MILES TO GO…
Organic and natural farming still have a lot of ground to cover in India, says new CSE report
Organic and natural farming in India, despite its obvious advantages and the efforts by Central and state governments to encourage it, has not become a mass movement. A mere 2 per cent of India’s net sown area is organically farmed; only 1.3 per cent of the farmers in India are registered to do organic farming – says a new report by Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) released here today in an online webinar.
Organic and Natural Farming in India: Challenges and Possibilities, as the report is titled, was released by NitiAayog vice chairperson Rajiv Kumar in the presence of a panel which included SunitaNarain, director general, CSE; SaurabhGarg, principal secretary, Department of Agriculture and Farmers’ Empowerment, Government of Odisha; M Geetha, secretary and agriculture commissioner, Department of Agriculture Development and Farmer Welfare and Bio-technology, Government of Chhattisgarh; G V Ramanjaneyulu, executive director, Centre for Sustainable Agriculture; and Amit Khurana, programme director, Food and Toxins, CSE.
The report presents a grim picture of the crisis in Indian agriculture. The share of agriculture and its allied sectors in the country’s Gross Value Added has steadily declined. In 2018, over 10,000 farmers committed suicide in the country – this comes to more than one farmer or farm worker every hour! Over 50 per cent of farm households in the India are in debt. Addedto all this is the rapid degradation and pollution of natural resources of land and water, declining soil fertility, pesticide pollution and the problem of pest-resistance, among other things.
“It is clear that the time has come to reimagine agriculture, and organic and natural farming can provide us that platform for reimagination,” said SunitaNarain, welcoming the panelists and participants at the webinar. “But to be able to do that, governments at the Centre and states will have to play a much bigger role to upscale organic and natural farming. They must drive this change towards sustainable agriculture practices which will help our farmers, people, climate and the environment. This is what our report highlights and argues for.”
The CSE report also highlights the gaps in the policy framework and programme implementation, and identifies barriers in the growth of organic and natural farming from the perspective of farmers, government and the consumer. Says Amit Khurana, programmedirector, food safety and toxins, CSE:”What we have today is a reluctant political support, minuscule budgetary allocations compared to chemical fertilizer subsidies, an extension system with limited expertise, a group certification system that is not farmer-friendly, and negligible government support to farmers to link them with the market.”
Releasing the report and echoing CSE’s proposed line of action, Rajiv Kumar said: “I congratulate CSE for this first-of-its-kind publication. NitiAayog is committed to promoting chemical-free agriculture in the country. We need to bring everyone together. The time has come to make it a janaandolan.”
India has arrived at a stage where upscaling is very much possible, opined G V Ramanjaneyulu in his address. However, the country – he felt — needs to move from “a technology-centric approach to a livelihood-based approach”.
What CSE recommends
- Develop a targeted, ambitious, and well-funded nation-wide programme to drive the change towards organic and natural farming. Bring together the different ministries and diverse programs; establish strong drivers that will benefit farmers,such as a vibrant market.
- Promote organic and bio-fertilizers. Put in place measures to adequately produce and make available good quality and affordable organic fertilizers and bio-fertilizers. Promote and make available city compost as an organic fertilizer. Enable farmers to choose between chemical and organic fertilizers – encourage organics by transferring the huge ongoing subsidies allocated for chemical fertilizers to chemical-free farming.
- Build rigorous scientific data on the benefits of organic and natural farming. Develop a comprehensive research agenda to understand the complete set of benefits. Collate and document the best practices.
- Enable agriculture extension systems to lead and support the transition on the ground. Build the capacity of extension officials. Leverage technology to bridge the gaps in information exchange and last-mile connectivity, and to integrate practitioners in the community.
- Improve the organic certification processes, make them farmer-friendly and affordable. Address the concerns about the PGS-India certification system to make it more farmer-friendly. Explore an alternative certification that is simpler for farmers and trustworthy for consumers.
- Encourage states to act in a concerted way to promote organic and natural farming. States can play an instrumental role in helping farmers sell their organic and natural products by developing organic value chains, procuring organic produce, and helping farmers get remunerative prices.
By Ms. Pratyusha Mukherjee, a Senior Journalist working for BBC and other media outlets, also a special contributor to IBG News & IBG NEWS BANGLA. In her illustrated career she has covered many major events.