Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Farm scene 2011--Growing Food Crops---


Noticed this in History History news-of 1966> 
"The United States announces the allocation of 900,000 tons of grain to fight the famine in India." Wonder how many recall this era with Ration queues etc.
I DO RECALL THIS ---then. I spent many years till 1978 in Shipping just loading & unloading Food Grain Imports from USA and some from Canada too- under PL480. Grain imports tapered off in early 80s only when finally the Green Revolution came in-
Now we see this too in 2011-

Food inflation soars to 17.05 pc, FM gravely concerned

Source: PTI
Costlier vegetables, fruits and milk pushed the food inflation to rise by 1.48 percentage points from 15.57 per cent in the previous week.
The Hindu, 3rd Feb 2011
Costlier vegetables, fruits and milk pushed the food inflation to rise by 1.48 percentage points from 15.57 per cent in the previous week.
Providing no respite to the common man, food inflation rose to 17.05 per cent for the week ended January 22, as Finance minister Pranab Mukherjee expressed “grave concern” and assured steps to moderate it.

Where are we today ? 


The Farm scene and understanding & learning about our Villages.

In school during the 50s we had an excellent text book on geography titled-
"Living & Earning a Living , which taught us so much about our country and its living conditions, agriculture and industry.It gave us youth a vivid explanationof our Country,  it's people, work and life.
As young students, we thus learnt early that Living was also to work for it in several domains and the basic needs of Food & Shelter -the essentials, was clearly realised -not frills and luxuries alone.
Food today is expensive and takes away about half our earning at any strata in India.
In recent months we have seen the humble item of Onion prices skyrocket and with much controversy satire and wit.....
But how does the Agri scene really work?

These posts and series looks at Farming and the agri sector by studying the simple approaches of Faith in Villagers to Agriculture, Trees..to all of  Nature, with some experiences and photographs taken at several  places in India.
I have spent over 45 years working in and seeing the handling of Food Grain, loading on ships --then after 1975 in inspecting imports under PL480 with FCI , later in some exports inc of Rice, Onions and overall in Agri Commodity Inspection like Haldi, Wheat, Oils ,Raw sugar still now--with Lab support .
WE have been working with a series of food managers like FCI, CARE, WFP in PDS schemes etc.

Since 2000 Private Dealers & MNCs entered.
Prices have spiralled with profiteering, hoarding and storage wastage, inc rodents and infestation. 

Today on the Food and agri scene one word would sum it up  thus:
"Food Supply management is a Challenge for all from the farmer to the housewife".

What is infuriating is the middle men and cartels (and add in wastage) who wreck the system and take out the profits leaving the Farmers high and dry.
Even today about 47% of India is agri and forest sector-some of which is non productive due to the complete  lack of basics-even seeds fertiliser and tools- but somehow managing.In fact we  stagnate at the level portrayed in the film" Mother India" in many places  today viz.
1) Farmers are poor -remain poor and in debt- eke out a living and are at the mercy of middle men and cartels. Many have committed suicide-yet work, some how. 
2) Despite Droughts and Floods and all the  vagaries-the crops are harvested---and distributed.
So we some how get our Food grains & Vegetables in our Markets and to our homes daily. 
Thank the Farmers
The photos and narration in this series is from real life experience and a study made  to verify ground reality position in Jan 2011.
Can we usher in some sensitivity &support ? 
Readers opinions are welcome.
Recommended reading-



• Enhances food security, increasing the availability and affordability of food, especially perishables. According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), it can yield 20-50 kg per sq m every year.
• Provides employment in gardening, composting, input supplies, marketing and distribution of food; also food processing and preservation. FAO estimates that globally 800 million urban residents are involved in such activities.
• Enhances nutritional value, since most of the food is organic and fresher.
• Offers cost and energy savings (in the packing, storage, refrigeration, and transportation of food) by diminishing ‘food miles’. Pollution and greenhouse gas emissions are reduced.
• Replenishes soil nutrients through composting of organic wastes, reducing the costs of present municipal waste management, which contaminates soil and water bodies. Significant ecological, economic and health benefits thus accrue.
• Enhances biological diversity of vegetation, birds, and other fauna.
• Aids soil and water conservation, increasing groundwater recharge, augmenting the quantity and quality of fresh water available.
• Sequestrates greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide in vegetation and the soil, ameliorating global warming, and potentially earning significant revenue in the emerging global economy of carbon trading. • Greens and beautifies cities, moderating the microclimate, making it more comfortable for living; it also enhances the potential for tourism.
• Empowers urban people, increasing community participation, checking social unrest. The enhanced women’s control over food cultivation improves household nutrition.
• Offers meaningful opportunities for nature study and environmental learning, reaching all sections, including the young.
For the first time in history, the human population – predominantly rural until now, has crossed the halfway mark to urbanisation. Today, over 50 per cent of all people live in towns and cities. These occupy less than two per cent of the earth’s surface, but use more than 75 per cent of its resources.
The urban per capita resource consumption is thus thrice that of rural areas. Given the present alarming rate of resource depletion and degradation, such a high ‘ecological footprint’ is plainly unsustainable. City dwellers are unwitting ecological parasites, eroding the very life support on which we vitally depend.

One way out is to encourage the trend of organic city farming, which is already on the rise.

By the end of the last millennium, 14 per cent of the world’s food was reported to be grown in urban areas. Most outstanding has been the performance of Cuban cities, particularly Havana. In 2006, Cuba’s urban (organic) food yield crossed three million tons! Other global success stories include Hanoi and Shanghai. In densely populated Hong Kong, 45 per cent of local vegetable needs were met through intensive cultivation on six per cent of the land.

Havana’s comprehensive strategy for urban agriculture is being replicated in several cities worldwide. In the early 1990s, after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the tightening of the US embargo, urban gardens began to sprout as a spontaneous response to severe food scarcity. The government responded by providing land access and services. In 1994, the world’s first Urban Agriculture Department opened in Havana, undertaking field research and training in organic food gardening. The city’s bylaws were amended to permit only organic methods.

Hundreds of neighbourhood horticultural clubs shared information, ideas, and experiences. ‘Seed Houses’ opened all over the city – to sell seeds, gardening tools, compost, bio-fertilisers, botanical pesticides, etc. at reasonable rates; and to serve as guidance/networking centres. Farmers’ markets and new marketing schemes were created. The deregulation of food prices enhanced profitability and incentive to increase yields. By 2003, urban agriculture provided 60 per cent of the vegetables consumed by Cuban city dwellers. The planting of several million trees (including fruit and nut trees) in and around Havana increased groundwater recharge, improving the water security and water quality of the Cuban citizens.

In India, Pune leads in city farming. Lata Shrikhande, a pioneer, began in the 1980s. She and her friends organised their neighbourhood to separate ‘wet’ (organic) wastes from ‘dry’ (non-biodegradable) wastes, and locally compost/vermicompost the former. Terrace vegetable gardens were initiated. These proved productive, motivating other families to follow suit. Presently, several thousand families compost their organic wastes and grow organic vegetables and fruit. The Pune Municipal Corporation is acquiring a three-acre plot at Salisbury Park – for urban agriculture by interested citizens, to whom it will provide land, seeds, and water free of cost. It is proposed to extend the programme to other city areas as well.

Within Mumbai, the late Dr Ramesh Doshi began over three decades ago. His highly productive terrace garden, growing a wide range of organic foods, featured in numerous press and TV reports. Presently notable is the organic terrace garden atop the staff canteen at Mumbai Port Trust, tended by Preeti Patil and her colleagues. Ms Patil is also the moderator of cityfarmers@yahoogroups.com which has many active members. Maharashtra’s city farming movement owes much to the late Prof S Dabholkar, who inspired, networked, and guided many enthusiasts.

In West Bengal, the East Kolkata wetlands offer the most striking example of traditional urban agriculture and nutrient recycling, employing 60,000 people; and yielding 150 tonnes of vegetables every day, and 15,000 tonnes of paddy every year!

City farming is growing worldwide. It is here to stay.
Bharat Mansata is a writer, editor and environmental activist, involved in natural regeneration and organic farming.
Contact: bharatmansatta@yahoo.com


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. 3rd Feb 2011. The Hindu paper reports
    " Vegetables as a whole became dearer by 77.05 per cent on an annual basis followed by fruits (15.47 per cent), egg, meat and fish (15.05 per cent), milk (11.41 per cent) and potato (6.22 per cent)"
    What is going on?
    TR .