Sustainable Agriculture Forum

Archive for February, 2007

Farmers turning towards neem based pesticides to cut cost

Posted by Ramoo on February 27, 2007…

New Delhi, Feb. 26 (PTI): Debt-ridden farmers in Maharashtra, particularly in Vidarbha region which has reported highest number of suicides among peasants, are turning towards eco-friendly neem-based pest control agents to cut down their huge expenditure on chemical pesticides.

“Over 600 farmers from three districts namely Nagpur, Vardha and Yawatmal in Vidarbha region are being covered under the phase 2 of the neem project supported by the Chemical and Fertiliser Ministry,” Y P Ramdev from the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) said here.

Under the project, entitled “Production and Promotion of Neem-based Pesticides as Environment Friendly, Biodegradable Alternatives to Chemical Pesticides”, the target farmers are made aware of the benefits of the neem-based pesticides besides distributing neem seeds kernel free of cost for usage.

In fact, not only Maharashtra farmers from Vidarbha, but the plantation crops in tea, coffee and spices in north-eastern states, Punjab, Tamil Nadu and Kerala will be covered under the project, initiated in 2006, for the next three years, he said.

The first phase of the project spanning three years was launched in 2002 in West Bengal and Vidarbha region during which a low cost technology for neem pesticides production was developed.

After getting encouraging response from the beneficiaries, the project has been extended to cover more farmers.

The Rs 3.6 crore project is being implemented across the country by UNIDO while the Fertiliser and Chemical Ministry is funding it.

The farmers would be demonstrated the use of neem-based pesticides as a cost-effective substances to substitute chemical pesticides.

An analysis of the plants treated with neem kernal aqua extract (NKAE) pesticides and chemical fertilisers have revealed that the former had shown either better results or equivalent to that of fertilisers.

The NKAE can be sprayed on varied crops such as rice, wheat, cotton, vegetables, fruit crops, pulses and spices, the UNIDO official said.

Issues like problems of toxic pesticide residues in the food, water and food material resulting in environmental degradation can also be resolved by this cheap alternative pest control solutions, he added.

Since neem tree, also known as ‘wonder tree’, can be grown in even the most arid and nutrient-deficient soils, the farmers opting the neem technology can rest assured for the availability of neem seeds.

Efforts are on to seek help from the Environment Ministry to plant more neems across the country to ensure its easy availability.

“It also helps farmers address several requirements such as organic manure, organic pesticides, generation of income and offer employment opportunities in the rural areas by forming self-help groups of women,” said Ramdev.

However, he said, erratic supply of organic vegetables and poor level of awareness among farmers about neem usages considering huge cost incurred on advertising by chemical pesticide producers, were some of the major challenges faced by this alternative pest control.

“Also, unlike chemical pesticides, results accrued from the neem pesticides are very slow though they are long lasting. That is why the farmers are reluctant to adopt the eco-friendly pesticides,” said Ramdev


Posted in Pest Management, Reports, Technologies | Leave a Comment »

Indian women take the lead in organic farming

Posted by Ramoo on February 25, 2007

Fri Feb 23, 2007 9:08 pm (PST)

Indian women take the lead in organic farming
Posted: 23 Feb 2007
by Bhavdeep Kang
For millions of rural Indian women, organic agriculture offers
escape from the three demons of debt, disease and destitution,says
Bhavdep Kang, but despite all the evidence they have gained little
support from government.
In an arid corner of Rajasthan, Anand Kanwar of Laporiya village
recalls how, when she was an adolescent, the entire village would be
decimated by drought. Crops would fail, cattle would die and people
would have to migrate to cities in search of work.Today, thanks to a
community-driven watershed management-cum-organic farming project
implemented over 15 years, the village manages two crops a year and
at least one crop even in a really bad drought year and maintains
large herds of milking cattle. No one ever goes hungry or thirsty,
she says.
Crop rotation, use of bio-inputs, water-harvesting, animal
husbandry, development and maintenance of pastures and wildlife
preserves are all part of an integrated organic management system
which has made this possible. Says Anand Kanwar: “We conserve water,
we maintain forest cover and pastures. We do not poison the water or
soil with chemicals. We do not hurt birds or any other animals. We
do not cut down trees. We respect the earth and in return, the earth
sustains us”.
The project was first mooted by Anand’s husband, Laxman Singh,
himself a farmer. It was she who brought the women around to the
idea. Once they were convinced, they took the lead in developing and
maintaining traditional water-harvesting structures, wildlife
sanctuaries, pastures and woods and even learning about composting
techniques. Groups of women perform these community duties in
rotation, with spectacular results.
Apart from milch cattle, food processing is another income-
generating activity. Having realised there is an urban market for
organic food products, women like Anand have formed self-help groups
to process and package organic foods for Mumbai and Delhi. “We
supply traditional items like daliya and papad” Anand says proudly.
Local seeds
Organic agriculture is knowledge – rather than resource – intensive.
Much of the required knowledge and techniques are already available
with traditional farmers. The Indian Council of Agricultural
Research (ICAR) has conducted trials and validated many of these
indigenous traditional knowledge systems, whihc have now entered the
realms of “agricultural science”.
In organic farming, no inputs need to be purchased. Access to cattle
and cattle products is essential for organic cultivators – hence,
the special status accorded to cows in rural households. Women have
a critical role to play in the care and maintenance of cattle and
processing of cattle products. Even dry cattle provide the household
with fuel, building material, pharmaceuticals and draught energy.
Fertilisers and pesticides are manufactured on-farm from cattle
manure and locally available trees and shrubs. Biological and
mechanical systems of pest control are employed.
Organic farming promotes indigenous varieties of seeds rather than
hybrids, so that the farmer is not dependent on seed marketing
companies – a major saving. Women play a crucial role in selection
and preservation of seeds.
Better yields
The popular myth that organic farming leads to lower yields has been
exploded by trials conducted worldwide, including India. The Tamil
Nadu Agricultural University’s study on organic cultivation of green
chilli found it produced better yields and quality. Likewise, the
University of Agricultural Sciences, Dharwar, Karnataka, found more
viability in organic cultivation of groundnut and french beans.
Punjab Agricultural University studies found use of organic inputs
produced better rice yields.
As ICAR Director-General Mangala Rai pointed out, in rainfed
agricultural systems, organic farming produces consistently better
yields. In Green Revolution areas, too, there is no diminishing of
yields. Even the World Bank admits: “Farmers in developing countries
who switch to organic agriculture achieve higher earnings and a
better standard of living, according to a series of studies
conducted in China, India and six Latin American countries by the
International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).”
Asha Mawasi, a small farmer of Tagi village in Madhya Pradesh, is
one of the half-dozen women cultivators who have joined an organic
farmers’ collective under the aegis of the Krishi Vigyan Kendra
(KVK) in Chitrakoot, Madhya Pradesh. She says: “We do not use
chemical fertilisers nor chemical pesticides as they destroy the
crops. We follow what the KVK tells us and also our traditional
agricultural practices, like nakshatra farming (going according to
the movement of the planets). Our harvest is better and there are no
pests or diseases.”
All over the country, groups of small and marginal farmers are
coming together to form organic farming collectives. Through NGOs or
government agencies, they are getting their farms certified as
organic, thus opening up markets in Indian and abroad.
What’s lagging, however, is any major change in government policy.
The success of organic agriculture demonstrated by Vandana Shiva’s
Navdanya, the Kheti Virasat mission in Punjab, the Uttaranchal
Organic Commodities Boards, the Maharashtra Organic Farmers’
Association, the Spices Board and countless other agencies have
forced the Ministry of Agriculture to set up a National Centre for
Organic Farming (NCOF).
But, in terms of policy, the government continues to listen to the
pesticide, fertiliser, agri-machinery, bio-technology and seed
lobbies. Chemical agriculture is subsidised, organic agriculture is
not. It has been left to the Ministry of Commerce to lay down
standards for organic certification and for state governments to
promote organic agriculture.
Although 68 per cent of the total agricultural land available in
India is believed to be under de facto non-chemical farming, no
effort has been made to improve yields through organic methods or
obtain organic certification (thus opening up world markets to
India’s organic farmers). Only 6,000 farms, with a total area of
76,000 hectares, are currently certified as organic.
Source: Women’s Feature Service

Posted in Case Studies, Opinion pieces | Leave a Comment »

Sow less and you can reap more

Posted by Ramoo on February 24, 2007…

Karthik Madhavan

GOBICHETTIPALAYAM: What you sow is what you reap, so goes the adage.

Farmers here are now learning to sow less to reap more. Farmers who have practised System Rice Intensification (SRI) in the just-concluded season.


All that farmers like M. Nanjappan did was follow SRI techniques: transplanted a paddy sapling at a time as against the regular four or five instalments; transplanted only between the eighth and 13th day of germination as opposed to the traditional 25 to 30 days; maintained a width of a foot between two saplings; watered the field only for the first 10 days and then alternated between wetting and drying as against the practice of maintaining water on field until 10 days prior to harvest.

Adoption of these methods helped in healthy germination of the seed, transplantation at the suggested time led to early development, implementation of the intercrop width resulted in robust stem growth, and reduced water content helped the entire process.

The results were for farmers to see.

Mr. Nanjappan, who

Posted in News, SRI | Leave a Comment »

Organic Farming, Answer to Farmers’ Suicides

Posted by Ramoo on February 24, 2007…

by Bharat Dogra

NAGNI, Uttaranchal – As the phenomenon of mass suicides by farmers turns into a major national issue, small cultivators in this sub-Himalayan state are demonstrating that the way forward to sustainable agriculture may lie in sticking to traditional methods.

In the lush and fertile valleys of Uttaranchal, farmers have long been suspicious of branded seeds that are being aggressively promoted by trans-national corporations (TNCs) like Monsanto that are now having an increasing presence in the country. The idea that crops can be grown without viable seeds for the future or that they have to be dosed with specific chemicals and other costly inputs is abhorrent to them.
“So many changes have been seen in recent years, but I continue to grow traditional varieties of crops without using chemical fertilizers and pesticides. I also exchange seeds with other farmers and participate in efforts to save our forests. I think all this is very important for our welfare,” says Sivdeyi Devi, a woman farmer of Jardhar village.
Earlier this month, after a fresh spate of suicides was reported among distressed farmers, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh toured the worst-affected state of Maharashtra and announced a bailout package worth 840 million US dollars. That was the first major intervention by the government on behalf of farmers who fallen deep in debt by taking loans to buy costly farm inputs.
The independent Human Rights Law Network, which has been working on farmers’ suicides believes that more than 10,000 farmers have committed suicide over the last five years, in important farming states such as Punjab, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Kerala and Andhra Pradesh.
But in Uttaranchal, farmers and peasants, unlike their counterparts in other states, are keenly aware of the exploitative practices of money lenders and contractors and know the value of organised resistance. This began with the ‘chipko’ (hug-the-tree) movement of the 1970s and 1980s that saved entire forests from greedy lumber contractors.
‘’The movement to save forests was followed by the campaign to save seeds as both are crucial for protecting our villages,” explains Sudesha Devi, a typical hardworking peasant woman from Rampur village who finds time to be active in both movements. She was even jailed briefly for her participation in the chipko movement which attracted international attention.
Devi’s rationale for growing healthy organic food is simple. “After all this back-breaking work on hill farms we can survive only if our food is based on the high-nutrition traditional crops using healthy (organic) methods to grow them.”
For villagers here, it has been important to retain confidence in their own seeds especially in the face of a campaign by the government’s farm extension network which decried putting seeds by for the next crop as a symbol of backward farming. But the farmers benefited from a counter-campaign by non government organizations (NGOs) such as the Save the Seeds Movement (SSM).
Vijay Jardhari, a key co-ordinator of SSM says, “About two decades back the government’s scientists started propagating the idea that the ‘twelve-grain’ (barahanaja) traditional inter-cropping system grown on higher land is backward and should be given up in favour of soyabean.”
Fortunately, better sense prevailed among the farmers and they refused to have anything to do with the government plan. ‘’Inter-cropping is a remarkable, risk minimising system that makes available a rich diversity of millets and legumes which are high in nutrition. In hindsight it would have been suicidal for us to sacrifice this for soyabean monocrop,” Jardhari said.
For activists, one worry is the Seeds Bill tabled in Parliament that seeks to allow TNCs to deal directly with small farmers. Several TNCs already have in place extension networks that are inducing farmers with promises of seeds with bigger yields and better profits.
Activists have warned that the new legislation could destroy forever India’s vast biodiversity in seeds and crops, and take away the independence of some 700 million farmers in this country with population of 1.2 billion people.
Kunwar Prasun, who walks long distances to spread the message of SSM , says: “When we carried out padyatras (foot-marches) to several parts of the state, we discovered that traditional varieties are preserved and greatly valued by people. We collected some of these varieties and made them available to other farmers who had lost them in recent years.”
Prasun has catalogued many rice varieties which he discovered in distant villages. SSM also made a rich collection of many varieties of grains, millets, beans and other legumes as well as medicinal herbs.
Dhum Singh Negi, a senior activist of SSM, said, “We are convinced that sustainable progress of our hill farming is possible only on the basis of preserving these traditional varieties and using traditional cropping-systems.”
However, some villagers are yet to be convinced. Bharat Singh, a youth said: “Our people are passing through a phase of lack of self-confidence and overdependence on the market. Somehow many people prefer to buy staples like rice from the market rather than stick to home-grown millets that have a much higher nutrition value.”
Ramlal Senval confessed that one problem was that ‘’we are tempted too easily by short-term gains and the fact that the government also gives loans and subsidies for exotic seeds, although these require costly agri-chemicals.”
So it is not surprising that despite all the recent campaigns of groups like SSM, some farmers in these parts still think of maximising short-term profits by adopting chemical-intensive methods to grow exotic varieties of tomatoes and other crops.
“Such trends will come and go. We need not worry too much about these but at the same time we should keep on exploring ways to improve returns from organically grown traditional crops,” says Bhupal Singh, a youth from Nahin Kala village.
Singh has begun tapping the growing market for organic foods among wealthy urban buyers in the national capital of New Delhi where, lately, awareness of the values of naturally grown foods has been spreading rapidly.
Bhupal Singh, Vijay Jardhari and others from SSM participate regularly in fairs for organic produce and are attracted by the possibility of exporting organically grown crops. In such efforts they are helped by friends in city-based NGOs like ‘Kalpvriksha’ and ‘GRAIN’ .
As Shalini, a representative of GRAIN, said, “The cooperation of groups based in villages and those in the cities for similar objectives like seed rights and organic food will benefit everybody.”
In addition, there is a need for greater cooperation with scientists. Sundarlal Bahuguna, veteran environmentalist, believes that ‘’farmers need to be more like scientists and scientists to be more like farmers.”
It is when scientists ignore close contacts with farmers and their traditions that conflicts emerge with movements like SSM, observed Bahuguna. ‘’This is particularly true of scientists who are employed by big agribusiness and seed companies. ‘’
‘’History records instances of the high value people in Uttaranchal placed on their seeds — in times of famine, families have perished from hunger but refused to touch seeds stored away for the future in ‘tomris’ (special storages),” said Bahuguna.

Posted in Organic farming | Leave a Comment »