Saturday, February 14, 2009

P. Sainath, Rural Journalist

P. Sainath has been a clear and rational voice for India's rural poor, farmers, and lower cast population, . He was awarded the Ramon Magsaysay Award (considered Asia's Nobel Prize) for Journalism in 2007 (as well as many other awards). His numerous articles (including a series of articles on farmer's suicides) provide an illuminating and sobering overview of issues including small and medium farming, inequities in global trade, government corruption and inaction, etc.

For a quick overview of the issues he has covered, read this interview conducted after he won the Magsaysay award:

...
Q: One hears a lot of people arguing that small and medium farms are simply unviable in the global agricultural scenario. Do you agree? Is there really a model that can work for the small farmer in India, or are we going to see family farms go the way they did in the US?

A: First off, I think they're wrong to question viability in such simplistic terms. If you consciously develop something, and nurture it, then it becomes viable. What we have is a situation where agriculture in India is being made unviable by imposition. Is American agriculture really viable? You have a situation where cotton crop worth 3.9 billion dollars receives 4.7 billion in subsidies. The Europeans are throwing billions of euros worth of crops into the sea. Whose farming is really unviable? In reality, developed world farming is hugely wasteful, not to forget destructive of soils. And yet, the question is asked if Third World farming, especially small and medium farms, can last in the long run.
...
We need to move away from environmentally and socially destructive industrial agriculture, and the only way to do that is to nurture high output small agriculture by reducing the high input costs and the market distorting subsidies in the developed world.

Eliminating small farmers' dependence on big-industry inputs, including on all fertilizers, pesticides and machines will prove to be the critical issue of the next few decades.

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