August 16th marks ten years since the passing of the legendary Japanese farmer and author Masanobu Fukuoka, who initiated the natural farming movement. Here’s a documentary on his life and work, along with notes by Larry Korn, Fukuoka’s American student and the translator of his book, ‘One Straw Revolution,’ considered the ‘bible’ of natural farming.
Grown over a million acres of farmland, the HMT rice variety – developed by Dadaji Ramaji Khobragade, a small cultivator and self-trained plant breeder – brought a measure of prosperity to several hundred thousand farmers in Maharashtra and neighbouring states. Bharat Mansata pays tribute to the legendary farmer and seed saver who died on Sunday
Bayer’s $66 billion takeover of Monsanto represents another big click on the ratchet of corporate power over farming and food. With the ‘Big-Six’ of global agribusiness now set to turn into the ‘even bigger three’, farmers and consumers face more GMOs and pesticides, less choice, and deeper price gouging. Agroecology has never looked more attractive.
Dam’ned, a documentary by filmmaker Saraswati Kavula, takes a closer look at how the Polavaram Dam project affects the lives and livelihoods of thousands of people, with dubious benefits expected. Despite increasing evidence of the destructive consequences of big dams across the world, why do our governments keep pushing for these mega projects, she asks.
The pro-and anti-GMO positions will remain irreconcilably polarized as long as larger questions remain unexamined. What’s at stake here is much more than a choice about GMOs. It is a choice between two very different systems of food production, two visions of society, and two fundamentally different ways to relate to plants, animals, and soil.
The Ganges and its tributaries are now subject to sewage pollution ‘half-a-million times over the recommended limit for bathing’ in places, not to mention unchecked runoff from heavy metals, fertilisers, carcinogens and the occasional corpse. ‘Where is this going?’ That’s the question at the heart of Victor Mallet’s book on the river, writes Laura Cole.
“The idea of India faces an unprecedented challenge. Preventing irreversible damage to the Republic of India, as we have known it, is the most pressing political task of our times, our yugadharma.” So begins Yogendra Yadav’s penetrating analysis of India under the Narendra Modi regime. Essential reading on the 69th anniversary of the Republic’s founding.
Displacing pastoralists, displacing smallholder farmers, arresting and charging them as terrorists if they protest–and the land is given away to foreign investors to grow what? Sugar and cotton. Imagine trucks full of food aid coming into Ethiopia, while trucks full of cotton and sugar are leaving the country. Hunger in Africa is a political problem.
Sneha Vakharia reports: Gujarat’s chronic floods, underreported and devastating, tell the story of Narendra Modi’s failure to deliver the state from water scarcity, and the onset of a new kind of problem, with crucial political implications. Since the state began its battle to control its water, increasingly and unforgivingly, the water has started fighting back.
From McSweeney’s: Nikolay Ivanovich Vavilov collected more seeds from around the world than any other person in history. Yet the plant explorer, who endeavoured to end famine, starved to death in one of Stalin’s gulags. A tribute to a scientific pioneer who foresaw the need for preserving the world’s seed heritage almost a century ago.
From Rediff.com: In the recent elections, the Congress made stunning gains over rivals BJP in rural Gujarat, winning 62 of 109 seats. According to food policy analyst and activist Devinder Sharma, this is a direct result of Gujarat’s prolonged and acute agrarian crisis being ignored by the ruling party, the urban-centric media and pollsters alike.
From The Indian Express: Yogendra Yadav, who is part of a platform of over 180 farmers’ organisations that have come together to raise key demands, says: “(One of the things) I have seen, which cuts across all farmers, is anger against government. This all-round disenchantment is more so against the current government at the Centre.”
Colin Todhunter writes: Despite four high level government reports that have advised against adopting Genetically Modified crops in India, there are alarming reports of GM okra, soyabean & brinjal being cultivated illegally in thousands of acres. The industry’s strategy is to flood the country with illegal GMOs so that there’s nothing you can do about it.
Moin Qazi writes: The Indian film celebrity Aamir Khan is shepherding a very revolutionary campaign–making Maharashtra drought-free in five years. Khan’s Paani Foundation is galvanising the rural population to go back to fundamental lessons of water management taught by their ancestors. Many Maharashtra villages are seeing water in their parched lands after consecutive dry years.
Industrial farming, which gets all the attention (and most of the land), accounts for more than 80% of fossil fuel emissions and uses over 70% of the water supply in agriculture, actually produces only about 30% of the world’s food. It’s the diverse network of small-scale producers-the ‘Peasant Food Web’-that feeds 70% of the world.
As much as any book can, Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring” changed the world, by describing it. An immediate best-seller, this classic book launched the modern environmental movement, which, in turn, led to the creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and a host of green laws. On the 55th year of its publication, a tribute.
Madhu Ramnath writes: Time and again we have heard that the Naxal insurgency is due to “under development” in areas like Bastar. Education is also supposed to deter Naxalism, according to some, but one may ask whose education? Fundamentally it’s about respect, dignity and trust in our behaviour towards others, in this case the Adivasi.
From Down to Earth: India’s vicious cycle of crippling drought and then devastating floods, which happens every year, is getting a new normal. First, floods and droughts come together. Secondly, rainfall is not only variable but also extreme. There’s only one answer: obsessive attention to building millions and millions of connected and living water structures.
From The Third Pole: For the third year in a row, India’s monsoon season has produced floods in the northwest/northeast, while south India has a rainfall deficit. The key question right now is whether we’re headed towards increased monsoon extremes, or whether global warming is causing shifts in the duration, intensity and frequency of rainfall.
From The Guardian: Chemicals and agribusiness giant Bayer has approached the European Union to approve its $65bn takeover of Monsanto, eliminating direct competition between two of the biggest players in the industry. If approved, the merger would be an extremely risky consolidation of corporate power, and a serious threat to food supplies and farmers worldwide.