I have always wanted to understand why a farmer, who produces food, and his family went hungry. I found it cruel and completely unacceptable that a producer of food had to go hungry, and not even feed his children. This and the fact that they resorted to suicides is even more saddening.
I am trying to understand if in the current world context, the problem of food production and that of farmers – soil loosing its organic nutrition ( due to use of chemical fertilizers), water scarcity, salinity increase in soil etc can be addressed by organic farming, or sustainable farming or climate smart farming.
All these words organic, sustainable and climate smart seem to be synonymous to me. But they are not to be so. I am looking up Food and Agriculture Organization documents, International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movement, policy documents n organic farming by many states in India. From the readings until now the following is what the picture looks like:
- High yielding variety of seeds actually yield high produce, but are high on inputs ( fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides and water) compared to organic farming in certain geographies. But one of the inputs required – water is becoming scarce. Also pests are becoming resistant to pesticides and yada yada.
- But when the world was going through food crisis especially in the developing world in the 1960s these high yielding, high input crops helped in increasing the food produce without destroying virgin forest to expand production. At that time the input demand of the cropping did not pinch as the exploitation of resources had just began and the limits of exploitation were not known to us.
- There is biomagnification of pesticides ad other chemical inputs in the food produced from this method. This is harmful for health. This is true. But the gravity of the issue is something I am yet to explore. I do not want to dwell into it without concrete proof. Nonetheless, there is a lot of hue and cry about the health effects of chemical farming.
- Chemical farming in short is now perceived as a problem in the world. Even agencies like FAO are proposing organic farming at large scales.(Save and Grow).
- Organic farming definitely has very little negative health effects as the input that goes into it is all natural. Verdi compost, cow dung, leaf mulches.
- But the yield of it is less than the irrigated high yield varieties. The organic produce yield is less than chemical by 9-25% according to few studies. This is only in the case of irrigated high yield fields.
- When it comes to rained areas, organic yields better than chemical and this is consistent with many studies.
- Organic’s yield is better than chemical farming even in case of irrigated field during the period of drought.
The questions that I have running in my head are:
- Can small/ marginal farmers actually shift to organic farming gainfully? Right now there is very little support from the governments for them. Whereas chemical farmers have input subsidy. There is no such thing for organic farmers.
- With very little ecosystem to support a organic farmer and his risks,is it right to push these small guys towards it?
- What about the yield, the high yield and GMO proponents scare the hell out of people by saying when we move to organic we won’t be able to feed the world. How true is this?
- Generic farmer insurance ecosystem is very bare minimum with only crop insurances made available to them. Will the existing financial ecosystem make way for organic farmers too or not?
In short does both ecology and economics suggest our move to organic or only ecology? If one can prove with numbers that its both ecology and economics, then the shift should not be that difficult.
This apart there needs to be political will to move in that direction too. Chemical fertilizer and pesticide firms have huge cloud and therefore ensure that the politicians are well taken care off. So if the science and numbers say yes, still there is this huge irrational- illogical ( for the larger nation, not the politician. For the politician it is rational and logical to gain from this disputed situation from the huge firms) hurdle to be crossed.
And yes! How can one forget the agreements we sign up to. The Agreement on Agriculture with WTO and similar such multilateral agreements we sign as a nation. They may also try to restrict us even if economics and ecology permit our organic endeavor.
So, I will share more… as I know more of it….