Showing posts from 2013

All Good Earth and No Seed: Dilemma of an Organic Cotton Farmer

Sitaram, an organic cotton farmer struggles to develop non-GM cotton seed for his future generations. (Photo H. Sandhu)

On my recent visits to rural parts of India, I came across a group of organic farmers in Kasrawad town, Khargone District, Madhya Pradesh. These farmers switched from high input cotton growing to organic cotton about 15 years ago. I talked to some farmers and they claimed that the smiles on their faces are all due to organic way of producing cotton. They are free from debts owing to input costs of pesticides, GM (genetically modified) seed and fertilisers. Instead they are boasting of fixed deposits in their banks as compared to fellow conventional farmers who are still sticking to GM cotton and hoping for some relief and expecting end to the vicious cycle of debt and crop failure due to periodic droughts in the area.

Having said that these organic farmers are not rich or living a luxurious life however, they are living a decent life, largely free from debts and able …

Ecosystem Services in Managed Landscapes

Ecosystem Services in Agricultural and Urban Landscapes
Edited by Steve Wratten, Harpinder Sandhu, Ross Cullen and Robert Costanza

Ecosystem services are the benefits that humans derive from natural and modified ecosystems (for example, food, fuelwood, pollination of crops by insects, or water filtration by wetlands). The ecological wealth from ecosystems underpins economy and support life on earth. Agricultural and urban areas are the highly modified ecosystems. This book explores the role that ecosystem services play in these managed environments. The book also explores methods of evaluating ecosystem services, and discusses how these services can be maintained and enhanced in our farmlands and cities. This book will be useful to future proof these ecosystems to the global issues such as population increase, doubling of food demand by 2050 and loss of biodiversity worldwide.

GDP and Development

Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is a good measure of country’s growth. Does it inform the disparity in society and access to goods or services for poor at the bottom of the economic pyramid? Despite high economic growth number of poor continues to grow worldwide and natural resources deteriorate at faster rate. We need to understand the current model of economic development and how much loss of natural resources occur per unit of so called GDP growth and also how much impact on people whose life is displaced in the name of economic development. There is increasing social unrest in many parts of the world against big development plans. If these development programs are intended to improve the lives of people then why some people are protesting? We need to understand this from social and ecological point of view. As I am writing this, I came across news from India ( Kids join Posco stir:…

Food, Fibre and the Indian Farmer

In August 2012, an Indian parliamentary panel recommended against the use of genetically modified crop research. Some scientists, corporates and policy makers raised alarms that this will shake India’s food security. I believe, it provides very timely opportunity to explore alternative approaches such as agroecology which has potential to enhance productivity and farm sustainability through adoption of ecological techniques that improve functional agricultural biodiversity, avoids expensive inputs and are less energy intensive. More than half of India’s population are farmers and it is not surprising that corporate control of agriculture (through GM seed) is perceived as threat to livelihoods and food security. The focus of the discussion now should be on realising the potential of farmers to improve productivity and adaptation to climate change through increased investments in research and resources required for the development and uptake of sustainable agriculture that remained e…

Clean Development Mechanism: How clean and whom does it develop?

The United Nations promote the integration of poverty reduction and environmental sustainability through its various programs. However, such attempts have not been highly successful as more than one billion human beings continue to live under poverty and biodiversity continues to erode at the faster rate. This is primarily due to the failure to simultaneously address economic and environmental problems and lack of people centric agenda for poverty alleviation and for addressing environmental issues. The United Nations however has made tremendous progress in partnership with other agencies, governments and communities to work for the sustainable development. However, the outcome of such projects needs to be carefully evaluated for the future development programs. One approach taken by development organisation in the eastern Himalayan region in Darjeeling district, West Bengal, India, is to partner with corporates and develop projects such as Mini - Hydel power projects, using s…