Archive for November 2015
As I mentioned in a post earlier today, repeated extreme weather events (are they increasing in frequency?) such as hail storms, heat and cold waves, unseasonal rains, cyclones, are laying bare the faulty premise of today’s agricultural system, not just in India but across the world. Those farmers who are holding out against the pressures of the market & the agri establishment and are going in for multi-cropping are able to take home something. While most farmers who depend on prescriptions, typically of mono cropping the latest hot thing in the market, are having to migrate to manual labour markets in urban areas.
On most sustainable farming forums, many an agri. scientist and dept. official have waxed eloquently about the merits of multi-cropping and the need to move towards that. And there have been a few schemes and programs that promote mixed cropping. But these are too few and are no where sufficient in meeting the need of the hour.
I feel its time to take it up a notch – make mutli/mixed-cropping mandatory to avail of any government incentives or subsidies in farming. Stop using public money to push farmers further into the mono cropping trap and deeper into debt. There have been enough farmers ending their lives, almost all of them were practicing mono-cropping, and those surviving getting buried deeper and deeper in debt. Instead of spending ever more amounts of public money on a failed model, let us change course and consciously put our resources behind a form of farming that is economically viable and socio-ecologically sustainable. We should stop the use of tax payer money to fund the destruction of farmers’ soil, their families and their children’s future. All this for supporting a supply chain that even after all this provides empty calories and chemical rich things labeled as ‘food’.
Unseasonal rains and hail storms in Feb-Mar hit North India. The wheat and other rabi crops were almost there, ready to be harvested in a few weeks when the storms hit. Thousands of farmers across the subcontinent lost anywhere from 30 to 70% of their crop.
During the regular monsoon, many places in the subcontinent went dry for weeks on end. It was drought conditions in atleast 300 districts moving some of the state governments to push farmers to go for contingency crops. Luckily, there were some rains in the later part of the season. Though it was too late to take up any planting then, those who had planted were able to breathe a little easier.
In the last two weeks, successive low pressure regions in the Bay of Bengal have caused incessant rains in Tamil Nadu, south interior Karnataka, Rayalseema and Andhra. The ground nut crops, that had survived the dry stretch and revived by the late rains, were ready for harvest. The pigeon pea (tuvar) crops were flowering. A good rain at this stage would make harvest ground nut easier and would also be very beneficial for all those crops in the flowering stage (like Sorghum, Pegion Pea, etc.). But as the rains have continued day after day, what was initially greeted as good news by farmers has become the harbinger of misery. There are reports of ground nuts starting to sprout in their pods and of pigeon pea flowers starting to wither and fall due to the excessive moisture.
In the North, almost zero precipitation in some 150+ districts have rendered the soil too hard to take up any sowing activity. The wheat crop is what feeds the millions in these parts and with no possibility of sowing, we are not just staring at a bleak and hard winter, but into a dry, hot and hungry summer ahead too. The Gangetic plains do get a good amount of precipitation in the winter months in the form of dew. Once wheat, mustard and other crops take root, this dew is sufficient to meet their water needs. So when most people are cursing the winter fog for causing delays and cancellations of trains and flights, farmers are keeping their fingers crossed, counting their blessings in anticipation of a good harvest. But the dew does not provide sufficient moisture for sprouting seeds or help in putting down roots for almost all commonly cultivated crops. If any of you have any ideas on what can be cultivated in such conditions, do share it in the comments or send me an email.