Category Archives: Land

Learning from the past: A new protocol for agricultural education and research in India

Extracts from an article written by Michael Gordon Jackson, 16th March 2017 and highlighted in James Robertson’s newsletter

M.G. Jackson is a former Professor of Agriculture and sometime Director of Research at the G.B. Pant University of Agriculture and Technology, Pantnagar, Uttarakhand, India. For an elaboration of the agenda described in this note see the newly released book Tending Our Land: A New Story by M. G. Jackson and Nyla Coelho (below left). INTACH (Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage) Belagavi chapter released the book ‘Tending our land- a new story’ written by Dr. M. G. Jackson and Nyla Coelho on Wednesday 30th November 2016 at Bharatesh Education Trust.

Extracts (bullet points added)

After independence, the government of the USA largely took over this role of introducing chemical agriculture in the country. By the early 1960s large numbers of our countrymen were trained in the science and practice of chemical agriculture, and traditional knowledge was on the wane. In 1965 crop failures threatened large-scale famine, and we adopted chemical agriculture without reservation as the only way to ensure food security. Farmer scientists gave way to professional institutional scientists.

We are now in a position to formulate a broad vision of the way forward in securing food security, and the welfare of village communities and the nation. First, farmers, farm families and village communities must be re-empowered to take the responsibility for realising this agenda. They must realise that they themselves are better scientists and teachers than the professional, career scientists who spend all their time in the classroom, the laboratory and the experiment station. And we need to realise it too. Only if we accept this fact of history, can we move on to realising our objective of sustainable agriculture, continuing food security and rural and national welfare.

Given this change in outlook by everyone concerned (farmers, professional scientists, teachers, extension workers, administrators and politicians), the practical measures that need to be taken fall logically into place. It must become the objective of all establishment personnel to work with farmers, not as advisors, but as facilitators of the process of farmer re-empowerment. This will involve encouraging them to identify the causes of their present plight, visualise remedies and assisting them in implementing these remedies. This activity will amount to transformative learning exercises for farmers since they too have been brainwashed into adopting the chemical agricultural paradigm.

In the course of such exercises, they may be encouraged to recall traditional practices and to examine them for their possible value as remedies. If these practices make sense, then farmers need to pursue them again. Many innovative ideas will inevitably be generated. They need to be helped to articulate their understanding of the rationale for these traditional practices and for new innovations. In facilitating such discussions we ourselves will learn along with them. Both men and women need to be included in these discussions (the term ‘farmers’ is gender neutral), as well as village residents pursuing non-farming livelihoods, and landless families. At least one adult member from every household in the village should participate in these discussions.

At the same time, farmers, farm families and village communities need to re-empower themselves as teachers of village youth. Training in agriculture needs to follow the traditional apprenticeship pattern. Such training needs to be integrated with a more comprehensive education that fits young people for participation in the larger national and international communities on an equal footing with urban-reared young people. A pre-requisite for such an educational curriculum is the replacement of contemporary mechanistic science by the science of living systems as the rationale for all subjects. The village community itself needs to design, implement and oversee such an educational programme. If this is done effectively at school and senior secondary levels, university curricula will then fall in line. We need to help organise and then facilitate discussions aimed at bringing about such change. Adolescent boys and girls (grades 9 to 12) should participate in these discussions. The appropriate place for these discussions is the gram sabha. Gram sabhas should be the policy-formulating bodies, while the gram panchayats are the administering bodies.

To facilitate all these initiatives Government laws and policies will need to be overhauled fundamentally. Examples here are:

  • the return of reserved forests to village community ownership and use,
  • the discontinuance of all flood irrigation projects (in favour of local water self-sufficiency),
  • closing all fertiliser and pesticide factories (natural farming does not use any of these),
  • the discontinuance of government subsidies on electricity and chemicals,
  • transferring responsibility for community food security,  to the extent possible, to village communities themselves,
  • the curtailing of MNCs dealing in farm inputs, including machinery (natural farming is human and animal power intensive),
  • long-distance transport of food ((local and seasonal vegetables and fruits are more healthful; petroleum use is curtailed).

And so forth. The over-arching rationale for such changes in laws and policies is the natural farming paradigm.

Read the full article here: http://www.ecologise.in/2017/03/16/learning-past-new-protocol-agricultural-education-research-india/

Copies of the book may be obtained from any of the following:

Peoples Books 5, High Street Camp, Belgavi 590001, Karnataka, India, Phone: +91-831-2460991/9343413193, Email: childrenstalim@gmail.com

 Earthcare Books 10 Middleton Street, Kolkata 700071, West Bengal, India, Phone: +91-33-22296551/22276190 Email:  earthecarebooks@gmail.com, Website: http://www.earthcarebooks.com

 

 

 

Forest management policies over the last thirty years

Last year the Indian environment’s Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change ministry published a “draft national forest policy 2016” on its website, with a call for comments. News of the misguided proposals to relocate/evict human beings from “wildlife rich areas” was published on this website.

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In January there was a summary of Devinder Sharma’s account of his recent journey to the forests of Vazhachal-Sholayar in the Western Ghats who depend on forest resources for their sustenance. As he wrote: “Home to hornbills, elephants and over 200 animal species, the Vazhachal-Sholayar forests are rich in resources for the Kadar tribes to bank upon”. He explained:

“Since the Kadar tribes have not been traditionally into agriculture, the maintenance and conservation of forest resources is vital to them”.

80s – 90s: Joint Forest Management  

A draft forest bill for draconian controls on access was abandoned in 1982, following mass Chipko demonstrations. The 1988 National Forest Policy adopted conservation measures and focussed on meeting local needs. The success of pilot schemes in West Bengal and Gujarat in improving the quality and area under forest was shown in remote sensing satellite data (Sarin 1995). A government order of 1990, which provided for the formation of Village Forest Committees (VFCs) to protect forests said: “Access to forest land and usufruct benefits should be extended only to the beneficiaries who get organised into a village institution, specifically for forest regeneration and protection.”

Initially, 15 state governments issued resolutions assuring participating villages free access to most non-timber forest products (NFTPs) and a share in the profit from poles and timber, when harvested, in return for forest protection (as specified by the forest department). It is said that after initial successes in West Bengal and Haryana, as of 2005, 27 states of the Indian Union had various JFM schemes with over 63,000 FPCs involved in the joint management of over 140,000 km² of forested land. (The link: Resource Unit for Participatory Forestry (RUPFOR) – Joint Forest Management – About JFM unfortunately led to a website on a different subject.

In the 90s TV producer Fiona Charlton-Hill published her dissertation for the School of Oriental and African Studies on JOINT FOREST MANAGEMENT IN INDIA – A KARNATAKA CASE STUDY, SEPT.15TH 1996). Some findings:

  • The increased height of trees had resulted in new leaves growing beyond easy reach and affected the production of Sal leaf plates.
  • Leaves from Tendu bushes, used in the production of bidis, had been shaded too much by the denser tree growth.
  • Quarrels between villagers and the Karnataka Forest Department (KFD) over the grazing of animals on forest land –  92 cattle used for draught power –  were the major impetus behind the institution of Joint Forest Policy Management (JFPM).
  • It was decided that women were to be responsible for collecting firewood and fodder leaves.
  • Microplanning included demands for smokeless chulas, safe drinking water, a gobar gas plant, bamboo for fencing, seedlings of a plant which produces a large quantity of green leaves, for 21 other species of plants and profit sharing.
  • Previously acacia had been cut by Alga Ulga and Sathgeri villagers for firewood and fencing. The guard posted had not prevented this. KFD now pays a watchman and the committee – in groups of five – now watches the forest and the watchman.
  • The most successful JFPM was in Sathgeri.

Villagers enabled to speak directly to Whitehall by video 

w-ghats-sirsiPandurang Hegde, a local Karnataka activist and Chipko/Appiko Andolan veteran, came to CHS in Mumbai with written statements, asking for help. A letter giving an account of various corrupt practices was sent to the [British] director in New Delhi, who did not reply. Then the ODA in UK was contacted and this director sent a furious letter to CHS colleagues for ‘going over his head’.

As letters of complaint and reports were being ignored by the UK government’s Overseas Development Agency (ODA) representative in Delhi, The Ecologist contacted CHS and paid for a video with a subtitled translation. Shot on location in the Western Ghats, it presented villagers’ evidence about the problems arising from the Joint Forest Management (JFM) projects heavily funded by the UK Overseas Development Agency. The video was taken to UK by Pandurang Hegde where CHS’ Jeremy Seabrook and Nicholas Hildyard of the Ecologist arranged and chaired gatherings at which the video was shown and Pandurang. The ODA (now DFID) officials agreed to a meeting at their London office, and, after seeing the video, agreed that an enquiry should be held.

Is Community Forest Management a better answer?

odisha-forest-women

NDTV reports that in Gunduribadi, a tribal village, the women of the village took charge of guarding forests in 2000 after the male members failed to do so. “If the men objected to the illegal cutting of woods, they would get beaten up. But, we were not harmed. So, we took over forest patrolling from them,” says Ramma. This movement was successful: the ‘Sata Bhai’ or the ‘Seven Brothers’ hill which was barren until a few years ago is alive once again.

 In 2013 Ashish Kothari wrote about his visit to the Baigas of Madhya Pradesh who were campaigning to regain their traditional rights of access, to restore the diversity of their forests and to protect national wealth.

timber-2-baiga-mp

Birju Singh Bindhia explained: “Not so long ago, we had a much greater variety of plants in this forest. Then the Forest Department came along with its working plan involving coupe felling, which included getting rid of crucial species like mahulikayafal, lianas and others that interfered with the felling. They also deliberately encouraged only sal so that over the years other species disappeared. Seeing this, our own people also indulged sometimes in felling, and we lost the traditional restraint that our elders had practised. But now we are bringing them back, and nature is responding.”

Those with a keen interest in the subject might wish to read the devastating analysis of JFM as practised at the time: Same Platform, Different Train, The Politics of Participation, Corner House Briefing 04, by Nicholas Hildyard, Pandurang Hegde, Paul Wolverkamp and Somersekhave Reddy, 3rd March 1998

Tigers and Tribals in India

Sharad Vats asks: “Who needs more conservation; Tiger or the Tribes of India? “

He explains that the government is trying to protect an endangered species and is considering the relocation of some tribal villages to give the tiger a safe area in which to live.

tiger

In April it was reported that for the first time in this century, the global tiger population in the wild has grown to 3,890 in April 2016 from 3,200 in 2010 – an increase of almost 22%.

Baigas have been the biggest conservators of the forest for centuries

The tribes in question are the Baigas (below), who – like the tigers – have lived for centuries in the forested districts of Mandla and Balaghat, which house Kanha National Park. Baigas practice shifting cultivation, which the government feels drives deforestation. But Sharad thinks that it is the development strategy of the nation which leads to deforestation. He explains that during his recent visit to the area via Nagpur he saw expansion of National Highway 7 cutting few thousand trees and asserts that this expansion of roads network, and small Tehsils like Baihar, Paraswada, Birsa is accounting for more deforestation than are the tribals.

baigas

In 2005, Sunita Narain, appointed chair of a Tiger Task Force reviewing the management of tiger reserves in the country, pointed out: “the British stripped the forests of Ratnagiri in coastal Maharashtra to make ships and railway lines and independent India sold its forests for a pittance to the pulp and paper industry. This was the extractive phase. Sharad adds: “Mining is destroying forests at a much faster rate than tribals could destroy in 200 years – but they would not do so. Their wants and desires are few, dependent on the forest for their livelihood and so seeing the need to preserve them”.

The Forest Act 2006 was passed following massive national demonstrations involving hundreds of thousands of people. Sharad singles out Ekta Parishad which organized some of those walks and demonstrations.

He continues: “But an ad hoc shifting is not a solution. One must do it scientifically, strategically, with their sanctions and without sufferance. Not easy to do, but possible for sure. Also, if a master plan is made to shift only some crucial villages and not all then it is fine. One must remember that Baigas have been the biggest conservators of the forest for centuries. Making a forest bereft of them could actually put the forest at risk, and this the administration and forest department realizes well”.

Sunita points out that these tribal lands are rich in natural resources — minerals, forests, diverse wild plant, insect & animal species – and are the source of water that irrigates farms, that villagers and city-dwellers drink. Her recommendation is that policies to build green, enterprising futures from the use of forests – which provide fish, firewood, fodder, building materials and raw material for industry – are needed.

Sharad Vats ends, “For me Tiger and Tribes are both integral to each other. None can be sent to another planet to survive, they must co-exist”.

And Sunita says that “the answer, untested across the world, lies in our abilities to use the environment so that forests and people can coexist”.

 

 

 

‘From Western Science to Liberation Technology’

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Celebrating People’s Knowledge

warlis

A colleague recently ‘e-introduced’ a young researcher from the UK pursuing an MPhil in Anthropology at Pune University, who wants to study the evolution of community led environmental movements in India based on indigenous knowledge.

Information has been sent and the enquiry led to the discovery of the text of ‘ ‘From Western Science to Liberation Technology’, by Winin Pereira – first published in July 1990 (Anusandan, Bombay), revised Indian edition 1993, pp 83, Earthcare Books, (out of print)

Chapter Titles: 

Western Science and Technology.

Western Science and Domination.

The Economics of Western Science.

Western Science as a Common Heritage.

Western Science as Self‑Destructive and Unsustainable.

The Question of Ethics.

Liberation Science and Technology.

Liberation Technology.

Liberation Science.

Living in an Unjust World.

Conclusion.

This book may be accessed here as a pdf: western-science-a4format10213

 

 

 

45% less GM cotton grown in India this season: indigenous seeds and other food crops are sown

Information sent by a reader is summarised below.

20 June: decision to cultivate GM mustard deferred

The Economic Times reported that Delhi University’s Centre for Genetic Manipulation of Crop Plants had sought permission from the biotech regulator GEAC for release of its transgenic mustard variety into the environment. In an earlier meeting in February, GEAC had asked the institution to submit more details to it about the field trial. Today the decision was deferred and its risk assessment group was asked to look into the deficiencies pointed out by a sub-committee and then notify the applicant to make a fresh dossier and submit its report within 60 days. It will then be put in public domain for further consultation.

india cotton picking

27 June: According to the figures compiled by Nagpur-based Central Institute of Cotton Research(CICR), published in the Times of India, 72,280 hectares of indigenous varieties of cotton are being grown this season in northern states, against about 3,000 hectares last year.

There has been a major dip in the demand for genetically modified Bt cotton seeds this kharif season and there has been a sharp increase in use of local varieties of cotton seeds instead of Bt in the northern states. The area seems to have gone up but the supply of indigenous seeds did not keep pace, sources said. A similar trend was expected in other cotton growing areas of the country too. The overall area under cotton is expected to go down this year.

Sources in this sector attributed a number of reasons for lower Bt cotton demand. Last year, there were heavy losses in north due to a white fly attack. Though makers of Bt cotton do not claim protection against white fly bug, local seeds are known to have resistance against this pest, sources said. Bt cotton has resistance against bollworm pest, considered a major risk. Last year pink bollworm infestation was reported in Bt seeds too. This reduced the farmers’ confidence, sources said. Poor yields and rates to cotton had made farmers turn to other crops like pulses, maize and soyabean, said a source in a seed manufacturing company in the state.

27th June: Punjab Update reports that the cotton growing area in Punjab and Haryana has declined 27% to 7.56 lakh hectares in the 2016-17 crop year as farmers shifted to other crops after incurring huge losses due to whitefly pest attack last year.

These two states had planted cotton in 10.3 lakh hectares in the 2015-16 crop year (July-June) but a senior Agriculture Ministry official said that farmers were scared to grow cotton, fearing futher whitefly pest attacks that had massively damaged the crop in these two states last year. Though these states had advised cotton growers to complete the sowing operation timely before May 15 to avoid any whitefly infestation again, farmers did not opt for cotton, despite high prices in the market at present. Instead, they have shifted to pulses, paddy and other crops in these states, the official added.

The country’s total area sown to cotton remained lower by 45% at 19.07 lakh hectares so far in 2016-17 compared with 34.87 lakh hectares in the year-earlier period.

 

 

 

Women’s collective: farming in Kerala

 

Fran Wilde (Action Village India), forwarded an account of women’s collective farming in Kerala to us recently. Devinder Sharma was contacted and his friend and colleague from Kerala confirmed that this cheering initiative ‘has helped the state in many ways’. She continues:

One: as the report says 2.5 lakh women are involved. Women are now recognised as food producers.

Secondly the fallow land is utilised in a productive manner without much individual investment.

Thirdly the production of food is increased. This is very relevant for Kerala because the state produces only 15 % of the requirement. Vegetable production has increased in the last 5 years. A lot of improvement is needed and govt has to invest in infrastructure and capacity building (especially on organic techniques) in women, etc etc.

Groups of women taking up collective farming in the State under Kudumbasree – a summary

kudumbashree 2backyard accounting(Picture: Backyards are handy for weekly accounting sessions by neighbourhood groups. Credit: K.S. Harikrishnan/IPS)

Prof. Ananya Mukherjee, who was interviewed by a journalist from The Hindu newspaper (link above), said that collective farming is by far the best method to ensure food security, especially when women are the producers, The advantage is access to food in the hands of those who need it (are food insecure), she said. She has studied100 groups spread across the State and those who had been doing ‘steady work’ for more than three years, but in all, about 2.5 lakh women in the State in about 30,000 groups are engaged in collective farming in the state.

Together they cultivate over 27,000 hectares growing paddy, tapioca, pineapple, plantain, vegetables and other items that are used to ensure that the growers get enough to eat and the surplus is sold in the open market.

Most of the groups, who started with small areas for cultivation, have increased their production by taking up more fallow land, rejuvenating it and cultivating it. Land tenure is the major constraint of the women engaged in collective farming. They are unsure about retaining the leasing rights of the vacant, fallow land that they rejuvenate and prepare for cultivation. About 21% of women groups expressed a wish to become landowners and some have managed to buy land. Organic farming is the aim of at least 45% of the 100 groups Prof. Mukherjee has studied. Some groups make organic manure for their cultivation.

The survey found that most of the women who have been able to leave wage labour are very happy. “There was no end to work earlier”, they said. Now they have control over production, more money and time on their hands. In fact, their economic empowerment has made them confident, Women who did not go out of the house for any activity are now fully engaged in collective farming and inspiring other women to achieve economic independence in this way.

Kudumbasree (family prosperity) groups – launched by the state government in 1998 to work at local level to eradicate poverty through ‘concerted’ community action, have bonded women together regardless of caste, religion and party affiliations, providing a strong support system.

Prof. Mukherjee, whose works include ‘Exploring the Paradox of Profits and International Political Economy series’ believes that this collective farming initiative offers a lesson for the world which will be needed to address any forthcoming food security crisis.

Read more about the groups’ waste management, other products, access to microfinance and more in an article published by the Inter Press Service Agency (photograph above): http://www.ipsnews.net/2008/09/india-empowering-women-is-about-basic-funding/

kudumbashree 2 fran building

See Fran’s videos on a range of initiatives in India here: http://www.actionvillageindia.org.uk/videos