GS-3, Indian Economy, Uncategorized

The attack on Agroecology

What is Agroecology?

  • It is recognized worldwide as a system that enhances fertile landscapes, increases yields, restores soil health and biodiversity, promotes climate resilience and improves farmers’ well-being.
  • Its practices are supported by many agricultural scientists, the Food and Agriculture Organization, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, farmers’ groups and several NGOs.
  • It basically makes the best use of nature’s goods and services while not damaging it. It works on enhancing healthy ecosystems, and build on ancestral knowledge and customs
  • As an agricultural practice, Agroecology mimics natural processes to deliver self-sustaining farming that grows a greater diversity of crops, drastically reduces artificial inputs (pesticides, fertilizers, antibiotics) and recycles nutrients (plant and animal waste as manure).

Context

  • National Academy of Agricultural Sciences, based on a brainstorming session that included industry representatives, sent a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi opposing Zero Budget Natural Farming (ZBNF).
  • ZBNF, developed and publicized by agro-scientist Subhash Palekar, has been adopted by Andhra Pradesh.

National Academy of Agricultural Sciences (NAAS)

  • It was established in 1990 and owes its origin to the vision of the late Dr. B. P. Pal, noted Indian agricultural scientist
  • The Academy focuses on the broad field of agricultural sciences including crop husbandry, animal husbandry, fisheries, agro-forestry and interface between agriculture and agro-industry.
  • The Academy’s role is to provide a forum to Agricultural Scientists to deliberate on important issues of agricultural research, education and extension and present views of the scientific community as policy inputs to planners, decision/opinion makers at various levels.
    • To achieve this, the Academy organizes and supports national and international congresses, conferences, seminars, symposia, workshops and brainstorming sessions on critical issues in the field of agricultural sciences.
  • One of its objective is to promote ecologically sustainable agriculture

Threat to powerful elites

  • Farming in India, as in most other countries, is largely under the control of powerful lobbies with vested interests and connections to deep pockets.
    • These include fossil fuel, fertilizer and seed companies as well as scientists with funding connections to agribusiness.
    • These lobbies perceive large-scale transitions to agroecology as a substantial threat to their influence on farming systems.

Examples of Corporate Threats and criticisms

  • In Britain, when public hearings were held in the early 2000s to discuss Genetically Modified (GM) crops, corporations threatened to pull grants from scientists on the committees if they voted against GM.
  • In some parts of Europe and in the University of California when individual scientists published articles describing how GM foods and crops affected the health of human beings and insects adversely, they were personally attacked and vilified.
  • When glyphosate trials against Monsanto were decided in favour of litigants who accused the company of causing cancer, some voices called to have only scientists on such juries.

Disturbing Trends

  • With this introduction of fertilizers into the Agricultural ecosystem, there is grave threat to food systems and biodiversity
  • As a result of industrial farming, friendly insects are no longer part of the agricultural landscape, water pollution is rampant, depleted soils are commonplace and falling groundwater tables have become the norm.
  • The opportunity cost incurred from investing only in industrial methods of agriculture is one that has been borne largely by the farming community and the natural systems.
  • The constant funding by the corporate groups to the scientists has become an established norm. It includes fields like Agriculture, pharmaceuticals and university research.
    • These papers published by the scientists funded by the corporates is it always legitimate? The questions are unanswered.
  • So, the enemy is being made out to be Mr. Palekar but the real attack is on agroecology, for the threat it poses to entrenched institutions.

Conclusion

  • ZBNF experiment is showing success largely because farmers are supporting it.
  • The practice may not be all zero budget, may not be fully successful everywhere and will need to be adapted to India’s various agroecological zones. But the ZBNF has led to sustainable agriculture
  • Farmers appear to be listening to and following Mr. Palekar.
  • If policymakers ignore the posturing and stay focussed on improving soil health and quality of life for farmers, while observing and supporting successes, farmers may even double their incomes and India’s food security could sow new beginnings.

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