Monday, March 23, 2009

Women takes lead to undertake natural farming

Women meeting for Millets and natural farming

at village Bhotna , District Barnala
19 March, 2009

It was the first of its kind of meeting in Punjab where women were attending the meeting sitting on the chairs and the men were busy preparing and serving the tea to them. The men sat at a distance of a few feet from the site of the meeting and kept wondering at the kind of knowledge sharing among women in the meeting.

The women who have been a neglected lot in the society for generations and who were further neglected and to say cornered by the mono cropping, chemical intensive, technology driven, market dependent and eco-devastating, culture of the green revolution, were elated at the women centric meeting in the village. Even at the end of the meeting the women did not feel like going to their homes.

The meeting started off with the differences in chemical and traditional farming systems, Traditional farming included the rich and healthy lifestyle of the villagers, the abundance of life forms in the fields, the participation of all members of the family in the agriculture, the means of pest control by farmers and the participation of women included in making the fodder available to the livestock, cutting and plucking the grains and vegetables during the harvest season and seed storage and the methods of seed storage in the homes. They also had memories of multi cropping in the fields.

In the next session some girls present in the meeting read out the brief description printed on the vinyl banners prepared for the meeting. It is worth mentioning here that the banners prepared for the meeting were a big hit. It included a brief description of the millets and the nutritive value of the millets and their value as warding of many diseases viz, heart ailments, diabetes etc and particularly their help in weight loss.

The sharing of the nutritive value attracted many women to include millets in their diets and almost all of them promised to use millets in their foods in one or the other form. Some of them even promised to introduce millets in the kitchen gardens.

Earlier the older women were a bit reluctant to introduce millets in the kitchen because of the vast popularity of soft drinks, change in the food culture and the widening generation gap but with some discussion and motivation they promised for its cooking in the kitchens in the form of khichri, porridge and roti and passing on the traditional knowledge to their children and grandchildren.

After that a vinyl banner specially prepared on the benefits of biodiversity and multi cropping was read out and discussed with the women. The women dug out their memories and came out with the memories of the multi cropping culture and also their dependence on their own farms for all the needs of the kitchen. They also discussed the economics of this system

The next session included sharing the method of preparation of various traditional foods that the women prepared for the women meeting. The women came with a dozen of traditional foods that included Mothh bajre di khichri, Makki di rotu, sarson da saag, Makki da dalia, Bajre di roti, Gur walian Savian, Tukean da aachar, namkeen vesan de poore, Gulgale, Gur wale Poore, Thandai and Bajre de tilan wale laddu.

Everybody present in the meeting were made to taste all the foods. Of the all present 50% were the ones who tasted the bajre ki roti for the first time in their lives. Some older men even found talking that they were tasting such foods after a gap of 30 years. While tasting the foods some older women came out with the idioms associated with the traditional foods and their heritage. The songs in the local dialect were written down.

From among the women, some school and college going girls were selected to register the biodiversity in the village and also the use of various plants for their food and medicinal value. The group will prepare the register in their vacations.

A traditional Seed saving committee was formed which included the following women members:

1. Jaswant Kaur

2. Mukhtiar Kaur

3. Manjit Kaur

4. Mohinder Kaur

5. Amarjit Kaur

These women possessed some traditional seeds of vegetables and will also find out who else in the village own some traditional seeds that can be used for multiplication. Amarjit Kaur will work as coordinator for the seeds committee as well as the coordinator for village Bhotna.

Another committee was formed whuch will take care of the coordination for women activities related to millets natural farming and environment in the village. The names are:

1. Jaswant Kaur

2. Mukhtiar Kaur

3. Sarabjit Kaur

4. Mohinder Kaur

5. Amarjit Kaur

6. Rajwinder Kaur

7. Kamaljit Kaur

8. Amanjot Kaur

9. Asha Rani

While discussing the about the traditional seeds the women were very clear that the the crops cultivated using traditional seeds tasted good and that because of the traditional foods people did not fell sick and they did not have to go to the doctors at all. Many older women possessed a wealth of knowledge associated with traditional healing medicines that very prepared in their kitchens to cure common ailments like sore throat, cough, headaches, body aches etc.

The older women were grieved and upset at the deterioration of health and at the rate of which the young generation is falling sick. They kept talking about the vigour and vitality that their generation possessed. The older women were also very disturbed at the lack of physical labour among the younger generation and the lifestyle changes that have occurred in the last ten to fifteen years.

It is worth mentioning here that the green revolution played havoc with the youth in the villages. The dependence on chemical fertilizers and pesticides rendered them idle who were earlier busy in manual and other creative ways of pest management and other activities associated with agriculture.

Many older women pointed out the absence of an attractive, multi cropped diversity filled, full of life fields. The magnetic attraction that attracted people to fields is missing. Not many children visit their family fields and they are cut off from the thought of pursuing agriculture and also their cultural heritage associated with farming, not just for the sale of the crop yields but a wealth of wisdom that has been carried of from since many generations is a far cry.

It is worth mentioning here that we also conducted one meeting some three months back in the village regarding the adverse effects of chemical farming particularly the havoc that it is playing with the reproductive health of women. Many women that participated in that meeting played an active role in organizing this meeting particularly the coordination among different women preparing the traditional foods.

Next meeting for further action was fixed in which the preparation for the pesticide free kitchen gardens and household seed banks will be discussed. The meeting ended with the women vowing to feed their children with pesticide free food.

People’s Commission for Farmers formed

Report of Farmers’ Dialogue on
Future of Organic Farming in Punjab: Its importance for Punjab & Report on Organic Farming by Punjab State Farmers Commission
Sunday, 8 March, 2009; Wheat Auditorium, PAU, Ludhiana
People’s Commission for Farmers formed; Farmer Unions lend support to KVM’s initiative to counter PSFC – Corporate combine

In the continuation of its initiative to build a civil society movement to bring a paradigm shift in Punjab’s agriculture and development Kheti Virasat Mission has organized second round of dialogue on report on organic farming by Punjab State Farmer’s Commission on 8th March 2009 at Wheat Auditorium, PAU.

It is to recall that first round of dialogue was held on 10th January at Panjab University, Chandigarh. In which large number of farmers participated and out rightly rejected PSFC report on organic farming. First round dialogue was addressed by FAO consultant and noted agriculture scientist Dr O P Rupela , Kavitha Kuruganti , Dr D U M Rao from IARI and large number of practicing natural / organic farmers.

Second round of dialogue was titled – “Future of Organic Farming in Punjab: Its importance for Punjab & Report on Organic Farming by Punjab State Farmers Commission” was addressed by Dr A K Yadav, Director, National Center of Organic Farming; Dr D U M Rao, Principal Scientist, Indian Agriculture Research Institute, Subash Sharma , Organic Farmer, Yavatmal, Maharashtra, Prof R S Ghumman , Professor of Economics, Punjabi University , Patiala ; Prof Jagmohan Singh, Association for Democratic Rights; Com. Tarlochan Singh, CPI-M Kisan Sabha ; Harjit Singh from Kisan Sanghrash Committee; Balkar Singh Dakunda , BKU- Ekta Dakunda ; Hardev Singh, Kirti Kisan Union ; Balbir Singh Billing, Bhaichara Kisan Sanghatan, Bhoogh Singh Mansa, BKU Sidhupur; Dr R P S Aulukh , Punjab Agri-technocrates Action Committee and Nirmal Singh Bilaspur from Kudrati Somye Sambhal Sanstha Punjab.
To counteract the anti farmer, anti people and anti nature contents of the report of Punjab Farmers Commission KVM has announced the formation of ‘Peoples’ Commission for Farmers’, which will include agricultural scientists, veterinarians, doctors, economists, intellectuals, activists, leaders of farmer organizations and farmers. Speaking in the dialogue as keynote speaker, Dr. A.K.Yadav out rightly rejected the views of Punjab Farmers Commission that there will be a gross fall in the productivity of cereals and that food safety of the people of India will be jeopardized in case Punjab Farmers go in for organic farming.
He said that such views are based either on very superficial and childish understanding of organic farming or these views are meant to please the vested interests. He said that even the history of Indian Farming (which is thousands of years old) does not support this statement of the Commission. History of Indian Agriculture which (documented parts) has now been published, goes to prove that the even the productivity of cereals was at par or even more that the so called modern chemical agriculture. Above all, the organic farming has absorbed the scientific developments of the last two hundred years and has learned many new things, which were not there in our traditional farming. Many national and international bodies have stressed repeatedly on the basis of experiences of last 20-25 years that organic farming is the only sustainable way to feed the people of world. The chemical agriculture is bound to collapse and rather have already started to collapse. He appealed to the farmers of Punjab that seeing the disastrous consequences of chemical farming, they should immediately shift to organic farming, which is sustainable, cheap, profitable, healthful, pro farmer, pro people, pro nature and pro natural resources. He said it is an EVERGREEN REVOLUTION.
Dr D U M Rao, Principal Scientist, Indian Agriculture Research Institute, labeled the report of Punjab Farmers Commission to be dishonest, baseless and childish. He said that it has been proved in whole of the world that organic farming is in no way inferior to chemical farming. On the contrary it is far better in all aspects particularly from the angle of nature and natural resources. He said even from the economic viability angle it is the only farming which can save the small and medium farmers. He said people are hungry not because of shortage of food but for lack of purchasing power. While expressing his views about the report of Punjab Farmers Commission, he said that he felt shocked because the report looked like a document written by an inexperienced M.Sc student. He said that it seems the writer of the report is totally ignorant about the philosophy and techniques of natural farming. He has tried to weigh the organic farming using the parameters of chemical farming which is not possible. He said report is aimed at creating confusion among the farmers who are being attracted to the organic farming.
He symbolizes PSFC report an attempt to define elephant by six blind men. He call the farmers and environmental activist to expose the falsehood behind the PSFC report.

Dr. R.S.Ghuman, a well known economist said that the agriculture which was a pious profession at one time has been converted into an agricultural terrorism by the international agribusiness. It is based on wide scale violence and results into wide scale violence against all living beings including humans. He asked the Government of India to divert part of the huge subsidy being given to agro industry for organic farmers and see the results. He said that a subsidy of about 5000/- per acre of cultivable land of Punjab per year is being given to agro industry. If this subsidy is given to organic farmers the returns will be much higher. He said the promotion of organic farming is the only way to sustainable development and protection of environment and ecology He also warned the organic farmers that the agro industry is trying to enter into organic farming also. The farmers should remain alert of this trap.
Shri Subash Sharma a master natural farmer from Yavatmal, Maharashtra, is a successful organic farmer doing natural farming on 55 acres of land since 1984. He is not only a farmer himself but a leader, philosopher and scientist of organic farming movement. He has successfully taught natural farming to thousands of farmers. Telling his own experiences he told the participants that after he shifted to natural farming he has gained substantially not only economically but in many other aspects-which include good health and happiness for his family, his employees and friends. He said that till he was doing chemical farming he always felt miserable. But now I am really happy and blissful and I am spreading the happiness and bliss to every body that comes into my contact. He said the natural farming is a divine farming and I feel myself to be messenger of God who is spreading his love and kindness through me.
Dr. Rajinder Choudhary, Professor, Deptt. Of Economics, MDU Rohtak said that organic farming is not a traditional farming; it is the most modern agriculture which has absorbed the latest scientific knowledge about natural resources and agriculture. This is the real agriculture of the farmers and the common people which is non exploitative, healthful and sustainable. The chemical farming is the agriculture of MNCs from all angles and is against farmers, consumers and nature.
Professor Jagmohan Singh, of Association for Democratic Rights (AFDR) said, “The biggest thing is to save the water and soil of Punjab. The soil and water of Punjab have become the worst victims of excessive use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. We have to save Punjab today to save India of tomorrow. A new threat in the form of GM crops is also looming large over the soil and farm ecology of Punjab. We have to oppose all these technologies. GM crops are bound to deepen the crisis further. State Farmers Commission Report has no vision about these concerns”. He strongly favored the idea of forming a parallel Farmers Commission to give a scientific and holistic understanding of agriculture to the farmers and people of Punjab.

Mr. Balkar Singh Dakonda, a leader of Bharti Kisan Union (BKU-Ekta), said that agricultural experts have misled the farmers of Punjab into a deep crisis, where they are feeling helpless economically and socially to an extent that many of them are committing suicides. He said that organic farming is emerging as a new hope and their organization will preach this philosophy on all its platforms.
Mr. Hardev Singh of Kirti Kisan Sabha said that just like industry the agriculture has also gone into the hands of imperialists and chemical farming is their farming serving their interests. He said leaving chemical farming is part of the struggle of freedom from the imperialist. He assured all out support to this freedom struggle, from his organization.
Mr. Boogh Singh Mansa of BKU (Ekta-Sidhupur) said that farmers should not compare the productivity of organic farming with chemical farming. They should count their net profits and other benefits like good health, happiness and availability of pure and poison free consumables for the family. He also assured all out support of his organization to the movement of natural farming.
Mr. Darshan Singh Koohli of BKU (Ugrahan) said that chemical farming is agriculture of loot and deception. He assured full support of his organization to the movement of organic farming.
Mr. Balbir Singh Billing of Kisan Bhaichara said that organic farming is a movement in which farmers will manage all their affairs without any outside exploitative force including marketing of their products which they will do individually as well as by forming kisan cooperatives. He also appealed to the organic farmers that they should not prefer to export their products, rather they should sell to our own people who should eat these poison free and healthful foods so that we become a nation of healthy people rather that a nation of sick people.
Mr. Harjit Singh of Kisan Sangharsh Samiti, supporting the organic farming movement said that this movement will bring the change in the lives of farmers and common people.
Dr. RPS Aulakh of Argi-Technocrats Action Committee suggested that to spread the message of organic farming to vast masses we should approach the students and teachers who constitute a very large section of people who are sensitive to the needs of the society and the nature.
Com. Tarlochan Singh of Punjab Kisan Sabha, supporting the organic farming movement said that chemical farming and whole paradigm of institutions are the chains of slavery for our farmers and the people. We need to break these chains. He said the organic farming movement will play a leading role in this freedom struggle.
Dr. Amar Singh Azad, working president of KVM said that chemical farming is part of a slow chemical warfare which is being imposed on the humanity and the nature by MNCs to fulfill their endless greed for getting richer and richer. This chemical warfare is leading to a slow ecocide.
S. Rajbir Singh of Bhagat Puran Singh Natural Farming Center, Pingalwara Amritsar shared his success story of organic farming on 32 acre of Pingalwara farms. He said we must stop the chemical agriculture because it is based on sin and farmers have been converted into devils.
Mr. Ajay Tripathi, joint Director of KVM said that organic farming movement is progressing fast in Punjab and KVM will soon establish model organic farming village which will be training model for other farmers.
Successful organic farmers – Shri Vinod Jyani, Shri Amarjit Sharma, Shri Madan Lal, Dr Harbax Singh, S. Jarnail Singh Mazi , S. Upkar Singh Goraya and many others shared their success stories of organic farmers from the stage as well as individually and in group discussions.

Earlier speaking on the occasion Umendra Dutt, Executive Director KVM proposed the formation of ‘Peoples Commission for Farmers’, which was wholly supported by the participants and it was resolved to bring a People’s Report on Impacts of Chemical Farming, prevailing agro-ecological and environmental health crisis, sustainable farming solutions to bring farmers out of crisis and future prospects of natural / organic farming in Punjab. The proposed People’s Commission for Farmers will act as a think tank for Punjab Farmers with a pro-nature and pro-people perspective.

The meeting concluded with a strong demand that the Punjab State Farmers’ Commission withdraw its report immediately and instead start thinking about how to initiate a ecological sustainable agriculture revolution in Punjab considering the need of the hour.