Friday, August 8, 2008

A seed grows in Punjab

The Green Revolution, while it produced incredible yeilds or grain and rice, depended on mono-cropping and replaced local varieties with what ever American agribusiness dictated. Production soared and so did pests. Run-off from pesticides and chemical fertilizers poisoned the water and soil in regions of India causing cancer rates to shoot sky high.

Mira Kamdar for Slate writes
"The farmers... realized they were caught in a vicious cycle requiring them to buy more fertilizer and more pesticides, to invest more money in getting water while they watched pests become even more voracious and their soil fertility decline. Seeds were also becoming more expensive. The farmers paid dearly for new hybrids that promised ever-greater yields. They paid even more for the new genetically engineered seeds whose very DNA was copyrighted, making it illegal for farmers to do what farmers have done since the dawn of agriculture: save seeds from one year to plant the next."

Dubbed "India's new nonviolent revolution," Punjabi farmers embracing natural farming techniques and attending Umendra Dutt's workshop are taking back land, health, and freedom. Kamdar writes about the workshop that educates farmers on natural and effective solutions to the two main hurdles in Punjab agriculture: water scarcity and pesticide poisoning. Keep your eye on this revolution folks.

Mira Kamdar for Slate writes:
"Punjab is a microcosm of the success and the failure of industrial agriculture in the developing world. There is no doubt that, with enough water and enough chemicals, privileging production above all else can boost yields dramatically. But the damage to the land and the people that make that production possible is profound. It is a model that is not sustainable, as a report published this spring by the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development, a joint effort of the World Bank and various U.N. agencies, so strongly argued. Ultimately, it will fail. It is failing now, just as the world is desperate to find a way to feed a growing population in a time of climate uncertainty and resource scarcity.

After my trip to Punjab, I came to believe that Umendra Dutt is right: Farmers who switch to natural farming techniques are engaging in a truly revolutionary act. Instead of Bhagat Singh's pistol, they are wielding plowshares, with no less profound consequences for the future of India than the shaking off of British imperialism decades ago. India's new nonviolent revolution, against incredible odds, is in agriculture. It bears watching."

Read more from Kamdar here

No comments: