OB011

From: Devi

Sent: Thursday, March 30, 2006 7:09 PM

This is a discussion which has been going on in our yahoo group , and I would be delighted if you could send us a reply ....on the points Teddy has raised....

On Mon, 27 Mar 2006 Teddy wrote :

Hi All and esp Devi,

Its just amazing to see the power of internet and its communities in action, I am truly impressed at how we are able to generate so much interest around organic farming.

First and foremost I didn't have any firm views either way on organic farming till this discussion, I have been thinking about it and here are some random thoughts:

As some one coming from farming family one would have thought I should have serious views on the topic, but I don't, I think the reason is apart from every thing else a piece of agricultural land and hard work has to generate enough for the farmer so that he can eat, pay wages and has enough left to sow and invest for the next season. In large parts of India incl my place Karimnagar this is a far cry. So as a farmer I think I would only be interested in stuff that enables me to earn a decent living, I am not too sure where organic farming falls in this.

These are some of my thoughts and not a critique of Teddy's comments.

30 years ago, all farming in India was organic. It is a strong statement of our times that we are discussing it as an exotic activity. 20 years from now ,there may be discussions on whether mother's milk is good for the baby and there may be mailing lists and yahoo groups of mothers who feed their babies. And some more years later, most "food" may be synthesized out of chemicals and food from plants and animals may be called "natural food" to be affordable only to the CEOs of tobacco and software companies!

Food by itself has an ecological footprint in today's central economy. http://www.tomdispatch.com/indexprint.mhtml?pid=71299

We are all grievously mistaken in our naive belief that money in the bank assures us of food. Food is produced by Nature and not by economics or industry. If we continue to rape nature and ruin resources, food will become an exotic commodity. Already good drinking water is very expensive in the metro cities. So is clean air.

Actually organic farming is very profitable if it is planned and managed well and sold directly to end customers locally. A 2 acre irrigated farm can meet the food requirements of a family of 4 or 5 and cause minimal damage to the environment and also earn 75000 to 100000 rupees per year.

http://www.beesfordevelopment.org/info/info/enterprise/one-hectare-of-land-gives.shtml

If it helps as a farmer I would be happy otherwise I don't think I care. On another note Indian farmer's destiny is decided by monsoons (no rains during sowing time or huge rains during harvest time), money lenders (3% pm interest rates are still very common), middlemen (whats bought in village at x is sold in town with in hours at 5 to 10 x) and markets that are very shallow (enduring all the odds if the farmer do manage to get a good crop there is either no buyers or no price as every other farmer got a good harvest, eg suicide of cotton farmers in AP because of good crop), I don't know if organic farming addresses at least some of these issues, otherwise its not an easy vocation at all.

I have covered some of these in my suggestions for a risk management plan for the farmer

http://earth.org.in/index.php?page=OB021

Farming is an easy vocation if we grow our food and sell the surplus. It is a deeply stultifying profession if done as a business venture.

As a father of two infants any thing that is healthy I would be happy, I am sure organic farming is definitely more healthy than inorganic farming ( is that right? Is inorganic farming about using fertlizers, pesticides, high yielding variety seeds, etc?).

yes and yes :)

'''As we pay a premium for many other things which we consider healthy like tetra pack milk against bottle or polythene packet milk, etc I would also pay a premium for this. Of course how much premium is charged would decide what % of people would want to pay for it or consider it worthwhile to pay for. This population has grown quite a lot in west and even in India it is catching up. Bharthi (Airtel) group is investing a Billion Dollars in producing healthy vegetables and fruits for exports, so also is ITC and so also is Reliance and many others.

As an executive who gets occasionally bored with the art of making money for self and others the idyllic nature of going back to roots and growing your own stuff in the most natural way fascinates me and I am sure I will want to be part of it like many of you if not to the extent of quitting the job and doing it fulltime (kudos to Raja if he is planning to do the same and has the courage to follow it)'''

If you are married, doing this is a very uphill task (unless your wife too wants to be a part of the adventure)

'''One thing though that bothers me is I have been led to believe that India became self sufficient in food in 70's because of green revolution. And green revolution as I understand is about irrigation, seeds and fertilizers. So is green revolution than inorganic farming? Or is organic farming for classes and idealists and inorganic farming for masses?

'''

Green Revolution was the road to hell paved with the best of intentions. Almost a 3rd of good farm lands in India have gone arid due to the green revolution. Inorganic farming is mass production with scant regard for anything else (seed, soil, water or the worker). Genuine organic farming is production by the masses, forming a core component of a local economy.

Most of us wont eat food that is stolen or if it is got by killing the owner. Why do we then condone food that is made by killing nature? Food for now or today or next week is never our problem.. our problem is trying to provide for food-for-ever now!

Hi,

Thanks a ton for writing.

After I sent the mail I had visited your site earth.org.in and got your perspective on the questions I raised, which is very convincing.

I think gist is in your statement “Farming is an easy vocation if we grow our food and sell the surplus. It is a deeply stultifying profession if done as a business venture”.

Unfortunately most people including my family take it as a business venture.. it would be an easier task I think to convince some one to change if you show that change will be profitable economically.. in fact I got convinced on the economics of organic farming looking at some of the calculations you put on your site. However if you have to change the very basic outlook of people and tell them to stop being acquisitive, to not to want more it may become a very uphill task. May be one has to try a bit of both.

Some one has sent me a very good presentation on how the future looks if we don’t conserve water, encl it with this mail.

Bye,

Teddy

Hi Teddy,

Let me hasten to reply to your nice mail of 3rd April!

I understand that it is useless to tell the farmer to make less money - just as it is useless to tell it to anyone else. But, in trying to make money they hurt themselves very seriously in three ways: 1. they get into debt (sometimes to the point of suicide) 2. they quickly deplete/erode their capital : soil, seed and water. 3. they have almost lost the age old wisdom and know-how of indigenous agronomy. Farmers were getting lower yields before the so called green revolution; but they had no debts and had both self-respect and social respect. They were self-reliant or used local economies. If not rich in money, they were certainly rich in health, independence and leisure.

But what exactly is today's farmer trying to do? He is trying to run an organized agri business which is dependent on bought out seeds, fertilizers, pesticides and mechanized farm equipments for production, and the commodities market and its touts for sales. In addition, his business depends on electricity and ground water pumping equipment. If we trace the full cycle of this business enterprise from seed to the end sale and the money it produces, we see a road that is so full of risks and threats to the farmer and also the huge market opportunities it creates for industries. (Some accountant should volunteer to do a proper costing of each crop in both the modern method of cultivation and traditional organic farming- taking into account the costs of risk mitigation, depreciation of soil and ground water, provision for cost escalation of bought out components etc). So how can the sole proprietor of a business, which is almost always in debt, and on the brink of bankruptcy, be debt-free, let alone free?

I dont have an answer; but I am personally convinced that growing one's food organically and selling the surplus locally is an outstanding business model - simply because it entails some fundamental things like trees, animals, bio-diversity, water conservation ( through farm ponds - if you want to eat fish!). I am only 30% into this. In another year I may have made some more progress in this business model. I cant see any risk with this model - nor can I see any chance of it failing. If a family of 5 can grow all their food requirement from 2 acres then India doesnt need anything else - we have cultivable land of 40 cents per person (and a lot of arid land which can be reclaimed).

Basically farmers need education (not the school type but real life education) that will enable them to stand on their own legs. Aside of organic farming I cant see anything else that can make them free. And government and industry should leave the farmer alone - but this is a tall order, as both of them need to parasite on the peasant for their own survival!


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