There is worldwide realization that food system has been becoming less safe and healthy. This is to a large extent because of the use of excessive chemical fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides. Some of the inputs used in fact have been found to be so poisonous and harmful that it is a very sad surprise how their use in food and farming systems ever got authorized.
After second world war ended some of the weapon factories found a new diversion in chemical fertilizers and chemical pesticides and this is how a highly harmful trend started in the food and farming system of the world. While the world has incurred truly massive health and ecological costs of this, instead of taking remedial actions the giant corporations trying to dominate world food system are moving fast in the direction of even more hazards in the form of GM foods and moving away from naturally grown foods in various ways towards industrial foods grown with a fearful cocktail of industrial chemicals and other inputs.
The entire effort is for profits and dominance, but is sought to be covered up , with the help of peddler ‘experts’, with a lot of high-sounding talk and objectives. If these experts have their way, hardly any natural, healthy, wholesome food will be left in a dystopian future.
To counter this, small farmer based farming using eco-friendly, organic methods to produce safe and healthy farming is needed. In conditions of developing countries like India, there is no room for expensive certification procedures which turn even organic farming into expensive farming which can be controlled by corporate interests. Here we need very low-cost and very self-reliant organic farming based on making best use of local resources.
While it is necessary to give up chemical fertilizers, pesticides, weedicides etc., it is equally important to emphasize that very careful nurturing of farms is needed, all the while learning from nature and natural processes. Good soil and water/moisture conservation practices are needed.
As a new generation of farmers has grown up which has seen only chemical-intensive farming in several parts of the country, sustained organic farming campaigns are needed. Even in areas where chemical-intensive farming has not spread much, it is being promoted as a model of progress, so here too to break this myth organic farming campaign is needed. In addition campaigns to protect diversity of traditional seeds are needed as these seeds are certainly more important from the point of view of organic farming.
In addition efforts to link organic farmers with consumers in cities who are keen to buy their food crops at a fair price are also needed. Certain identified villages of organic farmers can be linked to certain urban colonies where they have good support for selling their produce without any middlemen and without any curbs. Cottage-scale food processing which can add value to organic food crops is also much needed.
Sahbhagi Vikash Abhiyan in Odisha has encouraged organic farmers in various ways while also setting up cottage scale rural food-processing units to add value. Save the Seeds Movement in Uttarakhand has worked for several years for saving traditional seeds and mixed farming systems. Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture or ASHA has worked consistently for protecting and promoting organic farming and for advancing the common interests and concerns of its members all over the country.
A program which has tried to combine these various efforts in several states of India is called Bhoomi Ka. Supported by Welthungerhilfe and involving several social and environmental activists, this program has reached out to many farmers for promoting organic farming, also organizing training programs for this. When such initiatives progress, community organizations and/or farmer producer organizations are formed to take forward the work . At the same time efforts are made to forge links with consumers in cities and to facilitate the inter-action of farmers and consumers. Safe and healthy food issues are also introduced in educational work. Campaigns for safe food also contribute to improving the market prospects of organic farmers.
While all such efforts are welcome, at present their strength is much less compared to the powerful big business interests who are working against the interests of eco-friendly farming and safe, healthy food. Hence much bigger campaigns are needed to take organic farming forward in highly self-reliant and very low-cost ways so that healthy food produced in eco-friendly ways also becomes more accessible for all.
If such campaigns can convince governments to be more supportive, then a substantial share of the organic food crops grown in a village can be purchased by the government at a fair price for allocation to nutrition programs and ration shops of the same village .
The writer is a freelance journalist who has been involved with several social movements.