In partial fulfilment of the requirements of the course
Globalising and Resurgent India through Innovative Transformation (2014-15)
Submitted by: Karthikeyan S
29th October 2014
INDIAN INSTITUTE OF MANAGEMENT, AHMEDABAD
A brief history
During British rule, the queen sent Schumacher to India to study the agriculture industry and recommend some reforms. He submitted a report which said, Indian agriculture is already sustainable. He also mentioned that, surprisingly, world should learn from the way agriculture is practised in India. Following World War II, many gun powder producing companies ventured into the production of Ammonia as a fertilizer. This eventually led to the evolution of many other fertilizers. These companies saw fertilizer production as their future and hence propagated that. In a country like India, crops that existed during that period were not suitable for fertilizer usage. This led to the introduction of many different crossbreeds and the agriculture ecosystem slowly disintegrated. The green revolution played a major role in the development of our nation. But it could have made sustainable through better policy making. Introduction of new crop varieties and fertilizers changed the land composition, which disintegrated the bonding between cattle and farming. Mechanisation was made irresistible and this led to more dependence on one more external entity to practise agriculture. A country, where majority of the villages had the capability to produce food sustainably, is now depending on external entities for each and everything, including seeds. Farmers lost their diverse skill set and now they are confined to very few skills.
What is food security?
We can avoid anything, but not food. This shows that we should think more about food. Recently, our ministers said that if a person is earning more than Rs. 28 in rural areas, he is above the poverty line. Similarly, if a person is earning above Rs. 32 in urban areas, he is above the poverty line. Instead of eliminating the poverty, people seem to bring down the poverty line. At the same time, we are discussing about the food security bill. Prime minister once said, if the food security bill is passed, 80 crore people will be benefited out of it. These two contrasting statements show that there is a problem somewhere. Any policy in this area, which goes against the welfare of a community will create unemployment, low income generation and less accessibility to food. There is no question of lack of food in India. Every year, about 1 lakh tonnes of food gets spoiled because of the unavailability of proper storage space. There are many policy lapses which are to be addressed. In 1996, United Nations convened a
conference on food security. When they discussed about food security, they defined that, when there is enough food for the citizens of a country, it is called availability. If people are capable of buying and consuming food, it is called accessibility. When people get what they wanted, it is called acceptability. Only when the food is poison free and has the necessary nutrient value, it can be called food security.
In 1996, all the government representatives joined together and determined to reduce 50% poverty by 2015. After 10 years, when UN convened a conference to review the steps taken to reduce poverty, there were no visible steps taken in this direction. Recently, prime minister declared that 43% of children in India are suffering due to the lack of nutritive food and hence the growth is retarded. They are not capable of retarding diseases and it is a national shame. Malnutrition is a major disease in our nation and it is the major cause of underdevelopment among the children. 60 years after our freedom, our country is unable to feed the whole population with healthy and nutritive food. Still 28% of people are going to bed with empty stomach. Food security is not in the bill or in the parliament, it is in the soil. 200 years before, our forefathers stated, if a person is capable of combining soil and water, he can produce food. This was very true till India came under foreign rule, after which India lost its ecosystem. In a bio-diversity seminar in Philippines, it was declared that before 1960, it was agriculture. After 1960, it is agri-business. During the last 15 years, 215000 people committed suicide. This is because, they were unable to repay their loans.
Sustainable agriculture for food security
In this situation, organic agriculture is seen as a remedy. In current scenario, poison is used as fertilizer and it is well established. There are conferences held on “slow food”. Fast food travels long distances before it reaches everyone’s food plate. Preservatives are added to them in order to maintain them in a consumable state. Slow food is a concept were the food is consumed fresh and it is also nutritious. In a scientific way, unscientific knowledge is spread across the country. Sterilisers are given to farmers as fertilizers. This made the soil sterile and incapable of production. This got poison into all our food and life expectancy is getting affected because of fertilizers. We have lost our traditional seeds and cattle. A farmer, who produced many
different types of crops, these now produce only a single crop in large scale because of fertilizers.
Total is different and wholesome is different. If a person has eyes, ears and mouth, which can be termed as total. The same person should have life to make him/her wholesome. Food is not only rice and wheat. Food should contain other vitamins, minerals, fat, proteins and carbohydrates to become complete. Organic farming should be taken seriously in order to become sustainable. Food cycle should be preserved without any disturbance in order to be sustainable. Cattle, crop and trees should be together in a single ecology in order to sustain the food cycle. Insects should not be killed, it should be controlled for sustainability. All these form an integral part of the food cycle. If we kill or disturb any one of these, others would get affected. This leads some other species to increase in large number. This is what happening in new technology led farming. This made the process of agriculture an unsustainable one, which is the reason now farmers are incapable of make a living out of their farming. Plant should not be fed, the soil should be fed in order to have sustainable farming. Sustainable agriculture is the basis for food security.
Sustainability & Innovation
Throughout the world, people are facing crisis, especially the food sector. We know that the whole world is threatened by global warming. Reasons are deforestation, increasing transportation, increasing number of industries which are emitting greenhouse gases and the last but not the least, agriculture. Agriculture emits 33% of greenhouse gases. The mere existence of people in the world is threatened by these activities. There is an urgent need to change it. Japanese microbiologist Masanobu Fukuoka once said, we should make a decision on whether we should follow American way or Asian way of living. We should think about ecology. Basically, ecology is maintained when there is a relationship between non-living things and living things. Nowadays these linkages are not properly understood. Innovation should help a particular field or practise to become better in its own way and most importantly, it should be sustainable. In agriculture, we have incorporated many techniques in the name of innovation, which are not sustainable. We might have increased the production of various crops, but we are not in a very desirable situation. Now, it is a necessity to depend on others to
perform cultivation. This was not the case before few decades. In this context, I would like to start my discussion on an innovative way of doing agriculture. This method is propagated by Vanagam (Heaven on Earth), a non-profit and non-governmental organization, which was established by agricultural scientist Dr. G. Nammalvar. This organization carries out many activities in the field of sustainable agriculture. It spreads organic farming by training many youth and it also helps them to do sustainable farming.
Vanagami Founded by renowned agricultural scientist and social activist Dr. G Nammalvar, Vanagam is a non-profit organization, collectively formed by people from different strata of society, which empowers
people to enrich their lives and the environment by making certain life style choices based on ecological principles. Vanagam established a training and research centre near the southern end of Karur district called Kadavur. For the past 40 years, people in that place left that place uncultivated thinking that without bore well water, cultivation cannot be done. In the last three years, the land is taken under Vanagam’s possession. This was done in order to carry out research on whether that land can be turned into cultivable land. Kadavur is brought under organic farming and many local varieties of crops are grown by using sustainable methods of agriculture. Along with that, Vanagam offers direct training courses built on extensive study and research done over a period of several years, to promulgate these ecological principles. These courses not only enable individuals to lead promising lives, but they also ensure a better life for future generations. In addition to that, Vanagam also offers consultancy services to those interested in sustainable agriculture.
The core focus of Vanagam is to mitigate the following global problems. The following focus areas are listed in their website as core focus areas.
Global warming and climate change.
Food shortage and inappropriate distribution.
Inequitable distribution of wealth/resources and marginalization of a substantial part of the world population.
Inappropriate utilization of natural resources and intervention with nature.
Urbanization and industrialization which severely damage the environment.
Industrialization of agriculture, the main cause for the deterioration of soil quality and low productivity.
Generally 30 to 50 youth come to this place after their graduation and stay there for around 5 days. During their stay, they learn many techniques and return back confident that they can cultivate in a small land and make a living out of that. They preach LEISA, which is about low external input and sustainable agriculture. This is a system of agriculture which is based on principles and options which are ecologically sound, economically feasible. According to Vanagam, green revolution sterilized our land and minds of people. Now we are importing genetically modified seeds, which are carcinogenic in nature. This could lead to more damage in future. They are intended to make profit, and not for the wellbeing of people who are into farming. Policy should focus on human beings rather focusing on market. Traditional wisdom is being eroded in the name of new technology. We treat cows as god, whereas western people see it as machine or food. This is the difference we should understand. Sustainable development means we should satisfy our needs without disturbing the future generation. If we depend on our local produce for development, the growth will be sustainable.
This model is used to trainees who come from various parts of the state. The people belonging to Vanagam has made a wonderful effort in converting the degraded land into a cultivable and ecologically sustainable model in a very short span of 1 year. The team which turned this around also got to grow their knowledge along with the firm. The developed bio-diversity positively impacts the soil health, animal fodder availability and various food needs in different seasons. A nursery is also established to satisfy the plant needs of the farming community.
They also joined hands with a local elementary school and made that campus green. They also have plans to develop many homestead gardens through children. The population of poultry goat, sheep and cattle is also increased in that area because of these efforts. Experts say that the increase in fodder has contributed to the growth of this population. There are signs of wild indigo growing in the restored land, which will take charge of the soil fertility in future.
Initially, 24 acres of land is leased for the experimental purpose and training. Vanagam is looking to buy 35 acres of land and hence the team members are fully focusing on fencing, planning, planting and designing the farm. Public works department is also working with them in building rail water collection ponds. On a whole, the campus is emerging as a full-fledged centre for knowledge and learning. Vanagam campus is also chosen by many schools for giving exposure to the school kids. Universities offering diploma in organic farming are also interested in collaborating with Vanagam in order to design their curriculum.
Dr. G. Nammalvar’s articles are published in monthly magazines, which spreads the initiative and objective. This helps them to reach places and societies where they are unable to reach in person with ease. Books were also published on these ideas to promote interest. Books deal with the history of rice cultivation, manipulation of modern scientists and scope for future prosperity. Eco-schools are starting to have these books in their curriculum. Most importantly, a handbook called “Organic Farming Basics” is helping a lot of farmers to do sustainable organic farming in wide range of crops. Video copy is also getting ready to educate farmers. 700 farmers have joined together to farm poison free food producers association. Vanagam, till now has cultivated and stored its own seeds, which in future will comprise a whole range of crops and vegetables. An NGO called CREATE, which is closely related to Vanagam has been able to conserve and multiply 49 traditional varieties of seeds. These varieties are distributed among 1500 farmers who are willing to shift to conventional fertilizer-less farming. Organic farming association of India has recognized Vanagam as the facilitator of certification of organic farms under PGS (Participatory Guarantee System).
Courses offeredii The following are the various short training courses offered by Vanagam, which are listed in their official website.
One day training course
This is an introductory course to organic agriculture which will cover the importance of organic farming in relation to the environment and the basic principles of such agriculture.
Three day training course
This course will cover the importance of organic farming, integrated farming systems, organic farming design, observation skills, integrated pest management, animal husbandry, feeding, breeding and management, honey bee raring and permaculture.
Five day training course
In addition to the material covered in the three day training course, this workshop will also cover rain water harvesting, biodynamic agriculture and quarter acre farming.
One day Natural Living Health Awareness Program
Vanagam Vision 2014 - Understanding Nature and Natural Living, Learn how to heal disease without medicine and through natural methods.
One day Acupuncture Awareness Program
Vanagam Vision 2014 - Learn how to heal disease without medicine, understand your body language, Acu touch - the art of communicating with your body, heal your body, mind & soul just with a touch.
I call this as an innovative way of doing agriculture because it is sustainable and is not similar to the agriculture methodologies we follow in today’s world. Even though organic farming is a process of bringing back the old methods of farming, this is a necessity which is dully addressed by Vanagam and Dr. G. Nammalvar’s ecological foundation. As discussed before, they are carrying out many innovative methods to spread the organic farming among farmers. They have also seen success in their measures.
The focus of sustainable agriculture followed by Vanagam is to conserve the environment in long term basis, which is the way to go. There are many agricultural practices that are friendly to our ecosystem. The choice we make should be based on the location, land, climate and soil quality. This message has been carried out to many farmers by Vanagam’s initiative. There are many best practises which should be followed in all farming activities. This message is spread to different parts of this nation through Vanagam’s approach.
Vanagam has created an awareness among people that the quality of soil should be preserved at any cause. This can be done by diversifying and rotating the crops in a specific period of time. They also taught many farming communities that dependence on external inputs is not sustainable and usage of chemical fertilizers can have serious negative impact in long term.
It is notable that recent years have seen many movements towards sustainability in agriculture. Environmental factors and global food crisis have created an urgency in making policy reforms. There should be a positive change in order to gain sustainability in agriculture. This is a responsibility of all the stakeholders including farmers, policy makers, research scientists, retailers and distributors and consumers.