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WORLD ORGANIC NEWS


Aug 27, 2017

Links

CONTACT:  podcast@worldorganicnews.com

 

India's Farmers Revive Traditional Grains in Face of Severe Drought

https://www.voanews.com/a/india-farmers-revive-traditional-grains-face-severe-drought/3996412.html

 

India's Farmers Revive Traditional Grains in Face of Severe Drought

https://www.voanews.com/a/india-farmers-revive-traditional-grains-face-severe-drought/3996412.html

 

The Center for Indian Knowledge Systems

http://www.ciks.org/

 

Suicides of nearly 60,000 Indian farmers linked to climate change, study claims

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/jul/31/suicides-of-nearly-60000-indian-farmers-linked-to-climate-change-study-claims

 

Dr Vandana Shiva

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vandana_Shiva

TED talk

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ER5ZZk5atlE

****

This is the World Organic News for the week ending 28th of August 2017.

Jon Moore reporting!

This week we focus on the organic sector in India! I must apologise at the very beginning of this episode for any butchering of Indian names and any mispronunciations. I am trying my best but realise I’ll get some of the names woefully wrong. Please forgive me.

Quote:

"The crop has been poor in Attapady, especially in the eastern part where the rains were deficient. We normally cultivate almost all vegetables right from shallots. But the climate is changing. It's no more about rain or no rain. It really shows on the vegetation," said Reji Joseph, a farmer at Attapady.

End Quote.

It is the people on the front lines who are our canaries in the mines. Despite the mixed metaphors, the effects are clear.

I have reported earlier on a farmer here in Australia who now cuts silage 8 to 10 weeks earlier than his father did. I think we can say the the effects are being felt as the concentrations of carbon dioxide move passed 400 ppm.

Other farmers in India are reacting to this.

Quote:

For Nel Jayaraman, the realization that hybrid seeds, chemical fertilizers and pesticides were making farmers more vulnerable to extreme weather came slowly.

In fields near the town of Thiruthuraipoondi in the southern state of Tamil Nadu, Jayaraman saw yields falling and farmers' debt rising as their reliance on modern seeds and pesticides grew, even as the rains became increasingly fickle.

End Quote.

Nel though is something of a trend setter and a contrarian. He decided, on land farmed by his family for generations, to leave the chemical system based on hybrid seeds to return to organic methods and local cultivars. In that time he has revived, saved, would be a better description, over 150 local varieties of rice. In the process he has come to be their advocate. These varieties are more drought tolerant and this is important as his state, Tamil Nadu, is in its worst drought in more than a century as the monsoon failed to arrive in 2016. Let that sink in: The monsoons failed to arrive.

All this needs to be seen in the context of the so called “Green Revolution”. As Indian population rose following independence in 1947, governments embraced the Green Revolution based upon hybrid seeds, chemical fertilisers and pesticides. There was an increase in yields but, even at the time, there questions being raised.

Quote:

.....there has been criticism that the benefits were overstated, that the cultivation methods damaged the land and drained groundwater, and that the gene pool for staple crops narrowed, leaving farmers fewer options when faced with disease and drought.

End Quote.

As a result of this, organisations like The Center for Indian Knowledge Systems set about saving and promoting the indigenous varieties. The Centre

Quote:

.....has revived dozens of traditional rice varieties that are resistant to pests and disease, capable of dealing with floods and drought, and that have valuable medicinal properties.

"Particularly for coastal regions such as this, you need varieties that can handle the higher salinity of the soil and groundwater, and are resistant to drought," said Subhashini Sridhar at CIKS in neighboring Nagapattinam district.

"You need a large and diverse genetic pool to preserve these qualities," she said, citing the example of the aftermath of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, which hit Nagapattinam hard.

End Quote

The other advantage of local seed varieties is they can be saved each year. They were selected for organic methods and so chemical fertiliser inputs are not necessary. In general, these seeds are somewhat lower in yield but with way lower input costs and this is critical. The rising costs, over time, of hybrid seeds and chemical fertilizers combined with falling yields following spells of drought has led to huge debt burdens for many of India’s smallholders. The suicide rate amongst this population is terrifyingly high. A Guardian article from the first of August puts the figure at 60,000. This is a high price to pay for “modern” in air quotes farming methods.

But there is hope. Rather than just being producer driven, and this is a good thing, the demand for organic grains is also rising as India grows a middle class of substantial size.

Quote:

A move to more healthful eating in India's cities has also sparked demand for traditional grains and organic fruits and vegetables, for which consumers are willing to pay more.

About 37,000 farmers in the delta region are now cultivating traditional rice varieties, said Jayaraman.

End Quote

And it’s not just the southern State of Tamil Nadu, organic systems are being embraced across the Republic.

Quote:

The northeastern state of Sikkim became the first organic state in January 2016. Nine other states, including Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka, have an organic farming policy.

End quote

There is hope. Remember the population of India is above the one billion mark. That’s quite a chunk of humanity and it is heading towards a fully organic approach which, combined with the decarbonisation of the Indian economy gives the whole world a map and a course of action.

Now let’s meet Hemel Patel. He represents the other end of the farming system.

Quote:

"I kept wondering why people in cities were not growing their own food. While I was in the process of quitting my job, I came across many citizens who were interested in organic farming but could not pursue it due to a lack of knowledge," he says.

End Quote

Hemel gave up an IT job to grow organic food through a startup called “Urban Soil”. He runs two day workshops teaching other urban dwellers the tricks of the trade to allow them the grow more of their food, where they are.

The pieces are in place. Yet no discussion of the organic farming sector in India would complete without a mention of Dr Vananda Shiva.

An advocate for organic farming methods, an anti-GMO activist and voice for farmers who see no way out of their situations other than suicide, Dr Vananda Shiva is a voice for the the unheard. I’ve included a link to one of her TED talks entitled: Solutions to the food and ecological crisis facing us today. I highly recommend a viewing.

The story of the Indian organic movement is one of sorrow, of hope and of a bright future. Lessons learned through the application of the Green Revolution, the effects of climate change and the judicious use of state funding point a way forward, not just for India but for smallholders across the globe. I think, from previous episodes, the importance of this sector for feeding the world, mitigating and reversing climate change and returning dignity to the marginalised has been established. Much work needs to done, both in India and the rest of the world but a path forward is available.

The work of individuals like Nel Jayaraman, Hemel Patel and Dr Vananda Shiva stands humanity on a good footing for the future. It is just the political will to stand up to multinational seed/poison manufacturers that is missing. I see a time, in the near future, if not now, when that tide too turns.

And on that happy note we will end this week’s episode.

If you’ve liked what you heard, please tell everyone you know any way you can! I’d also really appreciate a review on iTunes. This may or may not help others to find us but it gives this podcaster an enormous thrill! Thanks in advance!

Any suggestions, feedback or criticisms of the podcast or blog are most welcome. email me at podcast@worldorganicnews.com.

Thank you for listening and I'll be back in a week.

****

Links

CONTACT:  podcast@worldorganicnews.com

 

India's Farmers Revive Traditional Grains in Face of Severe Drought

https://www.voanews.com/a/india-farmers-revive-traditional-grains-face-severe-drought/3996412.html

India's Farmers Revive Traditional Grains in Face of Severe Drought

https://www.voanews.com/a/india-farmers-revive-traditional-grains-face-severe-drought/3996412.html

 

The Center for Indian Knowledge Systems

http://www.ciks.org/

 

Suicides of nearly 60,000 Indian farmers linked to climate change, study claims

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/jul/31/suicides-of-nearly-60000-indian-farmers-linked-to-climate-change-study-claims

 

Dr Vandana Shiva

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vandana_Shiva

TED talk

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ER5ZZk5atlE