M. J. Prabu
Is it possible to get a good yield without using chemical fertilizers? Will a shift to organic affect our food security? Can we manage insect pests without using pesticides? Will organic cultivation still be profitable for farmers?
These are some of the often asked questions by farmers when problems of modern agriculture are being discussed.
Enabavi, a small village in Warangal district, Andhra Pradesh promises to answer all these.
Situated off the Hyderabad-Warangal highway near Jangaon town, Enabavi is today an inspiration for many other villages and farmers, thanks to the efforts of the local organization called CROPS (Centre for Rural Operations Programmes Society) supported by the Centre for Sustainable Agriculture (CSA).
This small village attracts visitors ranging from farmers to policy makers who want to understand the concept of successful sustainable agriculture. In the last three years more than 10,000 people have visited this village.
“Commercial crops like cotton are the main crops grown in the district. From 1997 onwards, large numbers of farmers’ suicides have been reported from this district. In the middle of this distress, Enabavi showed the resolve of a strong community which decided to take control of its agriculture in its own hands. “With just 51 households belonging mostly to the backward castes, the village started shifting to non-chemical farming about a decade ago. In 2005-06, the entire 282 acres was converted to organic farming. There is strong social regulation within the community towards organic cultivation to ensure that there are no ‘erring farmers” says Dr. G. V. Ramanjaneyulu, Executive Director, Centre for Sustainable Agriculture, Secunderabad.
The elders in the village take the youth along with them. They have also started investing in teaching their school-going children the knowledge and skills of non-chemical farming.
Variety of crops
The farmers grow paddy, pulses, millets, cotton, chilli, tobacco and vegetables. They process their paddy and sell directly to consumers and also through a marketing channel called Sahaja Aharam in Hyderabad.
Their average spending on chemical fertilizers and pesticides used to be around Rs.3,500 per crop per acre while it was around Rs. 500 per acre for seeds. The traders would dictate the price for the produce in addition to charging interest for the inputs supplied. Now, all of this has changed. The farmers do not spend a single rupee anymore for buying all the inputs.
“In the 1970s this village like many others across the country, also went through the same process of using more and more chemicals to increase the productivity. By 1995 problems started showing up. Investments kept increasing but the returns were not good.
“In late 90’s pests like red hairy caterpillar caused devastating effects in this region. The initiatives on managing the pest using non chemical approaches evolved into non pesticidal management which is now widely practised in Andhra Pradesh and other states.
The confidence in using non chemical approaches, helped farmers to move away from chemical fertilizers towards sustainable solutions,” says Dr. Ramanjaneyulu.
Some farmers started looking for options like using tank silt, poultry manure, vermi-compost and farm yard manure. They set up their own compost manufacturing units in their fields and started following various ecological practices.
They also started to depend on their own seed for many crops, except for cotton. Now farmers also produce seeds for others. They have set up self help groups for men and women separately and started thrift activities too.
As the farmers moved into more and more sustainable models of production they realized the importance of natural and common resources for sustaining their own livelihood.
As a result the tank in the village was desilted and is presently being managed by the community. A cooperative called Enabavi Organic Farmers Cooperative was formed for supporting the several activities and to improve their collective bargaining power in the markets.
“Today, Enabavi has many valuable lessons to teach other farmers, not just on how to take up sustainable farming. They also have lessons to share on social regulation, learning from each other, the benefits of conviction born out of experience and most importantly, the way out of agricultural distress by taking control over one’s own farming,” adds Dr. Ramanjaneyulu.
To visit and learn more on Enabavi interested readers can contact Dr. G. V. Ramanjaneyulu, Executive Director, Centre for Sustainable Agriculture, 12-13-445, Street no-1, TarnakaSecunderabad-500 017, ph. 09000699702, email: firstname.lastname@example.org, facebook: ramoo.agripage, website: www.krishi.tv
Source: Mon, 19 Aug 2013 12:05 PM http://www.trust.org/item/20130819120503-eq3yw/?source=hptop
It’s time we acknowledged ecological impoverishment as one of the poverty indicators
Source: Prashant Ravi
On the face of it, the release of India’s latest poverty estimate and the decision to create the 29th state, Telengana, seem to be two unrelated developments. The media and public dialogues also, though hyper on both developments, did not see any link between the two. The discussion over poverty mostly revolved around what one can buy with Rs 28/day decided as poverty line figure for rural areas. As far as Telengana is concerned, the focus was on how prominent the demand for small states has become. And, of course, some talk about how small states aid development. Ecological poverty, however, failed to find any mention in these discussions. This is how the debate on governance issues in India consistently fails to acknowledge the centrality of ecology.
To join the dots, most of the demands for new states come from areas that are rich in natural resources but high on poverty index. Of the 20 areas demanding state-status from the Union Ministry of Home Affairs, 15 have distinct socio-economic profiles. These areas predominantly depend on natural resources for sustenance. Or, one can say, they are biomass-based economies. Unlike immediately after Independence, now the demands for a separate state are not entirely based on linguistic or ethnic identities. Invariably, poor regions inside a state tend to demand separate administrative units, which could either be a separate state or a new district. Such regions, for years, have been citing regional development disparity as the main reason for their demand for a separate identity. It is a way of redrawing India’s ecological map—resource-rich areas do not want their assets to be used as raw materials for development elsewhere. But does having a separate state guarantee better access to local resources for communities? This is an important question because in such areas most of the poor depend on resources like forests and farms for survival.
Now, let’s look at the three small states created in 2001, when India last created new states after sustained demands. All the three—Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Uttarakhand—are rich in forest, water and land resources. Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand are suitable for analysing of whether new identities helped in better access to natural resources. This is because in both the states local ecology has been the economy of the impoverished and the two states together account for a significant proportion of India’s poor population. How have they performed in poverty alleviation as separate states?
The latest poverty estimate shows that despite a sharp drop in poverty, both the states have nearly double the poverty level of national average. Segregated data shows that tribal, forested and other mineral-rich districts contribute up to 70 per cent of the two states’ total poor. Chhattisgarh emerges as the country’s poorest state with around 40 per cent people below the poverty line. This is the same level of poverty that was reported before 2001 when the new states were created. This despite the fact that the state’s economic growth has been more than the national average. However, this is a pan Indian trend—states are reporting high economic growth but not a proportionate decline in poverty levels.
This brings into debate the ecological nature of India’s poverty. Current debates focus on impoverishment entirely as income poverty. Poverty in Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand or, for that matter, rural poverty in general, is ecological since poor depend on the environment for survival. According to various income surveys, close to 70 per cent earning of a poor person comes from ecological sources. In forested areas, forest products contribute 80 per cent of the local people’s income.
With the creation of new states in 2001, India had its first brush with ecological states. Many hoped that control over natural and ecological resources would help redefine the state of poverty in these states. Everybody believed that the new states would, at least, frame policies that reflect the ecological reality. In an anti-climax, both the states first declared industry policy to exploit the vast mineral resources and sold land at cheap rates as a bonus. This reflects in the current state of affairs in Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand. Just like before their formation, there is a sharp division within the new states: two warring groups are fighting over resources. The same old model of development continues. Naturally, the residents of resource-rich areas feel further marginalised. No surprise they continue to be poor.
This is where those euphoric over Telengana need to pause and review the past experiences. The debate over poverty line must get real and accept ecological poverty as the real poverty indicator.
MUMBAI: Banks that restructured Rs 7,200 crore of debt to microfinance institutions are staring at a possible write off as several of these institutions are finding it difficult to recover loans in Andhra Pradesh.
Lenders had bailed out microfinance institutions (MFIs) such as Spandana Sphoorty Financial, Asmitha Microfin, Share Microfin, Trident Microfin, Future Financial Services and Basix in 2011 after the Andhra Pradesh government passed a law to regulate MFIs.
“MFIs have not been able to recover any loan. The restructuring has failed. They have not been able to recover any money from Andhra Pradesh,” said a senior banker close to the development.
MFIs had sought the Reserve Bank of India’s nod for a second round of restructuring, but the regulator rejected the request. “If banks were to restructure loans of troubled microfinance institutions for the second time, they will not get any benefit in terms of provisioning,” RBI Deputy Governor Anand Sinha had said at a recent banking conference. “We do not stop second restructuring. But what we say is that asset classification benefit will not be available to banks. The RBI does not stand in the way of second time debt restructuring.”
RBI prescribes that if a borrower, who is already into corporate debt restructuring, has to avail of loan recast again, then its banks will have to provide 15% of the recast loan amount as provision. This has increased the trouble for banks and MFIs.
“Banks are staring at a possible write off unless the state government changes its stance and conveys the message that it is the duty of every borrower to repay debt. There are about 92 lakh defaulters in Andhra Pradesh, which has affected their credit history,” said Vijay Mahajan, founder and chairman of Basix, a livelihood financial services group.
“The average ticket size of the loan is around Rs 7,000. We had also offered to waive off the interest charged on loan after October 2010. This would mean an interest loss of three years. Borrowers would have to repay only the principle. It is for the government to decide,” he said.
Mahajan said the legislation passed by Andhra Pradesh has several provisions that make it difficult for MFIs to recover their dues.
“It requires MFIs to take government permission for every fresh loan granted. This is cumbersome. We are also not permitted to visit the borrower’s house or work place for collection of loan. We have to meet the borrower at a public place or panchayat office,” Mahajan said, adding that there have been no recoveries in the past two years.
Andhra Pradesh-based MFIs have been facing repayment pressures after the state government in October 2010 passed the Microfinance Act to check alleged coercive recovery practices of these institutions. The Act, apart from other provisions, also mandates MFIs to collect loan payments on a monthly basis as against the earlier practice of weekly collections, which has further hit their collections.
In December 2010, the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh passed a law that severely restricted the operations of micro-finance institutions and brought the micro-finance industry to an abrupt halt. We measure the impact of micro-credit withdrawal in this unique natural experiment and find that average household expenditure dropped by 19 percent relative to a control group after the ban. The largest decrease was observed in expenditure on food. There is some evidence of higher volatility in consumption after the ban. All households were affected and not just the borrower households, which may suggest general equilibrium effects.
The lifestyle of software engineer Karan Suri, 37, changed after he underwent a surgery to remove a cancerous cyst in his stomach. After the surgery, Suri decided to purchase only organic foods – rice, cereals, pulses and even pasta – for his family. “One needs to develop a taste for organic foods. But I feel safe that I am eating pesticide-free, natural food.”
Many other consumers have started buying organic foods that have not been farmed using synthetic pesticides and chemical fertilisers. Nearly 62% of high income households prefer organic products due to rising awareness, higher disposable incomes and easier availability in the market, according to an Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM) survey. “Organic farming was one of the fastest growing industries last year,” said DS Rawat, secretary general, ASSOCHAM.
A growing list of farm-fresh and organic foods is hitting retail shelves briskly. The demand for them has grown sharply in recent years; in earlier years, they were primarily exported to Europe and the US.
And then there is Tata Chemicals which offers farm-fresh, unpolished dal varieties and besan made from unpolished channa dal, under the Tata I-Shakti brand. The pulses, says the company, are directly procured from reputed Indian farms supported with Tata’s Good Agricultural Practices, or from NCDEX-associated farmers.
Ashvini Hiran, COO consumer products business, Tata Chemicals, said, “Consumers, increasingly health conscious, choose food products that not only taste great but are also fortified with health benefits. To reach out to them and let them know of I-Shakti dals’ delicious taste and quick cooking, we roped in Sanjeev Kapoor, one of India’s quintessential faces for high quality cooking, as our brand ambassador.”
From very few categories, natural and organic foods have extended to tea, coffee, biscuits, pasta and sauces, among others, indicating growing consumer interest. Most big retail chains stock these products, including Godrej Nature’s Basket, Food Bazaar, More, Nilgiris, Spencers and Tesco-Starbazar.
Sresta Natural Bioproducts started producing organic foods in 2004. For the first two years, it found no buyers. “Then retail chain Spencers agreed to sell our brand. Now we sell across 36 cities, growing at over 70% annually,” N Balasubramanian, Sresta’s CEO, said. Sresta works with 12,000 farmers across 14 states.
“Urban, more mature people, 30-55 years old, are the primary consumers who are shifting to organic foods,” said Mohit Khattar, MD, Godrej Nature’s Basket. “The number of categories will continue to grow as people develop a taste for organic foods. But they will not attract many youth customers in the near future.”
Besides modern retail networks, organic foods are also available through exclusive, producer-owned stores in the bigger cities. “Awareness and acceptance of organic products has increased manifold in urban India. Many organic food suppliers are now opening stores across the country,” pointed out Ankur Bisen, VP retail of leading management consultancy, Technopak.
For instance, Organic India, which does organic farming in Uttar Pradesh, is setting up its own chain of exclusive retail stores.
The high prices of organic foods – around 40-60% higher than regular foods – could be a deterrent in runaway growth. Dr. Divya Choudhary, former dietician at Fortis Hospital, said, “I prescribe organic food to most of my patients but they don’t follow the advice as the food is not yet pocket-friendly.”
The cost of production of organic foods over traditional foods is higher, as the yield per acre is lower because the crops do not use fertilisers or pesticides. “As more consumers gravitate towards organic foods, in time, costs will come down,” Balasubramanian predicted