Archive for the ‘Policy’ Category
In the light of good monsoon and expectation of increased credit demand and in order to boost agricultural production, the farmers need to be supported through Cooperative Banks, which purvey credit at their doorstep, to enable them to scale up their agricultural operation.
The approval will ensure increased availability of short term crop loans to farmers through Cooperative banks at reduced rate of interest.
This question comes up very often when taking about millets – were millets really staple grains in our ancestors’ diets?
For the sake of being informed about our history, let us dive into the Q of whether our ancestors ate millets as a staple.
That paddy needs more water, fertile soil and protection from pests is not something that has happened today. It has been historically true. That millets need very little water, grow in harsh conditions, in substandard soils and are pest resistant is also true.
And at any point in time we see, there has been a small proportion of land that was highly fertile, a larger proportion of land that was low on fertility and a much larger proportion of land that was pretty much uncultivable soil.
Superimposing these conditions and crop facts, it is beyond doubt in my mind that millets were cultivated on much larger swathes of land, and harvested in much larger quantities than paddy until very recently. Yes, I do see that my argument is not based on hard evidences. If you can see some flaw in the logic / suppositions, please do share so that I can correct myself.
The other aspect of this Q, is who were our ancestors. If we are from the privileged upper castes, or ancestors would have controlled the more fertile soils, cultivated the more sophisticated crops (such as paddy) and stored and processed them better.
If we are not so privileged and are born in one of lower castes, a dalit or an adivasi, then our ancestors would, very likely, not have had the resources that a crop such as paddy would require. But we would not have had much problem in growing millets.
We ate what we could grow. Millets were the staple of the masses. Paddy was the staple of the privileged. There are stories of how poor farmers and labourers cultivated paddy (or wheat) and millets along with other grains and produce. They would have to turn in all the paddy or wheat they had harvested to the land lords/zamindars/rich men and were allowed to keep only the millets they grew for their family’s consumption.
Food is aspirational, not just today, not just in India. Paddy has always been the food of those who have; of the privileged.
On a related note, if we are ready to be generous when considering the policy makers’ intentions in the lead up to the green revolution, this last point above is a very strong reason to choose to promote paddy and not millets. More on that in another post.
Do share your thoughts and comments.
Historically, farming was a rain fed practice. Even today, after spending lakhs of crores (or trillions, if you prefer that system of counting large numbers) of rupees and $s on irrigation systems and destroying almost all river ecosystems across the world, ~20% of cultivated land is irrigated. And ~60% of food production comes from rain fed farms. For more interesting facts and figures on irrigation, please see this comprehensive FAO ready reckoner and explore the website.
If we look at the budgetary outlays in India (and in other countries too) investments in agriculture are invariably dominated by investments in irrigation. Isn’t it high time people call the bluff and realized that if we really want to have a food system that survives the changing climate and tumultuous financial systems, we need to develop our rain fed farms.
Increasing spending on irrigation will of course mean more contracts and constructions. And construction, after all is the best way for people in power to make more money.
“There is a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow !! Oh ho, why do you worry about all the money we are making you spend to get to this pot of gold, or about the wrecked ecosystems we are leaving behind! you are such an ‘anti-national’ !!”
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’.
I started reading the water policy documents available online and the Water Data book 2005 seemed like a good starting point.
The irrigation potential created during the different five year plans leading up to the (then) current 10th plan reveals an interesting, and in my opinion disturbing, shift. A snapshot of the relevant section from the Water Sector at a Glance is pasted alongside. The potential area of land served by minor irrigation projects exceeded the potential area of land that would be served by major and medium irrigation projects during the same plan period. This was true up until the 10th five year plan beginning in 2002. In the 10th plan, a drastic change was made. While the area covered by major and medium projects almost doubled, the land area covered by minor projects was actually decreased!
According to the Central Water Commission, projects with a culturable command area (CCA) of more than 2,000 Ha. would be classified as a medium irrigation project while those with more than 10,000 Ha. would be classified as a major irrigation project. CCA is defined as the area that can be irrigated by a particular scheme and is fit for cultivation.
I think the adverse effects of large dams and canal systems were known long before 2002 … well, the 2006-7 annual report of the Central Water Commission speaks volumes about what the commission thinks of minor irrigation projects – these are just not significant enough in their plans to be compared with the major and medium irrigation projects!