Intro: The Prime Minister wants India to be an exporter and not an importer. Adopting Organic Farming in large areas offers an opportunity to become exporter of organic items.
In his first speech in the Lok Sabha, PM Modi made brief reference to Organic Farming. He recommended the adoption of 100 per cent of Organic Farming by Sikkim. He referred to the ever increasing demand for organic food all over the world, the remunerative prices that the enlightened consumer is willing to pay for food which is free from poisonous residues and the possibility of improving farmers’ real income.
Later, during the budget session, the Finance Minister declared that a grand sum of 100 crore has been provided for promotion of organic farming in the current fiscal year. The Finance Minister failed to mention that there is a provision of only Rs. 50,000 crore for subsidy to manufacturers of Urea, which the farmers need it for production of food grains. This confusion about the need of external inputs in agriculture is the gift of the Green Revolution Technology trusted on the Indian farmers by our American friends who have guided the Green Revolution under the garb of USAID (United States Agency for Internatio-nal Development). Our agricultural scientists were taught to forget that the air contains 78 per cent nitrogen which is free. What the farmers need is the presence of nitrogen fixing bacteria in the soil? We must learn from the experience of Cuba who became self reliant in food in just 3 years. I published a booklet titled, Cuba is organic by default, India can be by design.
Before I recommend adoption of the Cuban example, the readers must know what happened in Cuba. Here is a very brief account.
The close relations between the USSR and Cuba are well known, the enmity between Cuba and USA is also well known. Cuba is known for its production of tobacco and sugar which it used to sell to the USSR at prices well above the world market rates. In fact, USSR used to provide food, tractors, tires, diesel, fertilizers etc. in exchange for sugar and tobacco. Under the guidance of USSR, Cuba had adopted chemical agriculture, mono culture and large farms. Most farmers were shifted to factories and cities and their lands were consolidated in large holdings of 1,000-1,500 acres to suit the use of heavy machines like tractors and harvesters. However, a few farmers who opposed the consolidation were allowed to cultivate their lands without any aid from the State such as tractors or fertilizers. Thank God they were not killed for non-co-operation to a State scheme.
Out of the total South American population, Cubans are only 2 per cent. But out of the scientists in South America, Cuba has more than 12 per cent. These scientists came together and discussed the problem of shortage of food in the absence of chemical fertilisers. They knew that the farmers who opted out of the consolidation of land holdings were producing the food for themselves and their limited customers without using any chemical fertilizers and were happy. They decided to examine the soil of such farmers and noticed that these soils were very rich in the varieties and the number of micro flora as is available in a forest where large trees grow well without application of any chemical fertilizers. The Cuban scientists isolated these useful microbes and produced pure mother cultures in their central labs. They then trained young men and women to multiply these useful floras by simple fermentation process in small one room labs spread over the entire cultivable area and these biological fertilizers were supplied to all farmers free of charge at a very small cost to the nation. The Cuban farms became fertile and started producing all the food they needed without any outside help.
In order to meet the shortage quickly, they also roped the urban population by encouraging kitchen gardens on all land available whether it was as small as 10 sq meters or as big as an acre. The citizens were encouraged to grow vegetables or rear chicken to produce edibles. They were allowed to sell their produce and keep the profits. Today, there are more than 10,000 such small gardens in the capital city of Havana. The second step is to provide a desi breed cow to all farmers. Her urine and dung, when fermented, will ensure fertility of the soil. Potent bio-fertilizers can be added at nominal cost. These exercises will also increase employment and incomes.
Indian consumers will benefit the most as they will get tasty healthy, poison-free food at almost the same price that they are paying today. The improvement in health cannot be quantified in terms of money.
-Manohar Parchure (The writer is a Organic farming expert and Independent Environmental Services Professional)