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The terrible truth behind the wave of farmer suicides in India

Nikita Sattiraju writes:  Farmer suicides in India have largely been attributed to debt, drought, crop failure or poor returns. However, farmers have been taking the drastic step regardless of a good rainfall year or bad, a good price year or a disappointing one. Why? Questions arise on the exact nature and reasons behind the deepening problem.

Environ-Mental? The bizarre ‘green’ ideas of our netas

India Water Portal reports: The year 2016 was an abysmal year in terms of environmental policy and conservation in India. There were also many initiatives worth talking about. Any initiative, however, is only as good as those managing it. Here we talk about four people in the country who made news for their water-related actions.

Report: Farmer suicides spiked by 42% in 2015; debt leading cause

Samar writes: Indebtedness was behind 38.7% of farmer suicides in 2015; the corresponding figure for the same head in overall suicides in India is a mere 3.3%. Nearly 80% of those who killed themselves because of indebtedness had taken loans from “Financial Institutions like Bank/Registered Micro Financial Institutions”, and a mere 302 from “Money Lenders”.

Bookshelf: Tending Our Land – A New Story

In ‘Tending Our Land’, authors M.G. Jackson and Nyla Coelho present a vivid, historical account of the great human enterprise of food production, an entirely new story– one that reinstates an ancient but eminently relevant imperative for our times. It makes essential reading for policy makers, academia and the budding bold generation of land tenders.

Pablo Tittonell: Feeding the world with Agroecology

Pablo Tittonell is professor ‘Farming Systems Ecology’ at Wageningen University and one of the worlds most well known experts in the field of agriculture and ecology. In this TED Talk, he advocates intensification of agriculture by making optimal use of natural processes and the landscape to meet the worlds constantly growing demand for food.

Pushpa Bhargava: Genetically Modified Mustard and India’s future

GM mustard, if approved, will open the floodgates for other such crops making India one of the largest users of GM crops in the world. Given that its agriculture is largely in the hands of MNCs, India will end up bartering its freedom for the benefit of a few and the misery of the rest.

Himanshu Thakkar on India’s river battles

The Modi government had come with the promise of a better future for India’s rivers. Unfortunately, the promise remains unfulfilled, and there seems to be no roadmap in sight for our rivers. There’s nothing in the policies, plans or projects of the current government that would provide any ray of hope, now or in future.

Cuba’s sustainable agriculture is now at risk, thanks to Uncle Sam

Miguel Altieri writes: Cuba, which took to agroecology out of necessity when the U.S.S.R. collapsed, has become a leading example of ecological agriculture. If it does not deal carefully with U.S. agribusinesses, Cuba could revert to an industrial approach that relies on mechanization, transgenic crops and agrochemicals, rolling back the revolutionary gains of its campesinos.

Lower yields and agropoisons: What is the point of GM mustard In India?

Colin Todhunter writes: The real story behind GM mustard in India is that it presents the opportunity to make various herbicide tolerant (HT) mustard hybrids using India’s best germ plasm, which’d be an irresistible money spinner for the developers and chemical manufacturers (Bayer-Monsanto). GM mustard is both a Trojan horse and based on a hoax.

Appeal: Why we must act now to stop GM mustard in India

Gopi Sankarasubramani writes: The issue at hand is the impending approval of GM mustard in India. GMOs introduce irreversible, long term changes in the ecosystem that cannot be contained – any farm will be contaminated, because the farm next door has GMOs. With it, we risk permanently losing our 10,000 year-old inheritance of sustainable agriculture.

Obituary: Peaceful warrior: Permaculture visionary Bill Mollison

Australian educator, author and co-inventor of Permaculture, Bruce Charles ‘Bill’ Mollison, died on the 24 September 2016. He has been praised across the world for his visionary work, and left behind a global network of ‘peaceful warriors’ in over 100 countries working tirelessly to fulfill his ambition to build harmony between humanity and Mother Earth.

Soon, we may not have a Cauvery river to fight over

Nityanand Jayaraman writes: The complexity of river systems, the hydrological dynamics that determine their ebb and flow, and anthropogenic confounders such as land-use change and climate change had no influence on the tribunal order… Today’s planners try to spare water for ecological flows, not realising that ecological flows are what keep the river a river.

Are we working harder to make India’s farmers suffer?

Suraj Kumar Thube writes: Much of the naturalisation of the suicides has also got to do with the urban perception of rural areas and rural lifestyles. The oriental imagination still does not cease to colonise our minds in terms of perceiving the rural as a stagnant and unchanging space characterised by divisive notions of caste-consciousness.

India can avoid future water wars by mixing old and new solutions

Chetan Chauhan reports: Maharashtra and Rajasthan have started community based Jal Swabhilambhan schemes that give ownership of government-aided watershed management to the communities. “We just aid and assist the villagers in creating durable water assets. The villages decide what they want,” said Sriram Vedire of Rajasthan Water Authority, who initiated the programme in early 2016.

Video & Report: Cauvery face-off puts spotlight on water wars

Live Mint reports: This is not a one-off dispute between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu— the latest flare-up puts the spotlight on the growing incidence of water wars among states and, in some instances, within regions in a state. Riparian states warring over water is not new— nearly every river in the Indian subcontinent is contested.

Video & Report: Four important lessons from Cuba’s urban food survival strategy

Aurel Keller writes: The collapse of the Soviet Union, and resultant loss of imports crucial for the island nation’s industrial agriculture system left Cuba with a severe food crisis in the 1990s. Today, Cuba has become a regional leader in sustainable agriculture, and its practices and institutions a model for localized and small-scale urban agriculture.

Sangatya Commune: An experiment in sustainable living

The New indian Express profiles ‘Sangatya’ commune, and its co-founder, Shreekumar a chemical engineer turned organic farmer and activist and Ecologise.in author. Sangatya, located in Nakre village near Karkala in south Karnataka, is experimenting with creating spaces for sustainable living. The commune is also a place to gain hands-on experience in many areas, including community-building.

Christopher Alexander’s neglected challenge to Permaculture

Dan Palmer writes: Christopher Alexander is a radical architect and writer respected by permaculture practitioners. According to him, a whole is created by putting together parts. The parts come first: and the form of the whole comes second, but “it is impossible to form anything which has the character of nature by adding preformed parts.”

The culling of wild animals herald future water wars in India

Peter Smetacek writes: Culling wild animals that have come to depend on agriculture for sustenance is only a short-term measure. This was portrayed as a man-animal conflict rather than what it actually is: the conversion of our forests from rich storehouses of bio-diversity to green deserts by a combination of mismanagement, political expediency and ignorance.

Interview: DJ Bagyaraj – India’s only contributor to the Global Soil Biodiversity Atlas

Chethan Kumar reports: The recently Global Soil Biodiversity Atlas, is a first-of-its-kind attempt to present the latest research and raise awareness on the role of soil organisms. Bangalore-based scientist D.J. Bagyaraj, the only Indian contributor to the Atlas, talks about the vital role of soil biodiversity for sustainable food production and prevention of land degradation.

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