Wednesday, April 15, 2009
National Public Radio recently did a two part story on the state of India's 'Green Revolution':
Part 1: India's Farming 'Revolution' Heading For Collapse
The state's agriculture "has become unsustainable and nonprofitable," according to a recent report by the Punjab State Council for Science and Technology. Some experts say the decline could happen rapidly, over the next decade or so.Part 2: 'Green Revolution' Trapping India's Farmers In Debt
One of the best-known names in India's farming industry puts it in even starker terms. If farmers in Punjab don't dramatically change the way they grow India's food, says G.S. Kalkat, chairman of the Punjab State Farmers Commission, they could trigger a modern Dust Bowl.
When India's government launched the Green Revolution more than 40 years ago, it pressured farmers to grow only high-yield wheat, rice and cotton instead of their traditional mix of crops.
The system worked well for years, but government studies show that farmers have pumped so much groundwater to irrigate their crops that the water table is dropping dramatically, as much as 3 feet every year.
Kalkat says only one thing can save Punjab: India has to launch a brand new Green Revolution. But he says this one has to be sustainable.
The problem is, nobody has yet perfected a farming system that produces high yields, makes a good living for farm families, protects and enhances the environment — and still produces good, affordable food.
Nanak Kheti, a farm of natural farming, is being adopted by farmers in Punjab as a response to ill effects of chemical farming practices:
...during the last four to five years, the soil in several parts of Punjab has been regenerated and rejuvenated, these natural farmers are convinced, so much so that your feet feel happy and healthy on coming in contact with the soil. You can see earthworm castings, which had completely disappeared in the fields, says a visibly happy and proud Hartej Singh of Mehta village in Bhatinda district. "Our farmers will offer you a handful of soil which you will find soft and with all the natural aromas that are associated with the infinite life of our earth. That is the kind of work we are doing," he adds.
Thanks once again to Rachel Nisselson for the tip-off about the NPR story.