under the leadership of the farmers as researchers.

Usually, sustainable agricultural practices are focused on fresh fruits and vegetables. These farmers in Andhra have started developing ecological practices for paddy and other grains too. Productivity has been equal to conventional agriculture with significantly reduced amounts of cultivation expenditure. As soil fertility is increasing, it will not be a surprise if the productivity of ecological farming will surpass that of chemical-based practices. A very large proportion of the farmers have stopped buying food from the market as they have been able to generate a surplus on their own farms. Because they have formed cooperatives to market their produce, they have also been able to get higher prices that would otherwise be siphoned off by middle-level traders.

In a survey carried out in five districts, 386 families out of the 467 families who had mortgaged their farm land to borrow money had been able to pay off their loans by using savings from the CMSA income. Most significantly, there has not been a single case of farmer suicide since CMSA began in those villages. There has been a noticeable drop in pesticide-related health problems, especially among women, as they were the ones who used to carry out the spraying tasks. In villages where farmers have completely stopped using chemicals, the groundwater and soil have become pesticide-free. There has been an increase in the number of birds in the village.

For a long time, revolutionaries, social scientists and modernising technocrats have been thinking that farmers were ignorant. Modern agriculture created a lure unsurpassed for a long time. The 20th century was the golden age in terms of the hegemony of conventional thinking and practices. Fossil fuels provided the needed resources for producing chemical fertilisers and pesticides. Machines made it possible to cultivate large areas of land. Most importantly, farmers had a very small role in designing the new practices. Experts in laboratories or research fields in agricultural colleges monopolised the process of knowledge generation. In the process, the age-old knowledge that farmers possessed eroded. But that approach has reached a dead end. Green revolution practices have created crises across the world. As we encounter multiple crises — both at the social and environmental levels — farmers such as these in Andhra are leading the way out of the quagmire that we have got stuck in.

Anil Bhattarai

anilbhattarai@gmail.com

We can end the Food Crisis

Press Release

Via Campesina on world food day

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We can end the food crisis!

(Maputo, October 15, 2008) We can only end the food crisis through the principles of food sovereignty and agroecology. This is the focus of the Vía Campesina in Maputo, as its 5th Congress gets underway with a Youth Assembly for rural youth from all over the world.

There are many young people who want to start out in agriculture using agroecological farming methods, based on autonomous principles of sustainable production and local marketing of produce. Current policies, however, make this difficult, and favour industrial production methods.

Today, the 16th of October, 2008, the FAO World Food Day, the Via Campesina offers a message of hope in the face of the world food crisis.

The crisis is a direct result of the industrial and export-based agricultural model, at the expense of millions of rural workers and the population as a whole, in every region of the world. But the crisis can be overcome if we abandon this model, which drives out rural workers, destroys biodiversity and the environment, and results in hunger and poverty in the world. The food crisis is the most dramatic link in the chain of crises generated by the neo-liberal economic system – the climate crisis, the energy crisis, the financial crisis, the biodiversity crisis, etc.. It is time for a change of direction, starting with agriculture itself.

The alternative is food sovereignty, which allows peoples to develop their own agricultural and food policies, which favour local and sustainable rural production, and equitable distribution of healthy food to support their own people.

The Vía Campesina reiterates this message in the midst of discussions taking place during its 5th Conference in Maputo (Mozambique), attended by over 600 representatives of small farmer and rural worker organizationss from all over the world.

60% of all food consumed in Mozambique is imported, and the scourge of hunger and malnutrition is everyhere in this country. Mozambique, like every country in the world, needs food sovereignty and support for its sustainable peasant production sector – using environmentally-friendly means – to feed its own population and put an end to hunger.

Today on World Food Day, the Via Campeina Youth Assembly stresses the urgent need of new generations of farmers to have to access to farm land and means of production. It has become clear that many young people want to farm, using the principles of agroecology, yet are still unable to do so. The Via Campesina urges governments to improve access to land, credit and support for these young people, because the future of agriculture and food production depends on them. In other words, the food crisis cannot be solved if young people are not given a wide-ranging role in agriculture based on food sovereignty and agroecological models.

For more information: Isabelle Delforge (e-mail: idelforge@viacampesina.org, +258 829628439) www.viacampesina.org