Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Nothing unscientific about organic farming

Taken from blog-www.agrariancrisis.wordpress.com

The scientific establishment remains highly sceptical about organic methods. But Dr Tarak Kate and his colleagues at a Wardha-based NGO
have collected data systematically, to negate the charge that this alternative is unscientific and unproven. Darryl D'Monte reports.

It is symptomatic of an event-driven media that there is now a great deal of attention paid to farmers' suicides in Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka, but hardly any focus on the alternatives to the high-input farming that is driving farmers to desperation. As is now
well known, most farmers have committed suicide because they are steeped in debt, from loans taken to sow improved seeds or use better fertilizer or pesticide, or most likely a combination of all three.
The perils of those choices are now starkly before us, and the need of the hour is to look hard for alternatives, and adopt them rapidly.

The Rural Development Committee of the Rotary Club of Bombay, in association with the Forum of Environmental Journalists of India (of which this author is the Chairperson), recently organised a presentation by three experts and farmers from Vidarbha who have opted
for organic methods. Unfortunately, it was sparsely attended, except for a few of the already converted and some enthusiastic vendors of organic produce.

Overcoming scepticism

Dr Tarak Kate, from Dharamitra, an NGO in Wardha, has extensive experience in research on agriculture which employs no external inputs. His work in Vidarbha covered two phases. In the first, between 1988 and 2001, seven NGOs worked with 400 small and marginal farmers
in 22 villages in four districts. In the second phase, he concentrated with what these alternative proponents term "resource-poor" farmers - to carefully differentiate them from standard notions of poverty - in one block in Yavatmal district. According to Dr Kate, the scientific
establishment, including some of the world's top agricultural scientists, are sceptical about organic methods. Norman Borlaug, the Nobel Laureate and father of the Green Revolution, says: "We cannot
feed 6 billion people with organic farming; if we tried to do so we will level most of our forests...." John Emslay, a senior Cambridge (UK) chemist puts it more bluntly. He says that the greatest
catastrophe that the human race will face this century is not global warming but a global conversion to organic farming - an estimated 2 billion people would perish.

Such scepticism is why Kate and his colleagues in Dharamitra have collected data systematically, to negate the charge that this alternative is "unscientific" and "unproven". The data relates to each farmer and covers the cropping pattern, yield and income per year.

In Vidarbha - now repeatedly in the news over its mounting suicides, and historically neglected by the government of Maharashtra which has pampered the sugar farmers in the western part of the state instead -subsistence farmers are left to the vagaries of nature: as is evident
from this monsoon itself, rainfall is getting increasingly erratic.
But Dr Kate and his colleague Madhukar Khadse are more concerned about what they term the "over-dependence on the market for external inputs". The acreage devoted to pulses - which add nitrogen to the soil - has declined, which also means that the people lack a balanced
diet. And there are no additional opportunities to earn income:
Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar, who has championed the cause of cane and grape growers, has suggested that Vidarbha take up dairy farming, but where will the fodder come from, in this parched area?

The true picture is presented by the current cropping pattern. After the introduction of high-yielding varieties, cotton accounts for two-thirds of the produce in the region. Pigeon pea comprises 17% and the remainder is accounted for by sorghum and soyabean. Under the
circumstances, it is not surprising that this excessive reliance on cotton as a monoculture has literally killed farmers. As much as 60%
of the pesticide in the country is for growing cotton.

According to a survey by Dharamitra, in a typical village in the region, Rs.1500 to Rs.1700 is spent per acre on hybrid seeds, chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Additionally, up to Rs.700 per acre constitutes interest against loans taken from moneylenders for the capital investment required, at 5% per month, for the seven months from sowing to harvest. Hence the total capital expenditure works out to between Rs.2700 and Rs.3240 per acre, once labour charges are also
added. With an average output of 2.5 quintals of cotton per acre, and the price of Rs.2000 per quintal, the gross income works out to Rs.5000 per acre. Hence the net income is only Rs.1760-Rs.2300. Prior to the introduction of high-yielding varieties, when farmers relied on
local and inputs which were not chemical-based, the yield was lower at 1.5 to 2 quintals per acre but the profit greater at Rs.3000. Hence the conclusion: "This shows that enhancement of productivity does not necessarily mean increase in profits."

This underlines the crisis in arid regions of the peninsula with what Dr Kate terms "high input, high output, high risk" farming.Dharamitra's calculations further show that between Rs.2200 and Rs.2450 per acre of cotton - excluding the labour involved in applying chemicals - goes out of the village "in the name of external inputs and interest needed to be paid on cash capital borrowed from money lenders". The NGO cites Umari village, with 75 families, which grows
cotton over 250 acres. A staggering Rs.7.5 lakhs flows out of the village each year in this manner. As Dr Kate says: "There is need to stop this outflow and ensure that this money remains in the village."

Dharamitra has organised farmers' study groups to demonstrate how organic farming can prove profitable. "Seeing is believing," he says. This was tried out at Saidapur, a small tribal village in Wardha
district, for two years. Moreover, everything was pain-stakingly documented. One of the innovations was to create a grain bank, which provided 15-20 kg of foodgrain per head in a village as a safety net in times of extreme distress. Any needy person could access this bank
but had to return it the following year with an additional 20% of grain. Inevitably, female self-help groups proved more successful than their male counterparts in using this.

Dr Kate is at pains to emphasise that organic farming is not a simple switch-over to different inputs - or, rather, a return to traditional practices - but involves a "bundle" of measures. It is most necessary to monitor the health of the soil. Samples randomly collected from 8% of the villages covered have shown a clear improvement in the nitrogen content and level of beneficial microbial activity. "If you save the soil, you save the nutrient," he points out. There is extensive use of nutrients which are available in situ, like leaf litter and cattle urine.

Despite these gains, Dharamitra is aware of the obstacles to wide-spread adoption of this alternative. Farmers need to undergo a major change in mindset to apply contour bunding and composting,techniques which require constant monitoring and regular maintenance.As Dr Kate admits candidly: "Although crop productivity under the non-chemical system has been brought almost at par with that of the chemical system, the overall productivity is still quite low.
Similarly, even if a noteworthy increase has been registered in the net incomes of the farmers under the non-chemical system, the total income is still very low to meet their livelihood needs."

Manohar Parchure, who is the moving spirit behind the Maharashtra Organic Farmers Association - the state is the leader in this respect - cites how 5 lakh farmers have turned to this practice. However, none of the universities have done any work in this area and therefore
there is no academic data available. The average loan, with current farming methods, is Rs.40,000 per family. "Earlier, we imported wheat," he observes. "Now we import fertilizer." ⊕

Darryl D'Monte
12 Aug2006
Darryl D'Monte, former Resident Editor of The Times of India in Mumbai, is Chairperson of the Forum of Environmental Journalists of India and founder President of the International Federation of Environmental Journalists. For Planning Commission policy on organic

Monday, March 19, 2007

भारत एक कृषी pradhan देश

भारत एक कृषी प्रधान देष है ।इसका matlab है कि यहाँ कि आम जनता agriculture पेर depend करती है.ओह..Google is soo cool...now I can write in hinglish. One word hindi, one word english-पक्की देल्ही कि भाषा

Backyard composting

I plan to start composting in my backyard. Had no idea that kitchen waste doesn't decompose fast in a land fill. Better my back yard plants get all nitrogen and carbon than neighbor garbage collecting company.
But, problem is -from where to start. No idea on where to start,Which type of bin to put in place, how much will it cost.Will composting cause a yuck odor in my backyard? Hmm..simple stuff takes lots of courage.Wish some of fellow netizens can throw a light on this.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

blog in hindi

Now, we can blog in hindi too.! Cool.
आज कल चील काफी कम हो गए हैं ।

99% Vultures died in India

If you have ever lived in North India-you would have noticed omnipresent vultures , also called "Gidhhs". Unfortunately they are in decline since last decade.Smithsonian reports about vulture decline in its February issue.

These much hated, but must for enviornment are now in extinction danger.These birds eat on rotting carcasses. Just 15 years ago-these birds were in abundance.
99% of existing vultures have died in Indian subcontinent.All my early childhood memories contain this "giddh" bird in it.
As many as 100 vultures may feed on a single cow carcass, stripping it clean in 30 minutes. Two thousand, 3,000, even 10,000 vultures swarmed the larger dumps in the early 1990s, the huge birds lapping at carcasses with their leathery tongues, thrusting their narrow heads neck-deep to reach internal organs, tussling over choice gobbets of meat. Year after year, Rahmani says, five million to ten million cow, camel and buffalo carcasses disappeared neatly down the gullets of India's vultures.
Veterinary pain killer drug diclofenac given to cattle, caused kidney failures in these vulture. Only 0.8% of cattle needs to have heavier dose of diclofenac in it. Vulture eat carcasses of these cattles and quickly develop kidney failure and die.Diclofenac doesn't hurt dogs.
Even though now diclofenac is now banned for veterniary use, it is too late for vultures.Their probability of surviving is extremely low.
Without vultures, dogs have increased, as these dogs are eating rotting flesh of cows.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Save farmers from cancer

Does cancer afflicts only affluents in India or reverse is true-that poorest people get affected by Cancer?
It is well known that eating pesticides laden food will increase risk of cancer. But what about farmers spraying them and resulting contamination in nearby environment?
A village in Punjab,called "Jajjal" with 500 odd households and population of 3500 ,is near Bhatinda and belongs to region "Malwa",cotton growing area.
Cancer statistics in Jajjal in 2002
-20 cancer deaths reported in village.
-CSE reported that six to 13 pesticides were present in blood of villagers. CSE also found organochlorines and residues of the newer and so-called 'non-persistent' pesticides – organophosphates in blood. Organophosphates are far more toxic than the older organochlorines.
-Post Graduate Institute of Medical Research (PGIMER), Chandigarh linked increased level of pesticides to higher than average rate of cancer in farmers.
Premature aging,joint pain, and spinal problems are making the youth of the village older than their age.
-Other ailments like h
eart ailments, paralysis, skin problems, asthma and arthritis have become too common.
Report compiled by Kheti Virasat Mission's Jarnail Singh.
Detailed original report is here-http://www.indiatogether.org/2007/feb/hlt-jajjal.htm

Choices for sustainable lifestyle

Why not changes in lifestyle itself-to be more sustainable than just organic agriculture. Here are some tips for Western audiences.
-Get Fair Trade Coffee
-Buy CFL tubelights,bulbs
-Take showers instead of a soak in bath tub.
-Use recycled paper
-10 million pounds of pesticides are consumed every year.If everyone adapts to organic agriculture,think of all $$ saved
-14 million number of trees annually used to produce paper shopping bags.Alternative-Take a jute or cotton bag next time going shopping
-Use biodegradable cleaning products. In India, I used to use plain mud for cleaning sink and kitchen counter top. It worked better than chemical cleansers (less effort to clean,thickest layer of mold etc cleaned rt. away
-Unplug electric appliances when not in use.
Open dishwasher after final rinse.Let dishes dry in the air on their own.
-Don't throw away bubble wraps from internet shipping boxes. Instead,recycle them

Greg Horn in his latest book writes more tips in his book-Living Green:A Practical guide to simple sustainability

Next tip is more for indian women. I don't understand why we go for "branded" stuff these days.
Is Levi's, DKNY jeans better than a plain cotton sari? Cotton Sari is made up of complete natural stuff.Only vegetable based dyes are used. And not to mention,benefit sari weavers also.
Choice is upto indian women of course.

Some tips to de-toxify home
-Leave shoes at home
-Starve dust mites-clean bedding once a week in hot water cycle
-Use ghee candles instead of paraffin wax ones.
-Use natural cleaning products like, Dr Bronners Sal Suds.More products and companies can be found at

Friday, March 9, 2007

MBA in Organic Agriculture!

I was pleasantly surprised to know about a MBA in Organic Agriculture offered by Amity Management school in Noida. Excellent News-Hope that Organic and sustainable lifestyle becomes more mainstream. Even if these 30 odd graduates get a career as regular Food technologists, they will spread the organic knowledge in their community.I did my bachelors from Kanpur ,which also has Chandrashekhar Azad Agriculture Universities.Students from neighboring rural place would come there. In mid 90's , studying agriculture was done only by farmers children.
Fast forward 2007-MBA in Organic. I still can't overcome my excitement.More details are available here-
Amity Institute of Organic Agriculture at Sector 125,Noida ,Uttar Pradesh,India

All 24 students were placed. Definitely, other B.Sc students should take a look at this career.

MBA (Organic Agriculture & Food Business)

Graduation in Agriculture, Life Sciences, Biotechnology & Allied areas including Food Science

M Sc (Organic Agriculture & Resource Biotechnology)

Graduation in Agriculture, Life Sciences, Biotechnology & Allied Areas

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Organic Statistics for India

I promised to do some research on organic market in India -for entrepreneurs. It is still work in progress but here are some details I found on internet.

  • According to the Indian Competence Centre for Organic Agriculture, the global market for organically produced foods is $26 billion and is estimated to increase to $102 billion by 2020.
  • Around 50 percent of India's organic crops go to export, with only 1 percent remaining for home consumption.
  • Total acres under organic farming: From 17,230 acres in 2004 to 30,164 acres in 2006
  • In 10th Five Year Plan (2002-07), government has earmarked Rs 100 crore for the promotion of sustainable agriculture in the country, mainly in exports.
  • NPOP (National Programme for Organic Production), and APEDA (Agricultural and Processed Food Export Development Authority) promote exports opportunities.
  • Current Entrants into Organic Retail
    • Navdanya at Hauz Khas,New Delhi
    • FabIndia
    • Conscious Foods
    • Godrej AgroVet's retail product, Nature's Basket
    • IITC Organic
    • Dilli Haat has organic restaurants
    • "Meer Organic and Agro Products
    • Swasa
    • Morarka Foundatin
    • Lifeline
    • Navbharat Enterprises,
    • Fresh Health
    • Atik
    • Pure Life Diet India Ltd
People initially focussed on exports, but now turning to domestic demand (Finally!)
Main problem is organised supply chain and organised marketing and retailing for organic produce.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Another 100 farmer suicide

Just came in today at Times Of India.
Even as policymakers and the media exult in India's growth story, it was left for the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) to bare a few skeletons, literally speaking.

According to NHRC, there have been 100 suicides and hunger deaths in just two of Bundelkhand's seven districts (Jhansi, Jalaun, Lalitpur, Banda, Chitra-koot, Mahoba and Hamirpur) over the last four years.

One can safely assume that 400 people have lost their lives in the entire region over this period. Yet, it has
taken the Uttar Pradesh government all this while to declare four districts drought-prone. Is this another Vidarbha?

NHRC blamed the crisis on a malfunctioning PDS and cancellation of ration cards of poor people. In addition, the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS), which was introduced in six of Bundelkhand's seven districts in its first year, did not deliver the expected results.

The Union Budget, which extends NREGS to another 130 districts from the present number of 200, has only increased the allocation by another Rs 700 crore to Rs 12,000 crore. A reduction in per district allocations cannot do regions like Bundelkhand much good.

A district is declared drought-prone when crop loss is over 50 per cent. Apart from Jhansi district, 80 per cent of the population lives in rural areas.

Social activists in the area point out kharif loss of over 50 per cent was the norm. The rabi crop is no better;
hence drought-relief work should be started without delay and NREGS implemented in its proper spirit.

According to Bhagwat Prasad, director of Akhil Bharatiya Samaj Seva Sansthan (ABSSS), "Despite the existence of employment guarantee, very large-scale distress migration is taking place in most villages".

Abishek of Arunodaya points out that in Bharha village in Mahoba district, a farmer with 27 bighas committed suicide. He could not pay back a loan taken for buying a tractor due to the recent crop failures.

In Nahri village, Banda district, where five starvation deaths occurred in the last two years, people were so fed up with official apathy that they announced a mass suicide in July 2006.

A recent visit to the Dalit basti of this village revealed that conditions of extreme distress are widespread.

In Padui village of the same district, eight suicides linked to poverty and indebtedness have taken place in the last six years. In addition, nine Dalits died due to desperate efforts to earn a little income in highly hazardous conditions.

The overwhelming majority of villagers are indebted to private moneylenders or banks or both. Recovery notices
have been sent to several of them.

Several farmers run the risk of being reduced to landlessness if their land is auctioned for loan recovery.

Abid Ali of ABSSS points out, "On the one hand, people suffer from hunger, and on the other a two years old payment of 74 quintals of grain has not been made to 45 workers in Tikariya. In many villages, anganwadis appear to be non-existent".

Meenu from ABSSS says, "Ration shops are supposed to be near villages, but people of Amchur Nerava have to travel 20 km to get their ration — a full day to go there by shuttle train and return. There is no guarantee they will get the ration".

ICDS and mid-day meals are in poor shape. Children said the quality of mid-day meals was so poor that they preferred to eat at home.

As for genuinely poor people not being provided Antyodaya cards, an investigation team visited the region three months back and carried away the existing cards.

People have had no access to ration since then. The Annapurna scheme for free grain, meant in particular for the old and infirm who cannot earn their livelihood, has been discontinued.

This area has several vulnerable groups such as Kol tribals, Sahariya tribals, Kabutras, Bansors, Bedni and Saperas.
A special effort needs to be made to strengthen their rights.

But all is not lost. Bundelkhand has a rich tradition of constructing tanks. This can be seen in Mahoba, Charkhari and numerous other places.

These have been damaged due to encroachment and lack of maintenance. Priority should be accorded to restore these structures.

Efforts to maintain an adequate level of farm productivity should be linked to land reforms which make available more land to the landless and marginal peasants.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Thank you from Indian farmer

Why switch to organic? Why indeed? Apart from selfish reason of eating healthy food.

Actually-it is not the health of consumer I worried most-It is health of poor pesticide spraying farmer.Did you know that cancer is almost non-existent in India compared to western society?
Only prevalent areas are those where pesticides are sprayed.These chemicals enter groundwater and farmers get most affected .They spray pesticides and then drink contaminated water too. http://www.indiatogether.org has a story about high incidence of cancer among farmers in Punjab.

Another reason is to bring the suicide rate or errrr..debt rate of farmers low.Recent spate of suicides didn't happen in Vidharbha bPublishecause of lack of rains.But because high priced seeds (another story which I will touch later) AND, increased cost of fertilizers and pesticides.Quality of soil has become so low that higher qty of fertilizers and pesticides are required for same yield.

Think indian agriculture is profitable-One acre yields Rs 20,000( USD $500) per annum after all costs (excluding labor). Growth of agriculture-meager 2% per year.How will all software engineers in India feel if they get 2% salary hike every year?? Not good..right.This is what 60% of Indian population is getting.Inflation is 7% every year.So effectively, -5% decline .

Yes..organic food is wholesome meal..healthier.blah..blah..but before Reliances and Tatas and Mittals..make it their next money making venture.We have to think about our poor farmers first.
I speak only in Indian context as this is the place where most people are affected by policies in agriculture.Is FDI answer to create jobs and remove this dependence on agriculture?
I don't think so.
Out of 20 crore childrSave as Draften entering primary school only 1 crore finish class XIIth.
For 1 crore XIIth passout-we have only 7 lakh science/engineering/technical college seats.
From number of jobs India currently produces, it's need are met by these 7 lakh graduates.It will have to go to next level to engage 19 crore left out.
Till then,fixing indian agriculture is the answer. And we , as simple consumer can affect this change without government intervention.Simply switch to Organic.Farmers profitability will automatically increase and he will be a happier person.

Monday, March 5, 2007

Diet for small Planet

Book by Frances Moore Lappe which changed my thinking.Previously, I was vegetarian just because my parents told me so. And I never had guts to eat dead animals. I was far too much of an animal lover. Somehow,the idea that humans need to kill animals for food,even though humans can grow can their own food,seem beyond me
I recently read another book by same author-Democracy's Edge
Check her out http://www.smallplanetinstitute.org

What is your favourite grain

Blog Statistics