A Watershed Moment for Farm Policy—For World and For India

paddy field farming farmer

It is important to realize that the world is in the middle of a watershed moment for farm policy. So is India. Let us first consider the world situation. The most critical issue to consider here now and in coming years relates to climate change and related environmental  problems which constitute a survival crisis for the life-nurturing conditions of our planet.

This is widely predicted to bring more erratic and extreme weather and more frequent and intense disasters, accentuating water shortages in various ways. Hence very well-planned efforts are needed to protect farming and farmers from this and to prepare them to meet these new adverse situations effectively. It is a huge challenge to protect farmers and maintain adequate food and other essential crop production for an increasing population in the new situation.

The adaption of farmers and farming to climate change and related problems calls for very careful and well-planned efforts.

There is another very important way in which climate change relates to farm policy. As the world searches desperately for ways of checking climate change and reducing greenhouse gas emissions, it dawns that one of the most effective ways of achieving this is by making suitable changes in the farm and food system .

Farmers and farm workers , if they are helped, encouraged, guided to do the right things, can make the biggest contribution. And the most heartwarming  and gratifying aspect that scientists as well as grassroots workers, farmers and activists are discovering everyday is that the efforts needed for facing the challenge of climate change, or adapting to it, are along very similar lines as the efforts to check climate change and reduce GHG emissions.

Hence so far the story is—

  1. Firstly, climate change is an extremely important context for farm policy change now and in future years.
  2. Climate change brings huge threats but it is possible to change farming in ways which can prepare well for this and minimize damage in coming more difficult times.
  3. It is also possible to make changes in farm and food system which will help in a big way to check climate change and reduce GHG emissions.
  4. Fortunate what is needed for points 2 and 3 is along similar lines, in the same direction, there is no contradiction.So why can’t we move rapidly in this direction? Unfortunately, the most dominant trend of recent decades in the food and farming system has been the growing domination of food and farming system by big business interests, including huge multinational companies and billionaires. They are the biggest hurdle in making the desirable changes that are actually needed, as indicated above. However the good news is that changes indicated in points 2 and 3 can be brought in ways that help small and medium farmers and family farms all over the world, and also in ways which help landless farm workers and also in ways which promote welfare of farm animals and all forms of life. So to complete the story we should add some more points.
  1. It is extremely important to resist and remove the dominance of big business interests in food and farming systems.
  2. When we remove this dominance we clear the path for farm policy to be based on really desirable objectives.
  3. Three most desirable objectives of farm policy are protection of sustainable ( in terms of protecting soil, water, pollinators etc.) satisfactory livelihood of small and medium farmers and family farms, for this as well as for future generations, production of adequate safe and healthy food and also welfare of all forms of life.
  4. Fortunately, there is no contradiction in points 4 and 7. It is possible to adapt to climate change and to check climate change while at the same time achieve the objectives mentioned in point 7. All desirable objectives move in same direction without any contradiction.

Now is the time to make the critical changes mentioned above, keeping in view the fast increasing threat of  climate change and the acute crisis of small and medium farmers and family farms.  Both problems can be resolved together by the most appropriate policy changes in the farm and  food sector.

Now let us come to the situation in India. All that has been stated above regarding the world situation is equally true for India also, with the addition that farmer discontent is peaking and farmer organizations are also yearning for solutions, so this is the right time for farm policy changes, starting with the repeal of three controversial farm laws and then moving in the direction of ecologically protective farming and more caring policies for all small farmers and landless farm workers.

Bharat Dogra is  a journalist and author. His recent books include Planet in Peril and Protecting Earth for Children.



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