After ‘discovering’ Devinder Sharma’s work, Elizabeth Way and I met him at Warwick University, where he had been invited to give a few seminars. Since then we have been in touch at least once a week and we were pleased to receive a link to the videoed plenary address Devinder gave at ISEC’s Economics of Happiness conference held in Byron Bay, Australia.
He used statistics to expose the bogus nature of the exhortations to small farmers to ‘compete globally’ and the other mantra expressing the need for more intensive farming to feed the world.
Using India as an example he highlighted the lack of political will as the obstacle to food security, in a country which has had surplus food production for fifteen years. He said that he cannot understand why – as people die of hunger – politicians decide to export food.
He disclosed that there is a high cancer rate in Punjab, where two farmers die of the disease every day due to using high levels of chemical pesticides and fertilisers.
Good news which mainstream media fails to cover
The good example of Andhra Pradesh was cited. Some years ago, elders decided to move away from intensive agricultural methods. First they stopped using chemical pesticides and later moved on to eliminate the use of synthetic chemical fertilisers. Now 3.5 million acres are free of these inputs, possibly the largest area in the world, Sharma suggests.
He also spoke of his own landrace rice growing research project; no doubt inspired by the work of others featured in his 2009 blog, this is relevant to his concluding aims.
He sees control over food as the burning issue and ended by calling for more local production of food, more local procurement and distribution.