The Malthusian concept of population growth putting pressure on finite natural resources and resulting in resource scarcity has been considered simplistic. As Thomas Malthus said, “The power of population is indefinitely greater than the power in the earth to produce subsistence for man”. In the contrary, a group of economists argue by saying, the high & increasing population would put pressure on food production and that would lead to more technological growths and agriculture intensification. This concept has led to innovation in the area of agriculture and over dependency on modern technology, giving birth to the great ‘green revolution’. Green revolution technology was exploited in many cases and focused very narrowly on the yields(& only economic aspect) and neglected environmental sustainability and other ecological factors. As a result, today, 2.6 billions of people have been affected by 2 billion hectares of land degradation caused by large-scale agricultural practice associated with green revolution. As we see today 70 % of freshwater withdrawal is for agriculture purpose. The aim for higher yield, misuse of fertilisers and pesticides has caused soil degradation, water pollution and has put unhealthy food on our plates. The food that we eat today is not only toxic but also costs us high in terms of natural resource degradation. Although the green revolution has contributed to the reduction of poverty in developing countries, the success is not evenly spread, as rich and large land holding farmers are benefited more whereas the conditions of poor remain unchanged.
At this juncture, the question is, is Agroecological practice, which is a sustainable or environment-friendly method of food production an answer? Agroecological practice is a process learnt from nature, which integrates crops and livestock with the natural environment. For example, crops such as maize, wheat, sorghum, millet and vegetables are being grown alongside trees such as Acacia, Sesbania, Gliricidia etc. These agro-forested trees provide shade, improve water availability, prevent soil erosion and add natural fertilisers to soils. If the approach is understood well and practiced can increase yield up to double or triple the time.
Another example of this concept is, using ducks instead of pesticides in rice cultivation. Ducks eat weeds, weed seeds, insects and other pests and at the same time their droppings provides nutrients to rice plants. It has been a success in some parts of Bangladesh as farmers have experienced 20 percent higher yield without the use of harmful fertilisers and pesticides.
Agroecological practices can be a promising way for sustainable food production. It can produce high yields with less natural resource degradation, protect the environment, promote social and economic development, therefore promoting sustainable development. However, it is complex and requires capacity building of farmers in understanding the whole process. But at the same time, it is also evident in many places that local farmers have a better understanding of local eco-system and with little scientific inputs they can take up this approach and succeed.
Agriculture intensification and industrialised agriculture have failed to keep their promise, rather than meeting the global need for food production, it has been costing us our future. On the other hand, Agro-ecological practice with behaviour change such as reducing the massive global food waste (roughly one-third of the total food produced) can meet the global need for food production.
For more information: Assadourian, E., Prugh, T., Starke, L., Institute, W. and Institute, T.W. (2013) State of the world 2013: Is sustainability still possible?. Washington, DC [etc.]: Island Press.
This is the third year of promoting Finger Millet in the region. Previous year 126 farmers harvested finger millet which had a good impact on the local population. Being a drought resistant crop, around 400 farmer bought seeds and 126 could harvest 3.4 tons (confirmed data). Previous year the rainfall was quite low, due to which the rice cultivation was a complete failure. But finger millet survived the dry conditions and returned quite a good amount of produce. We witnessed very clearly, how finger millet survived when rice could not even give any return. You can see the photograph of a field where millet and rice was cultivated together but the result was quite astonishing.
This is evidence, which we are now using to motivate our farmers to restart this traditional drought resistant crop this year. We have developed a small 4 minutes movie to promote finger millet among local population. We have completed millet recipe demonstration in 30 villages which was to promote millet as a nutritious diet in rural area. Millet recipe demonstration has influenced a large number of women and men to restart the crop and use it as a major food.
Due to extreme heat during April and May, our common promotional programmes were not very successful as bringing people together was very difficult. Therefore we thought to do the promotion in each village separately.
Photographs of promotional programmes:
People have been very responsive to finger millet compared to previous year. We are half way through the promotion and see a lot of interest among people. I think more than 500 farmers will be ready to cultivate finger millet this time. Not only this but some of the farmers from our villages are requesting Pearl millet and Great millet seeds which are traditional drought resistant crops. It is an amazing experience of the project to see the interest of so many farmers to restart these traditional crops. It is a major behaviour change among people in two to three years of time. They are not only talking about the drought resistance capacity of these crops but now they know the high nutritional components in these crops.
As we know only knowledge will not bring behaviour change but knowledge with repeated action is required to bring change in behaviour, we are ensuring that families eat millet. And this effort has brought some amount of success this year. One of the evidence which made our team feel so happy was the response of our farmers who don’t want to sell millet but want to keep it for food. Recently, we wanted to buy 2 quintals of finger millet from our target area. When we asked some of our farmers who had more than 50 kg production, whether they want to sell some amount,they refused saying that they want to eat. These same farmers two years back were asking if they cultivate finger millet where can they sell it and complaining about the unavailability of market, now don’t want to sell. This is a major behaviour change among some of the families regarding consumption of finger millet we have experienced.
This year we are doing our best to promote this crop as the condition seems to be drought. If they don’t get anything else, some amount of finger millet can be produced. This will not only secure their food for some months but also add to their nutritional needs during drought.
We are also looking for pearl millet and great millet seeds to make available for our farmers. We will be continuing this through the coming months and would update about the progress.
Today is World Environment Day and this year’s theme is “Seven Billion Dreams. One Planet. Consume with Care.” wow… what a beautiful theme!! Are you observing? It is not necessary that you observe it grand…just a simple decision to minimise the usage of natural resources in daily life is enough…have you taken any decision? Have you told anyone about this? If you are organising a big programme for the day, it is awesome, if not, a small step is also great.
Oh we humans!!! How long can we be careless?? Oh we Indians!! How much water, electricity and fuel will we waste? How many forests will we turn into plain lands? How much natural resources will we exploit in the name of development? When will we stop this for the sake of ourselves? Do we want more lives on earth or we are going to be the last??? It’s up to us…
So let’s decide! Be a good steward….Use with care…minimise usage…maximise living…
Two days back I had a discussion with our Community Animators about development. They all are from the target villages and have been working with us since 1 . 5 years. I asked them to write what do they mean by development and when can they call a particular community developed? And I told them to discuss in the group and make a final presentation.
What came out from the discussion was unbelievable for me at that time…. They said a community can be called developed when it has following aspects:
Education for all, enjoy good health, organised, have capacity to solve own problems.
Stewards of natural and physical resources, Have a monitoring system, participatory decision making.
Have trust, Leadership, Respectful, Have a vision, hard working, Honesty, Take responsibility and
Selfless (concern for others)
Food is secure for all, Proud of their own community and themselves
Maintain cultural values and give importance to community gatherings.
Active Participation, Equal opportunity for marginalised people, continuously growing and Learning
Aware about own problems and weaknesses, Able to take action and accepts changes
Lives with Dignity
I was amazed to hear this from them as I had never expected this response from our field staffs.
When I asked what they think about physical development of the community? They said if a community has all these characteristics, automatically the physical/infrastructure development will occur. But if it has all natural and physical resources available but don’t have above characteristics then it will fail to manage the resources it has..and it will never prosper…
A Change from within can bring a huge change outside….That’s what it is…
This is a huge change in their perspective from the time they have joined…I am glad as the project is able to bring some beautiful changes in the lives of our field staffs whom we see as future leaders in their own communities ….
They have not been taught all this but they have learnt it from their experience….A beautiful transformation has happened within them and I hope this will bring transformation in their sphere of influence too….
There has been constant decrease in rainfall since three years in our project area. Previous year the rainfall was significantly less, which affected the agriculture up to a great degree. Lots of water sources dried up by the month of October and there was very less water available for winter crop. This caused high number of migrations and if this continues many more will commit the same in near future.
Now the area looks dry and most of the water sources have dried up. There are few wells and tube wells which are active but most of them are drying up. In few days the situation might get worse. There is no water available for agriculture and in few months there would be drinking water crisis for both human beings and animals.
The community is not prepared for this. If they face a severe drought, they will have nothing to do but to depend on government and some NGOs or finally migrate for food and water. That will be horrible…
At this juncture, we are trying to help the community to prepare drought mitigation plans at the village level. In communities we have started the Participatory Assessment of Disaster Risk exercises and presently, we are facilitating vulnerability and capacity assessment. This would help the villagers to have a plan for the anticipated drought by next month.
People are participating actively in this activity, which has been a great experience for me. We don’t know how much impact we would be able to bring in this matter. But we hope the community would be able to make an action plan and execute it. We could have done it a year before but could not do for some reasons. Now our prayer is that the community may adapt best to this situation and improve their resilience.
We would be continuing this activity intensively and I will share my experience in a regular basis…..
Harvest of finger millet did not end the millet promotion activity for this year. People of our villages have long forgotten most of their own indigenous recipes. As we are promoting finger millet as a drought resistant and highly nutritious crop, we needed to make sure that Finger Millet getting into their mainstream food. We had already developed a recipe book for the community but most of the women could not follow the instructions given in the booklet as they could not read. Hence, we decided to do community based demonstration of millet recipes.
Yesterday, for the first time we demonstrated finger millet recipe in one of the hamlets of Champi village. 16 women participated in the programme and showed great interest to learn some of the recipes. It was a great time for us in helping them to cook and learn and it was also an opportunity for us to strengthen relationships with the community. This was the first demo in village and we would be doing it in all the 30 villages in coming months.
There are some of the photographs of the event, have a look….Thanks…
Once again, it’s time for me to share with you about the wonder crop (Finger Millet) that I had already shared in two of my posts in the past. As I had shared that last year we were able to encourage 46 farmers to restart the traditional crop, this year also we have been able to keep up the work.
In the beginning of the monsoon we were able to promote the crop in quite a big manner. We promoted it in different occasions in the area which was quite successful and 433 farmers (360 from the project area) bought finger millet seeds made available by the project. Out of them around 300 farmers did nursery and eventually, 133 farmers were able to harvest the crop this year.
Our expectation was obviously higher but 46 farmers last year to 133 farmers this year is a good indicator for the project to see the outcome. In 30 villages the production till now is 2.18 tons and we are yet to get the data from some more farmers.
But at the end of all this, it’s not the statistics but the fact that farmers are restarting this crop is important to us. Here, where their major crop like rice failed terribly due to low rainfall; finger millet has given them good yield. Harvest of finger millet would definitely contribute to their food and nutritional security this year but most importantly it will help them to understand the importance of adaptation in current situation. Farmers are improving their resilience by adopting drought resistant crops could be the key success for the community and for us as well.
It is a small move towards our goal but a beautiful beginning to help increase resilience of community towards rapid climate change. Increased trust of the beneficiaries would lead us to support the community more effectively in the adaptation process through coming days.
There are few photographs of this year cultivation and harvest, have a look…. God Bless….
[ I take this opportunity to acknowledge Dr. Jeevan Kuruvilla, our former Project Director for his huge effort and interest towards this cause ]
This year, we have had delayed rains, almost a month late. This has particularly affected the cultivation of the kharif/monsoon crops. Fortunately farmers have used their indigenous adaptation strategy in this situation. They have cultivated some of the drought resistant crops such as Corn, Pigeon Pea and Millets. The Corn was coming along well but just when the flowering started, there was scarcity of rain, might affect the yield in the coming months. Farmers are now hopeful about the other crops that they have cultivated. But the situation of those crops is unsure as well. Just last year the Pigeon Pea looked promising but the unseasonal rainfall during the flowering period reduced the yield to just half of what was expected.
Now the farmers are left with only option of the winter crops although most of them don’t have lands available. The obvious reason is that, the lands will be available only after the monsoon crops have been harvested. But since the cultivation was delayed by a month, the harvest would also be delayed by at least a month eventually leading to delay in cultivation of winter crops. The most severe consequence would be caused by the frost in the month of January. The heavy frost during January destroys some of the vegetables. It would a repeat of last years’ experience as unseasonal rainfall destroyed many crops and vegetables.
So farmers are now burdened from every direction. The rain crop has been a failure due to late and very less rainfall affecting the timing for agriculture. The delay in winter crop seems obvious which would have severe consequence from frost. Farmers are hopeless in this situation and can’t dare to hope because of their horrible past experiences.
They can only wait and see what happens as they have done their part and now have to let nature take its course. No wonder agriculture in India is a gamble. And for this region it is a biggest gamble, If they get good yield, their children would go to school for an another year, if not the education stops as families migrate for livelihood. That’s what has been happening to all our poor farmers every day. But the state is happy with their unreal statistics. Nothing has done for these communities to deal with the current climate change. The people who are the least responsible for climate change are the ones who have been affected the most. At this point of time government has to do justice by improving the adaptation skills of the community and help them in developing contingency plans. If government doesn’t look beyond and reach out, the green revolution which was started to combat food insecurity would become the biggest reason for famine.
Champi is an interior village in our project area. I had previously mentioned about the community in one of my old posts. The community has a brilliant indigenous expertise on making baskets and other local bamboo products but they earn very little money from this. We have been working with this community for two year under the Community Based Adaptation project. We had been wondering how we could help this community in taking their indigenous skill to a greater height, which would give them and their children a better future and help build an empowered community.
In the process of searching for an opportunity we have been able to network with an organisation called Evangelical Social Action Forum (ESAF). This organisation implements a government programme where they train rural poor in making craft items out of bamboo and also in marketing the products. Now, they have agreed to train 30 villagers (both men and women) from the village. We had a couple of meetings with villagers regarding this and some villagers seem to be very excited about the programme. 30 persons have given their name so far for the training but some are not very sure whether they will be able to give full 30 days for the training. We are trying our best to mobilize and motivate them to make use of this opportunity and are optimistic that the community may take the appropriate decision at this juncture. We are hopeful that the training would start soon after few necessary procedures.
This appears to be an amazing opportunity for villagers as they can earn income in their own village. This will definitely improve their socio-economic condition but most importantly would stop the unskilled migration which has been a bigger problem in this region. God willing, if this succeeds it can also be a model for many other neighboring villages.
Finger Millet is one of the most precious gifts from God to the Human kind, said Dr. Haider, Professor, Birsa Agriculture University (BAU), Ranchi. The capacity to resist drought and its high nutritious values make this a wonder crop in drought prone areas in fighting food insecurity and malnutrition.
I had mentioned previously that we were able to help 46 farmers restart the crop previous year. This year we got more than 300 requests for finger millet seed from our project area. We found there were so many other people interested to restart Finger Millet outside our target villages too. As we had around 300 farmers to cultivate finger millet this year, we had organized an interface meeting with BAU on 17th where Prof. Haider addressed the farmers. Prof. Haider shared some important information on Finger Millet and its significance in the region. Following this, we had a question- answer session with farmers where they discussed their difficulties in millet cultivation and about different methods of Finger Millet cultivation.
This was a good beginning before monsoon and would help many farmers to restart the crop and motivate many others in the region also. Many realized that Finger Millet is not just one of the other crops but it is a crop with extreme significance for this region. This is a beautiful beginning but we hope to see the result in the field, villages and families through coming years.
We are not only trying to promote food and nutritional security among this drought affected region but also to help bring this traditional crop back to the mainstream. This is not just a crop but a wonder crop.
These are some of the photographs of the interface meeting:
What are you thinking??? Yeah I am talking to you all…. It’s June 5th…. What are you going to do tomorrow on Environment Day?? What have you planned??? I am sure all of you must have planned something!!!
Raise your voice, Not the sea level– yes! This is the theme of 2014…. It’s about global warming this time…..
This is global day for action for the environment…. Have you planned something??? If you have, that’s great….but if you have not planned, no problem…there is time, you have one day, you can do something now…. Just do anything you can… may it be in your home, community, village, city, school, university, office anywhere…wherever you are…you can do something…. take action no matter how small it may be…. Anything you can do…..You can at least talk about it to ten people.
UNEP suggests every action counts, whether it is to organize clean-up campaigns, walk-to-work days, plastic purges, art exhibits, tree-planting drives, concerts, dance recitals, switching off the lights, recycling drives, social media campaigns and different contests — every action counts. Friends that’s why I am saying just do anything, even a small thing….
This year we are celebrating to stop global warming…..stop sea level rise and save small islands nations…
Message of United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon – “This year, I urge everyone to think about the plight of Small Island Developing States and to take inspiration from their efforts to address climate change, strengthen resilience and work for a sustainable future. Raise your voice, not the sea level. Planet Earth is our shared island. Let us join forces to protect it”.
I don’t have to explain about global warming…. We all know the causes of global warming and its impact very well….it is no more a strange word, it’s a global issue now.…. And you know very well how to stop or fight Global Warming….. So stop looking at others…. it’s time for you to act….. Do it Today or never….
We all know its impact on poor and marginalized….. Even though they hardly contribute to global warming, they are the ones, most exposed to its impact…..this is injustice!! Any kind of natural calamity strikes them the most…. Therefore, act for a resilient community and sustainable future….. Stop this injustice against the poor and future generations…Take Action… It’s up to you……
Start it now….from this Environment day…..Everyone, everywhere, everyday…..
In my previous post regarding wheat cultivation I had written about my experience in agriculture. We had done wheat cultivation in our hospital campus and after long waiting we harvested it in the last week. It was done in SRI method and took lots of effort but overall experience was so beautiful. We had lots of challenges in the process, three times goat grazing, unseasonal rainfall and pest attack etc which affected the crop, but after all it gave us quite good yield of 31 kg from 70 square meters of land. It is 4.4 tons per hectare which is quite high. The yield is more than double of the yield in traditional method in the same Agro Climatic condition. Below are some of the photographs of the harvest and the process photographs you can see in the previous post.
Thank God for the blessed harvest……and thanks to all who contributed to this beautiful accomplishment.
The World is vastly dependant on agriculture for food production and in a country like India; it is the main source of livelihood for rural population. Since independence, India has experienced a lot of changes and achieved many things in the area of agriculture. One of the most popular changes is the Green Revolution. The green revolution contributed to widespread poverty reduction, averted hunger for millions of people, and avoided the conversion of thousands of hectares of cultivable land for other development purposes. . But the lesser known fact is that it also has left many communities at enormous loss with poverty, food insecurity and different health issues. It was started with keeping in mind the human need, the growing population with their limited land but what it failed to think was about the environment, water, soil and other natural resources and most importantly the sustainability factor. Even though it was human focused it also failed to provide food and better health for all.
Green revolution introduced high-yielding varieties of seeds and increase use of fertilizers and irrigation for more production and it has definitely helped us in many things in short run but in long run it has become a threat to the future of both humans and the earth.
As it requires a lot of irrigation, it is not suitable for all the regions in our country. It is a curse for communities who depend on rainwater for irrigation. Irrigation technologies have been developed which are not sustainable and increased use of underground water will leave us in a tragic state in few years. It is making some communities more vulnerable and susceptible to disasters and water crisis and hence poorer than they were. Green revolution which is not inclusive has increased poverty level of many farmers, as poor farmers could not afford high variety seeds, fertilizers and machinery. It has forced farmers to borrow and left many with huge debts causing suicide and high rates of rural to urban migration.
Due to the heavy chemical fertilizer inputs, land quality has gone down and yield has suffered.
Increase use of pesticide has made pests more resistant to many pesticides causing increase in pest attack.
Due to increase use of chemical pesticides, insecticides and fertilizers we have lost many birds and friendly insects and this can result in long term loss.
Chemicals used in agriculture are contaminating the groundwater and the chemical content in the food has affected general health. Consumption of one or two variety of food may provide us calories but can’t fulfill the requirement of micronutrients which are essential for human beings.
We are losing our vast varieties of traditional seeds due to the introduction of high yield seeds and many traditional crops have disappeared due to high concentration on wheat and rice,
Due to improper technological development farmers have been losing their indigenous methods of adapting to climate change which have made communities more vulnerable and less resilient.
So it is the time for us to think of a better solution. What can give us a sustainable future from which both humans and nature would benefit?
There are a lot of initiatives that have been taken by the government and NGOs, but none of their attempts seem to be solving the problem in recent future. Organic farming has been a solution and it has been implemented in some regions and seems to be successful. Organic farming may solve the issue of pesticides and fertilizers but how far can it solve the issue of irrigation and natural resource management? What can give us a future without compromising with nature?
The Earth is rich and has tremendous capacity to meet the human need and it has been providing too. But since the past two centuries, we have been facing lot of problems and threats from climate. Nature has its own management process but we are trying to manipulate. It is the time to look back at how our ancestors lived their lives and how they adapted to climate and saved the earth for us to live. So it is time for us to go back to the traditional crops which might have the answers to our problems and can save the earth for future generations. There are some traditional crops which have tremendous capacity to adapt to the climatic condition and do not require much input like fertilizer, pesticide and irrigation. One of the categories can be Millet.
Photographs of some types of millets traditionally grown in India:
Millets need very little water for their production. Thus, they do not burden the state with demands for irrigation or power. Millet does not demand for subterranean water and can contribute to sustainable agriculture in our country.
Millets are adapted to a wide range of ecological conditions often growing on very thin soils. It does not demand rich soils for their survival and growth. Hence, they are a boon for the vast dry land areas.
It can provide livelihood to small farmers at the same time focus on ecological preservation. Millet production is not dependent on the use of chemical fertilizers. Most millet farmers therefore use farmyard manures and in recent times, household produced bio-fertilizers. Therefore, they can significantly reduce the huge burden of fertilizer usage.
Grown under traditional methods, no millet attracts any pest. A majority of them are not affected by storage pests either. Therefore, their need for pesticides is close to nil. Thus, they are a great help to the agricultural environment.
Millets are amazing in their nutrition content. Each of the millets is three to five times nutritionally superior to the widely promoted rice and wheat in terms of proteins, minerals and vitamins.
Comparison of Millets with rice and wheat:
All these qualities of millet farming system make them the climate change compliant crops. Climate change portends less rain, more heat, reduced water availability and increased malnutrition. If there is any cropping system that can withstand these challenges, survive and flourish, it is the millet system.
While wheat and rice might provide only food security, millets produce multiple securities (food, fodder, health, nutrition, livelihood and ecological) making them the crops of agricultural security and future of our agriculture.
Millet is the answer which can give us a sustainable future from which both human and nature will benefit. This can be answer for us and our future generations, making a sustainable, rich and healthy planet and millet can be an answer for today and tomorrow…..
Last year we were quite successful in bringing back finger millet in our target area, where 46 farmers harvested finger millet. This year there are around 300 farmers have registered to cultivate finger millet. As the region is drought prone, millet can be an answer for them to solve the issue of food insecurity and malnutrition. It can contribute to livelihood, food security and availability of fodder for animals. Its capacity to grow with minimum water makes it one of the appropriate crops for the region and as there is no need for fertilizer and pesticide it can be the savior for farmers with low economic status. Millet is the answer for this region and can be for our country……. Along with promotion of organic farming, bringing back the millet to the mainstream agriculture can be the best options for Indian agriculture system in the long run.
"He brought me to his banquet hall and raised the banner of love over me. Restore my strength with raisins and refresh me with apples! I am weak from passion... His left hand is under my head and his right hand caresses me" - Song of Solomon 2:4-6