Farming the natural way
What is Kashmir doing in the field of organic farming? Nothing!
Every month Harish Joshi comes to see me. He gives me a catalogue with pictures of products, prices and farmers’ names. I choose my grains, spices, rajma and lentils. They cost me as much as any food on the normal market but they are organic. I am not scared of poisoning myself or destroying the world with my stomach.
Harish is a representative of the Uttarakhand Organic Commodity Board (UOCB) which was formed in 2003. It acts as the nodal agency of the state to enhance organic activities in agriculture and allied sectors like Horticulture, Medicinal Aromatic Plants & Herbs throughout the state. One of the largest programs in the Board is being funded by the Sir Ratan Tata Trust, Mumbai by the name of Centre for Organic Farming (COF). The UOCB has trained farmers, extension workers from the government, NGO's in production, certification and marketing. UOCB develops production plans as per market response and delegates the plan to the different production agencies - bio- villages run by the agriculture department or partner NGO's. The organic farmers are then assisted to become into Organic Producer groups and then linked with markets. One of its successes is Organic Dehraduni Basmati from Dehradun which had dwindled in the past and has been regenerated and promoted as an export organic product. 2000 hectares has been created for it.
The lowlands of Uttarakhand practise chemical intensive farming, characterized by high use of fertilizers and pesticides. This has caused serious damage to the soil, ground water and health. The emphasis has now been put on organics specially for the hilly areas. Calculations done by the state and the farmers show that lakhs will be saved even in wheat cultivation.
Aarohi is an NGO in Uttarakhand which makes apricot scrub and oil among many other products. Many years ago when they were starting out I helped them to market it. It is now helped hundreds of farmers, does organic workshops and produces, herbs, oils, teas, soaps. Vandana Shiva also runs an NGO called Navdanya which sells organic produce out of Uttarakhand to the Delhi market.
At every mela in Delhi, the Uttarakhand organic NGOs sell lakhs worth of their basic grains and their spinoffs.
As Aamir Khan has shown in his amazingly intelligent programme Satyamev Jayate, Sikkim is turning organic with a vengeance. In 2003 all chemical inputs were banned and there is an intensive drive by the state government to turn all its products organic. 64% of its people are farmers and the attempt is to keep them so and to help them become rich with new ideas and better marketing. The state certifies cherry peppers, mandarin oranges, millet, buckwheat, passion fruit, garlic, turmeric, ginger and cardamom as organic and there is always a rush for Sikkim’s produce.
Karnataka under Shri Yediyurappa put a lot of emphasis on organic cultivation, especially in the areas that have very little water. I was with him (as was the Israeli ambassador) in Hubli when we ate local organic food at a farmer’s house. I have never tasted better food! The state’s policy on organic farming seeks to increase rural employment opportunities, facilitate farmers’ self-help groups, reduce pollution, protect human and animal health, and help mitigate drought conditions. The state has allocated Rs 20 crore to promote organics and each district has to have a mandatory 100 hectares minimum of organic agriculture. Two lakh farmers have been shortlisted by the Karnataka State Organic Farming Mission to be introduced to organic agriculture. That is 1,200 farmers per taluk.
Organic farming was the normal way to farm before the “green revolution”, which actually was the “black plague revolution”, came in 1960. Now we can see cancer in every fifth person in India, thousands of other diseases, lack of water, drying up and salination of the soil. We are seeing the end of agriculture, the increase of poverty and starvation and everything we used to export we are now importing. Most of the fruits that used to be lush and juicy like peaches and pineapples are now hard and juiceless.
We will have to go to organic farming if we are to save ourselves. This is not some esoteric thing done by rich town dwellers. It is a method of farming system which primarily aimed at cultivating the land and raising crops in such a way, as to keep the soil alive and in good health by use of organic wastes (crop, animal and farm wastes, aquatic wastes) and other biological materials along with beneficial microbes (biofertilizers) to release nutrients to crops for increased sustainable production in an eco friendly pollution free environment. It relies on techniques such as crop rotation, green manure, compost and biological pest control. It should be ideal for Kashmir.
What is Kashmir doing in the field of organic farming ? Nothing.
Dr Karan Singh’s daughter runs a small organic fruit project with local Kashmiri girls and makes jams under the label of Anosh which tourists buy . I bought some and they are better than any jam I have ever tasted. I am told they usually sell out before they are made. If the Kashmir government could put its strength and imagination behind making Kashmir the organic fruit products capital of India, people would line up.
Organic farming is a science that conventional farmers can master that is even more profitable than conventional farming. Researchers have found that by following organic farming methods, conventional farmers can actually reduce production costs by 25%. A well planned transition strategy will allow conventional farmers to adopt new, more effective organic farming process in as little as three to five years.
Organic farms support higher levels of birds and wildlife and forests- all of which benefit Kashmir . Animals can roam pastures or graze on grassland. Not only does wildlife benefit, but entire ecosystems and ground water are improved by simply following organic farming methods. Organic farming practices benefit farmers, consumers and dairies. When dairies feed their cows organic feed and graze them on organic fields, the cows experience better health, less sickness, diseases and ultimately produce better tasting milk for consumers.
Given industrial agriculture’s complete reliance on fossil fuel inputs and price of fossil fuels, organic agriculture’s energy savings should be considered an environmental and food security asset.
The Rodale Institute in Pennsylvania has been conducting what it calls the “longest running, side-by-side comparison of conventional and organic agriculture.” Its 27-year trial has shown that corn yields on organic plots are equivalent to the yields on non-organic plots. Perhaps most significant, the corn yields in the organic fields were 31 percent higher in years of moderate drought, probably because organically farmed soils are better at retaining water.
A recent report by the United Nation’s Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food confirmed some of the Rodale findings. The report, which studied farming methods in 57 countries, concluded that small farmers using ecological methods could double food production in 10 years. The study found that farmers currently using agro-ecology methods have increased their yields by an average of 80 percent and in some countries have boosted harvests by 116 percent.
Kashmir needs to go completely organic. I guarantee the air will be fresher, the produce sweeter and less expensive, the varieties of fruit will be enormous, people will just come to the state to see the wellbeing of the farmers and the orchard growers. Exports will increase, young people will get richer and healthier. India can be one of the most important suppliers of food to the developed nations. As we stand now we are 88th in the world in terms of the ratio of agricultural land under organic crops to total farming area. There is an Organic Farming Association of India (OFAI) which would be happy to help the Kashmir Government with policy planning and on the ground training. Farmers could be provided with better technical support to control pests and diseases. Just as we have fertilizer and pesticide shops the government should be buying and selling gobar. Various bio-control agents could be made available to farmers on credit. The farmers’ awareness of the certification process could be increased.
What is missing in Kashmir is vision. Once that comes in Kashmir can be the richest and happiest state in India.
Lastupdate on : Wed, 1 Aug 2012 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Wed, 1 Aug 2012 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Thu, 2 Aug 2012 00:00:00 IST
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