Nishika Patel blogged 11 May 2011 in The Guardian, Organic farming – India’s future perfect?
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.How did this happen?
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.Remember, so-called “conventional” agriculture only goes back about fifty years, when it was brought to us by Monsanto and other poison dealers.
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.”
Time to go back to the future, to real traditional agriculture, except now we also have fifty years of research in how to do that better, for example with companion crops.
If they can do it in India, we can do it here. Just say no to no-till and pesticides. And this:
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.”Come to Downtown Valdosta Farm Days!
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.