Organic farming – The need of the hour

November 27, 2012 by  
Filed under newsletter-india

Harvesting Sonapiya rice cropAamir Khan’s TV Programme, Satyameva Jayate – Episode 8 was captioned, “Toxic Food-Poison On Our Plate”. This was an eye-opener which sent shivers down the spine of many. Everything we eat has more poison by way of artificial manures and chemical pesticides than acceptable norms. Even mother’s milk which is sacred and considered safe and best for the baby is contaminated 800% more than approved or permissible limits, by the food she eats. Every item of food we eat, the air we breathe, the water we drink and even our soil is polluted with deadly chemicals and pesticides. Cancer, miscarriages, cerebral palsy are some of the common results of such slow poisoning. At least 67 banned pesticides are still being used clandestinely in India today.  “400% more than permissible limits of this cocktail of pesticides is going into our bodies. What do we do in such a situation?” queried septuagenarian Mrs. Vaze.

Tarumitra Students’ Forum for the Environment, at Digha Ghat, Patna, Bihar started an experiment in Organic Farming in collaboration with St Xavier’s College at XTTI in January 2012. Four students from the Zamorano University in Central America together with Ms Margaret, Mr Kanchan and team from Tarumitra experimented by planting onions. This was a big failure.

Undaunted, realising that the land was fallow, their effort was to make the land fertile by using mulching with dry leaves and old newspaper. Mulching protects the top soil from direct sunlight and heavy rain. It increases the fertility of the land as well as controls weeds. Students from St. Xavier’s College helped out. Delhi Public School and Don Bosco Academy students joined the enthusiastic gang. Potatoes grew well and the first harvest was encouraging. Two Belgian students from Ghent University chipped in with their expertise of Pit, Pile and Vermi composting together with Solid Waste Management for organic farming. They planted green gram and got a bumper crop which was harvested and threshed by students from Bettiah.

At the end of summer, four A.N College interns experimented by planting three rare traditional local heirloom rice varieties of Bihar-Mirchaiya from Champaran, Sonapiya and Kalinga from Latehar which are almost extinct. These local varieties have resistance against diseases, adapt to climate changes, and need less water and less time for maturing. They used the SRI (System of Rice Intensive i.e. One seedling per foot) Method for transplantation and organic manure. Integrated Pest Management was followed. Sticks were planted to attract birds like Drongos to eat the insects on the rice crop.

Natural insect repellents and bio-pesticides were made from neem, custard apple and Karanj leaves together with water and fresh cow dung and sprayed on the rice crop to combat pests. Many students joined to weed the fields as the crops flourished. Kalinga rice sprouted grains and matured in 60 days. Mr George and Ms Margaret (TM staff) counted 140 grains for every ear of rice. This was harvested by Gyan Jyoti Public School and threshed by AVN High School students. Both were well organized and were a happy and memorable life time experience for many. Student farmers took turns to thresh by beating the sheaves of grain. Great slogans, jingles and songs were composed on the spot, extempore and shouted by all.

On 21st November 2012, thirty-five students from Hartmann School and 19 students from St. Joseph’s harvested the Sonapiya crop of rice under the guidance of two interns who worked in the field for three months. However, both Sonapiya and Mirchaiya took 120 days to mature. With sickle in hand , singing Magahi harvesting songs and slogans, the slushy fields upholding the golden ears of grain came alive and transformed itself into a festival gathering. On 22nd and 23rd November 142 B.Ed and M.Ed students and a few staff from St Xavier’s College harvested the Mirchaiya rice crop.

The co-ordinator of the Cultivation Programme Ms Margaret Molomoo and Mr Kanchan Pathak exclaimed, “We are thrilled that the Mirchaiya variety has yielded over 250 grains on each ear of rice.” “This is one of the best I have seen in my life,” said veteran farmer Fr Cherubim Sah, while Ghatta and Vikas from A. N College remarked, “It has been exciting and memorable to think that we have grown rice in the middle of a metro!” Anjali of class VIII from Hartmann School said that it was her first experience of actual harvesting in a rice field. “I enjoyed harvesting the Mirchaiya rice crop. The aroma was tempting”, said B.Ed student Malhar of St Xavier’s B.Ed College.

Sanjita and Kiran from St Joseph’s, who got a few cuts and bruises on their hands, commented that they would bargain anytime for another occasion to harvest rice with students of various schools. “Our concern for Bio-diversity is the sole reason for us to get involved” said Sanjita. “Of the 20,000 varieties of rice we had in the country, today we cultivate less than a 100 in the whole state. This is certainly alarming,” said Ms Molomoo who was trained under Master Fukuoka in Japan in organic farming. “Students from other schools will continue the harvest festival. Several schools have promised to send their students for the fun-filled threshing as soon as the sheaves are dry,” said Mr D.N Prasad.

Organic farming is the need of the hour and the signs of the times. Pesticides are necessary because of monocultures. Two lakh fifty thousand farmers have committed suicide, as a result of hybrid breeds of rice and other crops, the use of chemical fertilizers and too much of pesticides. Pests have become resistant to pesticides thereby demanding the need for stronger pesticides. Repeated applications of chemical manures and pesticides has degraded fertility and poisoned (slow poisoning) the land to such an extent that it can yield no more despite ever increasing amounts of chemical fertilizers and insecticides. Natural allies like earthworms, red wrigglers and even non- vegetarian pests have disappeared, cultivation becomes expensive and suicide is often the only way out to escape the large debts these farmers incur.

The state of Sikkim is a model for a pest free state. It is an organic state. Political will can bring about immense change. If Sikkim can do it, the whole of India can follow suit. Government subsidies must increase for organic farming. Let us heighten awareness about the dangers of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, promote organic farming and diversity and buy organic food despite the fact that it may be little more expensive. Only then can farmers growing organic crops survive! Only when the demand is great will the supply of organic food increase. Can we give organic farming a chance?

– Dr (Sr) Mudita Sodder RSCJ (With inputs from Dr (Fr) Robert Athickal SJ-Co-ordinator, Tarumitra Ashram and Bio-Reserve Centre).

Enter Google AdSense Code Here

Comments are closed.