Ananthoo's updates

When all trees have been cut down, when all animals have been hunted, when all waters are polluted, when all air is unsafe to breathe, only then will you discover you cannot eat money. - Cree Prophecy

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Kudos yeddy!

Karnataka government is freaking out!
Iam impressed..
Its the first state in India to come out with a state budget on agriculture!
When the initial talks last weeks were heard I thought it could be symbolic..
But he has indeed lived up to it. He even stretched it all a bit by addressing a group of farmers before and after the budget and there was some sincerity when he talked moved and walked with them to the secretariat! iam happy.
the budget itself - the agri part looks good and hope the tempo is maintained. What attracted my eyes is the generous allocation to organic farming:-)
Way to Go Yeddy!
highlights being: prime area for agri in the budget over all; Rs.17,857 crores allocated for agri sector; Organic farming a separate head under Suvarna Bhoomi Yojana; Rs 1,000 crore will be provided for development of 10 lakh farmer families;

to quote the CM: “..In this direction, I propose to accord more importance to formulating appropriate schemes for the increasing numbers of the marginal and small farmers, addressing the lack of appropriate technology, providing essential and modern processing facilities, construction of godowns and cold-storages and organising partnerships with institutions having expertise and mobilising adequate capital for implementing these strategies along with formulating supporting policies..
saw that? schemes to increase number of marginal and small farmers! impressive aint?

Karnataka Govt is really gaining strides each month in its go organic path..
Even when the CM Yeddyurappa announced last year about his wish to visit an organic farm each month, I thought it was symbolic. and that its another politico's statement..But when i enquired around during my visits to villages, I was told he was consistent there..he did visit an organic farm every month in the last 7-8 months am told and each of these visits were to sincere and serious organic farms!
way to go yeddy!! keep it up.
hope other states follow on these 2 counts - encouraging organic farms and push for lotsa planning around agri sector.

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Friday, February 18, 2011

BT cotton Trail II

We had 5 main questions that comes to ones mind here.
Lets see each of that.
Since this BT is comparatively new in Karnataka, a first hand report should help. So this trail.
Before these investigations, one feature that made the whole trip attractive was the presence of an old traditional cotton variety called Jayadhar! This rain fed variety doesn’t need any irrigation (grows well with what ever rain is received) nor any fertilizer or pesticide. This is a proven and stabilized one in this area for ages.But with the BT coming in and the coprorate lies and lures, its on the wane. The total acreage of this Jayadhar variety has been really dwindling. Hence this trip to the prominent jayadhar belt of Harihar, Ranebennur, Dharwad.
Farmers that we met across in various villages like Savanur, Gubndura, gudigere, Samwsi, etc had heard of Jayadhar. Each of these villages still have Jayadhar planted. But the area is less. Most of them blamed the lack of labour and unseasonal rains as the main issue for moving away from Jayadhar. This variety is totally weather dependant crop meaning the yield is as good as the weather.
Rain during harvest or just after flowering screws it up. The labour comes in 2 areas- weeding and also in harvesting. The bolls of the cotton facing down in this case is tuff to harvest manually which is being weighed heavily against it. Esp with labor being rare and the cost high.

On cattle: There have been many reports from AP and other states about the various ill-effects on cattle due to BT. The AP animal husbandry ministry even had a public warning issued long back. All farmers that we met across all villages said that they wouldn’t feed BT cotton to their cattle. (n)ever! The cattle apparently developed sickness, swollen legs and becoming immobile being more common. Diarrhea being other common disease.
They also unanimously said that the animals did show clear preference for Jayadhar cotton seed oil cake. What was very striking was that many farmers who were compelled to move to BT (easy loans, tall claims of yield etc being main reasons) still grow Jayadhar in smaller areas just for the sake of their cattle. When we posed questions of if BT causes so much problem to your cattle cant you imagine what the BT cotton seed oil would be doing to us, they didn’t have any answer. The simple fact that it was not obvious (mostly BT oil comes as adulteration and hence is also a question of awareness!) lead to brushing it off.
Milk was perceived as immediate food being affected than oil!

Edible oil?? That leads us to the infamous question of how come this enters our food cycle apart from Dairy. For many years cotton seed oil has been used to be mixed in the blended oils. It’s a way of an accepted adulteration. The very fact that some of the oils like ground nut oil or packaged refined oils are cheaper than the procurement prices of the raw material should have raised doubts. But do consumers think or ask??
Also the fact that due to some skewed food & adulteration law that any branded oil can be called that particular oil, if it has 60% of the main ingredient, allows for such high adulteration tolerance.
Now that we have reasons to adulterate why think if its BT or Jayadhar?
So whose problem is it? Think..and act..
(clue: These days organic produce are not only source for chemical and pesticide free food but also adulteration free food.)

Traditional varieties? Needless to say that traditional varieties will be lost soon. There are many reasons. 90-95% of the cotton seeds available in the market today is sadly BT only. This not only due to the aggressive marketing.but also because the parental seeds have been corrupted. Such contaminations of parental lines means there can be no certification for non-BT cotton today. More problems, eh?
So if ever the Govt wakes up or the society at large wakes up, there shall be no reversibility possible.
In most states like AP,Orissa, Gujarat one can hardly get to see the traditional varieties. In this belt in Karnataka, when we enquired (farmers association and the agri department reps) we got pathetic numbers. In savanur taluk for eg, it is 600 hectares Jayadhar to 12000 hectares of BT! In Samwsi village jayadhar was 20%

Yield? That’s a big fallacy. Lotsa factors come in to play and we as a society have been letting the already sulking farmers to do the math. Firstly the Jayadhar variety is rainfed. So u save on irrigation. Seed is your own! Compare the seed cost of Rs 26 per Kg to Rs 1650/kg of BT (Rs 750/- for 450 gms). The BT2 that has come now is double. BT needs fertilizer, irrigation and 3 sprays of pesticides as per data we collected from various villages.
So where is the comparision?
But on the face of it, if u question a farmer he does say the yield is double. Many farmers who have now cultivated BT 3 times or more now say the yield keeps reducing every year. But still they claim the yield is more. Ok, even if you were to just take the total output, ignoring the input costs, there is another hue factor. The Jayadhar is always with another (companion) crop, namely chilli. Where as BT is always mono crop. This means the output per acre should also consider the tons of chilies harvested. This is largely ignored. The very fact that chilli is planted along with cotton means there is only half the area or half the number of cotton plants!
As for record: across villages the yield quoted for BT was 8-9quintals per acre (of course its dwindling as many stated)
Jayadhar was only 3-5 quintals. But 3-4 quintals of chilly is also got. The chilli also helps supporting the cotton plant from sagging after flowering! There were a couple of farmers who said there was appreciable yield from Jayadhar till year before last bcos last 2 years unseasonal rains affected its yield.
While on comparison- one issue that weighs down on Jayadhar apart from labour intensive harvesting is that with rain it becomes very tough to harvest and also loss is heavier. (both problems are due to nature’s imbalance- the boll faces down unlike the Bt where its facing up)

Seed? When a corporate esp one like Monsanto comes to the scene where is the question of sovereignty? They are not any noble hearts to help increase farmers’ yield or to help solve the food sufficiency. Seeds is their business, simple. Now the farmer has the seeds in his hand. In fact for 10000 years that was the scene. Now with such goliath corporates eyeing seeds as a business, we will lose our culture and sovereignty. The cost comparison of the cotton seeds was seen above. Nothing will stop the corporates from increasing it multifold once the traditional seeds are wiped out! So more reason to be cautious about GM. But will the govts understand that? long term or short term? What should one go for? Season after season we need to depend on them. The jayadhar seed can last years as against this! So in time, the corporates will decide what crop, what seed and what price we will get them all at.
No use crying over spilt milk, then.

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Thursday, February 17, 2011

hectic days

yes, this year so far has been hectic(or is it from yatra last year on?)..
add to that the medical emergencies and attention..
now as i slowly crawl back to some tasks, its already getting bigger..
thats how the BT cotton trail happened, coimbatore trip and then now had to go to Nagpur for an All India ASHA (Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture) meet..
so back loaded with more tasks:-)
en route to Blore am in Madras for a few days..These days visits to Madras seem to be rare..many farm visits on hold..suddenly there can be an inundation- be warned;-)

yes, The BT cotton 2nd part will come soon..and some old ones pending have to surface too..
a hot one on Monsanto is on the way..
lots happening,,but hectic travel and rare net access is also the reason..

Friday, February 11, 2011

BT cotton trail

BT cotton - the first GM crop to be cultivated commercially in India was introduced under the pretext of being a non-food crop!
There were many questions raised about the safety and ethics of the Genetically Modified technology across the globe. The most important and urgently to be addressed issue being that of long term adverse impact to health . From an activists angle though health of the environment, other species and humans could have been the order. Still there were many unanswered questions what ever ones perspective was.
The corporates conveniently (obviously hand in hand with the govt agencies) gave a suitable twist. If GM becomes a question of health, ethics and safety there will be no end, they understood. Hence to hasten up the introduction of GM crop they took a very ‘intelligent’ actually a skewed and perverse stand. That cotton was a non-food crop. So while the debate on health etc continues, they can introduce cotton, supposedly non food crop!
Of course, needless to say their will prevailed. So BT cotton was introduced in India in 2002.
Now firstly, it’s a traditional practice to feed the stalks to cattle after harvest. Secondly the cotton seed oil has been in to our food cycle ever since packaged oil industry started flourishing.
So on both these counts the GM industry lied. Our Govt / regulation agencies went with them.

Now that it is 8 years since BT has come in to the field and the industry is now pushing very hard for GM in to food crops.
BT is Bacillus thurengiensis, a soil bacteria which is supposed to have pest repelling intrinsic property.
Though there has been loads of proof of BT affecting soil, cattle, humans and the ecology in toto, the Govt agencies have been soft pedaling and the industry has been looking the other way. Yeah, we know its only business and nothing else for them.

Just one name – Monsanto shud give us all the doubts. But somehow all villains have prevailed.

Dont some questions come foremost to any thinking individual?

1/ Has the BT cotton affected the cattle which fed on them? If so hasn’t this already come in to human food cycle in the form of milk and other dairy produce?

2/ If cotton seed oil was used as an edible oil (either directly or as adulterated/mixed produce along with other packaged/ blended oil?) what is its status today?

3/ What happens to the traditional varieties? What if this BT fallacy is conclusively proven, is there a path to retrace?

4/ Has this technology helped in increasing the yield as promised by the industry? Has the economics been done at all?

5/ What happens to the seed sovereignty? Farmers cannot have their own seeds. Season after season they have to go back to these corporates for seeds. That means price and availability will be the corporates will in the coming years aint?

Hmm.. so last week, yours truly (accompanied by KK & W) went on a cotton trail in Karnataka – Harihar, Haveri, Dharwad, to check on all these issues.

KK should be coming out with a better report or even a published paper for sure. But still I go ahead and pen my points n views out here.

But Wait..for the 2nd part.

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Sunday, February 06, 2011

Ishwar Kaka - RIP

Update: I had missed out giving Nipun's link out here. Thanks Ram for pointing and here it is now. Its a must read! Nipun generally makes compelling read.

Ishwar kaka, the famous Gandhian known for Sanitation, from Ahmadabad passed away some weeks back:-( on 26th Dec 2010. He was such a great person, called Mr.Toilet, famous for his design of toilets as well as toilet tales! some of which was narrated to me by his famous son -jayesh Bhai, an unparalleled hero about whom I wrote last year.

Such an illustrious man that he was, who dedicated his life selflessly for such a task was hardly the news maker and hence not many would have heard or read about him.
This compounded my sadness and so waited before I could post a note here. I wanted to really take some time and write more on him. With many other issues compounding, time flew.
But looks like I just waited for Nipun to write!
see here how beautifully (as always) Nipun writes about Ishwar kaka. (hat tip: sriram)

People like Ishwar kaka are such a rarity. But they leave such a mark that they live on as motivation and big influence for ages.

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Thursday, February 03, 2011

Bus day!

Regulars here know how much I like namma bengalooru climate which brings me here often and how much the traffic puts me off and makes me pack..
One of the best ways to beat that traffic tension is to take the bus..which is what I normally do saves you from the driving tension and taking the blore traffic in to consideration one doesn’t lose much time either:-0
Sometimes I feel the pollution ‘up’ there in the bus is lesser than that on the bike or car!
One additional (big) factor is that these days one need not wait for long..almost all parts are well connected and the frequency is appreciable. Maximum one has to do is take 2 buses to save time. Just do some spade work and find out what buses go closer or to your area. Believe me, its an organised Chaos!
Today for example as soon as I came out of the train and walked across, I got a bus to Banshankari and just as I got down I got in to a bus that goes to kanakapura road..cake walk!

BTW today being 4th Feb is the Bus Day! infact 4th of every month is!
If you cant make it a habit, extend solidarity 4th of every month! Travel by Bus!!

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