Saturday, September 19, 2009

Food security, Food safety ,Sustainability and Cows

Our farmers under the guidance of our scientists very successfully brought about the ‘Green Revolution” to give us the food security. By the turn of events, in 2007 we are compelled to launch an urgent Food Security Mission. While deliberating on this in a down to earth manner, there is also need for a little parallel lateral thinking.

From Babar Nama it is known that in the 16th century, India was flush with overflowing granaries and wealth. Even in 18th century very high agriculture yields by the farmers of the then Madras Presidency is confirmed by the British Gazetteers. Just in about two centuries, food surplus India was to suffer the infamous Bengal famine of 1942. But it has taken only a few decades to wipe out the surplus of our “Green Revolution”. The recently reported incidents of suicides among our farmer brothers should also impel us to pay urgent attention also to any additional changes which have come upon the rural scene.

We should be simultaneously looking for strategies to make our Food Security sustainable.
During the deliberations of experts in the conference held in IARI Pusa on 6th Sep. 2007, with Hon. Dr M.S.Swaminathan in the chair, very lively and open house discussions took place.
Following were among main points that emerged for attention.

1. Mental attitudes /perceptions of the people
2. Bringing about improvement in the knowledge and skill base
3. Quality of the available farm input materials i.e. Fertilizers, Seeds, Pesticides etc.
4. Cash needs and management
5. Inadequacy of Weather forecast
6. Problems related to water for irrigation
7. Post harvesting operations
8. Market accessibility and role of SEZ
9. Alternative Energy sources
10. Sustained higher productivity
11.Future consumption patterns( to include animal husbandry dairy milk, poultry, fish and horticukturre

1. Attitudinal Issues.
1.1-Indians had a tradition of community participation, which accounted for proper management of the joint community resources like Community Pastures, Water bodies, Schools, and a number of locally specific Social participative institutions. Erosion of values of these socially relevant but very important for the community customs took place, when these community activities were sought to be taken over by the British Administration .
In the post Independence era, corrective action is being sought to be implemented through reviving and empowerment of Panchayats.
The connection of Panchayat Raj with sustainability of life and Food Security puts the importance of Panchayats in a better perspective. The common community services like looking after the community pasture lands, Water bodies, Sanitation, Health, Primary level Education , Waste Management, Cooperative agriculture and Animal Husbandry related matters have great relevance for sustainable community security.

1.2- Sanitation , Health and Nutrition have been a very neglected area, particularly relating to Would be mothers, Girl Child and Infants in the rural communities.
The mind nutrition foundation of UK1 has established that neonatal and subsequent malnutrition, results in an Unenterprising, Lazy-both physical and mental, Fatalistic attitudes, encouraging parasitic life style. Mid day school milk and Meals programmes also fall in the corrective activities.
Pregnant mother, infant nutrition program had been launched by UN long back. In fact it was reported that of all the countries, China had the distinction of best implementation of these rural nutrition programme. The spectacular progress made by China is attributed to the new generation of young Chinese which has emerged with a more positive proactive mental attitudes, as a result of the Chinese nutritional programs launched in rural areas way back in the 1970s.2
Recently even in USA, Would be mother &Child Nutrition programme have been launched.
NGOs in India also are engaging themselves many initiatives in this field. But a more comprehensive National level initiative is required.
The program will be more sustainable by making available and propagating use of home grown Green Leafy vegetables, and Milk from cattle which almost every rural family used to keep.
Most of these objectives were met traditionally by the Indians by keeping household cows. This practice needs to be encouraged and revived.

2. Knowledge Skill Base
Extension Services have a tendency to be located in Urban areas.
There should be a reorientation of the existing extension services. Every village cluster should have its own extension center. These Extension Centers should be run as sustainable production centers, in affiliation with the nearest University / Research Lab. The individual units should be constituted as small registered bodies, of young local Agri/Vet graduates .
Modern irrigation techniques like drip irrigation, Hydroponics, Green house nurseries, Crop rotation, Soil enrichment by green manures, Biodynamic, Biofertilizers locally grown and developed area specific Horticulture and Fruit crops and good Animal Husbandry Dairy farming practices will be automatically transferred to the local community by actual demonstration of successful practice, on profitable basis.
Their success will itself be a source of knowledge transfer and skill enhancement agent for the area. The seed money for starting such activities can be sourced from Socially responsible Corporates and the Rural Banking input channels. These extension centers to be successful, have to Keep Good Cows .

3 Quality of input materials and soil fertility

The locally home grown materials like biopesticides, biofertilizers, seed treatment and crop sprays only can ensure the cheapest and most reliable products.
The biodynamic ( Rudolf Steiner) preparations from Cow Horns are also now a strategy being promoted even by USAD.
India had a long tradition of soil remediation by Organic and green manures, Crop rotation, seed treatment with Cow Urine and Neem preparations.( Vriksh Ayurved enlists use of such herbs as Ribes Embilium - a deworming agent- as soil sanitizer before planting of trees.)
Even the use of chemical fertilizers has to be supplemented with Organic Manure. Use of gypsum requires Organic manure. Without cow where does one get free Organic Manure?
Even seeds could be mostly home produce selected and saved by proper guidance.
For these strategies training in making good reliable home made preparations needs to be standardized and Keeping of house hold Cow has to be encouraged . Home made products not only ensure more reliable quality of Farm inputs, but also reduce the cash requirements of the farmer.

4. Productivity
Improved quality of input materials and soils fertility, aided by modern knowledge skill imparted by the local extension model farm will be a big change agent in bringing the productivity improvement. With better, skills and knowledge access soil, input materials and healthy farmers productivity can not be low . For that you have to keep House hold cows as discussed above.

5. Weather Forecasting
The quality of meteorological data depends on the accuracy of the observations and the number of weather data collecting stations. Setting up of an individual data collection point is a capital intensive operation, and for good weather forecasting a very large number of data collecting posts is required to be installed. With modern scientific advances and communication development this process can be made very cost effective and accurate.
It is suggested that a proposal should be submitted for the Govt to consider to encourage and allow making use of all the mobile telephone system towers in the country to also record and automatically transmit weather data for the use by the Meteorological Department. This can be a win -win situation for all, the Mets, telecoms and agriculture. As directed by Hon. Dr M.S. Swaminathan, this suggestion has already been forwarded to the Secy, DST GOI.

6. Water

As a matter of conscious planning water intensive crops like paddy and sugar cane should be encouraged to shift to coastal areas, with greater emphasis on Rain water harvesting.
Crops requiring less water have to encouraged in drier areas. For better moisture retention the Humus and Organic Content of the Soil has be improved. This can be done only by encouraging household cows.

7. Post Harvesting:
Refrigeration and cold chain are very important links in post harvesting operations. The zero energy cold chambers could be propagated in areas where feasible. But the most energy efficient green strategy is making available refrigeration to rural masses by devices working directly from Biogas. Kerosene operated refrigerators were very common up 1940s. The gas Operated refrigerators are now becoming popular in USA. In India after cooking of the meals, every individual small family biogas plant is left with some surplus biogas. The quantity of surplus bio gas is too small for power generation, but is adequate to operate a small refrigerator. In India we should have biogas operated refrigerators available for rural areas. This offers very good business opportunities for commercial houses to take interest. This subject has also been referred to the Secy. DST . GOI.
For Bio Gas you need to keep a house hold cow.

1. Market Access: Role of SEZ
Indian Agriculture produce was Organic by default, and has great significance for nutrition and health of the community. Organic Agriculture products, , Horticulture, Floriculture &Milk have greatest market potential in the New World.In fact Milk is already being called the New Oil of the modern world.
Large corporate bodies taking interest in setting up of SEZ , should be advised to develop and create Organic Produce base in their SEZs. This will, but not only open the potentially very big international market for them also ensure a quantum jump in the earnings of a farmer.
But to ensure this strategy, one must encourage keeping of a household Cow, and simultaneously setting up of large Organic agriculture and Dairy Farms in SEZ.

10.Cash Resources
With home grown quality inputs of seeds, fertilizers, organic manure Milk and Milk products for nutrition and energy needs met by Biogas and Organic Produce, through a house hold Cow the Cash requirements of a farmer will be minimized.

To conclude the last suggestion is to develop an integrated Animal Husbandry promotion and development , Horticulture mission approach for sustainable Food Security. An animal feed mission will require to be considered as an integral part of Food Security Mission.

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