Monday, January 15, 2007

Need for a second Green Revolution

Need for a second Green Revolution
G. K. Nair
India needs a paradigm shift in its agricultural policy

India needs a paradigm shift in its farm policy to overcome the "fatigue in the green revolution due to increasing cost of production, dwindling natural resources and climate."

The Food Agriculture Organisation Director-General, Mr Jacques Diouf, while addressing a meeting of the World Affairs Council of Northern California in San Francisco, recently, said: "In the next few decades, a major international effort is needed to feed the world when the population soars from six to nine billion. We might call it a second Green Revolution." The original Green Revolution of the 1950s/1960s doubled world food production by bringing the power of science to agriculture, but "relied on the lavish use of inputs such as water, fertiliser and pesticides," he said.
In the Indian context, with reports of farmers committing suicides in several States such as Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala, the need for a second green revolution becomes imperative. The predicament in agriculture speaks of serious flaws in the country's farm policies.
Appreciable progress
It is true that the nation has made appreciable progress in this sector during the past over five decades. The foodgrains production has made a quantum leap from 51 million tonnes in 1950 to 108 million tonnes in 1970-71, 172 million tonnes in 1989-90, and crossed 200 million tonne last fiscal. Production of rice, wheat and other coarse grains have improved significantly. But this is not enough to cater to the needs of a population growing briskly. The population growth rate for 2005-06 is projected at 2.3 per cent against the projected overall GDP growth rate of 8.1 per cent. The lacklustre performance of the agricultural sector can be attributed to policy flaws.
Rise in population
Significantly, the population, which was 350 million in 1951, shot up to 850 million in 1991 and to an estimated 1,085 million in 2004. Of the population of 1,025 million in 2001, about 740 million were in agriculture. The total economically active population is only 451 million, of which those active in agriculture is estimated at 267 million.
Much more concentration is needed on improving output and area under coarse cereals. Production of pulses continued to dwindle between 11 million tonnes and 14 millions tonnes for decades. As a result, their per capita consumption, which was 69 gram per day in 1971, fell to 35.9 gram/day in 2004. The sharp decline in the consumption of pulses is a cause of serious concern. India has been importing pulses in large quantities to meet the domestic requirement.
Inequitable distribution of the means of production, especially land, could be one of the major reasons for this predicament.
Hence, the land reforms should result in increased agricultural production, in general, and food output, in particular; rational use of scarce land resources;re-distribution of land to the landless class; preventing the exploitation of tillers; use of improved methods of cultivation, and increased per man acre and per unit input productivity.
Agricultural packages
The agriculture packages, announced regularly, which include fertilisers, seeds, irrigation, water and credit, in practice, are invariably siphoned off by influential landowners. They miss out the most precious input — the farmer. He instead has become the passive recipient of inputs, imposed by the superior technology of extension workers.
Even credit becomes useless as a stimulus to innovation without motivation. A vigorous local self-government would have changed all this in favour of the small farmer, but how could articulation of the masses happen when elected bodies are captured by the rural elite?
Besides, new strategies for irrigation and water management need to be implemented. Since water is a scarce resource, it is necessary that emphasis be shifted on its more efficient use. According to the FAO chief, in many regions, water for irrigation is being pumped out of the ground faster than it can be replenished. In Tamil Nadu , over-pumping has lowered the water level in wells by 25-30 metre in a decade.
Focus on small farmer
Given this scenario, deliberate introduction of agrarian development towards the small farmer, that is, what he and his family can do and want to do with their knowledge and labour, be it in developing new techniques, seed varieties, extension service, distribution of inputs, improved farm practices, is the need of the hour. The aim should be to increase his productivity and income.
The economic capacity of the small farm may be restricted, but economic capacities can be socially determined and the Government must encourage the formation of voluntary multi-purpose cooperatives for joint farming, pooling of inputs, marketing to eliminate the middlemen, and involve the small farmer actively in what he does.
Credit institutions also need to be streamlined to support the extremely small and scattered clientele.
Agricultural prices need to be remunerative and incentive-based to make production reasonably safer for the small farmer who is continually sustaining losses; it is not industry alone that needs incentives to promote a healthy investment climate. And its support prices are remunerative and government procurements are well timed lest farmers' over-dues accumulate.
At the recent Congress Chief Ministers' conclave, Mr N. D. Tewari, Uttaranchal Chief Minister, said that India needs a paradigm shift in its agricultural policy to overcome the "fatigue in the green revolution due to increasing cost of production, dwindling natural resources and climate".


Pitfalls of the second green revolution
By Devinder Sharma

A wide range of policies—and the second ‘Green Revolution’—that the government is introducing in conjunction with Indian corporate houses, American agribusinesses and food multinationals, will have a catastrophic impact on Indian farmers, on sustainability and on food security. The effects are already evident in states like Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh
Forty years after the first Green Revolution, Indian agriculture is in the midst of an unprecedented crisis. Unmindful of the destruction caused by the technology used for the ‘revolution', the impact of which is being felt all over the country – drastically declining yields, soil gasping for breath – India is preparing to introduce a second Green Revolution that will push farmers out of agriculture altogether.
Some years ago, a former vice-president of the World Bank and the then chairman of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), Dr Ismail Serageldin, made a presentation at a conference in Chennai. What he revealed did not come as a shock. Quoting a 1995 World Bank study, he said that the number of people migrating from rural areas to urban centres in India by the year 2010 would be twice the combined population of UK, France and Germany—that is, close to 200 million.
In other words, 400 million people are expected to be taking—now and in the near future—the distress migration route, migrating from rural areas in search of menial jobs in the sprawling urban conglomerates. It has been estimated that by 2020, India could have the world's largest number of megacities, with populations of over 10 million each. Seventy per cent of Tamil Nadu, for example, will live in these urban centres.
Numerous national policies are being recast at a frantic pace and are facilitating this distress. The underlying objective is clear in policies related to seed, water, biodiversity, adivasis, the environment, biotechnology, trade, food safety and agriculture, amongst others – make way for the big agro-industries
With the support of a political system cutting across party colours, Indian industry and business are upbeat about the potential of agriculture. A slew of FIICI-sponsored ‘reforms' for raising farm incomes plans to pump large amounts of public money into an industry-driven agriculture, while the farmer survives on the margins. The ‘reforms' are clearly not aimed at resurrecting agriculture but at bringing profits for the owners of the industries.
Policies that encourage contract farming, future trading in agricultural commodities, leasing of land, the formation of land-sharing companies, allotment of homestead-garden plots, direct procurement of farm commodities and the setting up of special purchase centres, will all drive a majority of India's 60 crore farmers out of agriculture.
The process has already begun. The agricultural reforms that are being introduced in the name of increasing food production and minimising the price risks that farmers continue to face are actually destroying the land's capacity to produce and further marginalising farming communities.
Industry-driven agriculture will aggravate the existing agrarian crisis. The new technology that the multinationals, as well as the Indian Council for Agricultural Research (ICAR), plan to introduce, will keep a majority of farmers outside its ambit. ‘Precision farming' is one such technology that is getting the government's budgetary support. Other ‘reforms', such as removing the bottlenecks in the commodity supply chain by amending the APMC Act and enlarging the scope of future trading are also aimed at helping agribusinesses.
In pursuit of this World Bank model of agriculture, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh invested huge amounts into industry-driven agriculture. This led to an environmental catastrophe and destroyed millions of rural livelihoods. The rate of farmer suicides in both states has been increasing.
Both states have made it smoother for big agri-industry (backed by foreign financial insitutions and international banks) to move into the rural areas. Andhra Pradesh's Vision 2020 document talked of reducing the number of farmers in the state to 40% of the population, but did not have any significant programme to rehabilitate the 30% of the farming population that would be driven off the land.
The Rs 1,000-crore Indo-US Knowledge Initiative in Agricultural Research and Education, launched by American President George Bush in Hyderabad on March 3, is expected to bring Indian agriculture under the direct control of US corporate groups. If the first Green Revolution was facilitated by the introduction of the land grant system of agricultural research and education, the second Green Revolution is being tailored to the needs of American corporate interests.
In 2005, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Bush signed a farm technology agreement. Addressing a joint session of the US Congress, the PM said, “The Green Revolution lifted countless millions above poverty.... I am very happy to say that US President George Bush and I have decided to launch a second generation of India-US collaboration in agriculture."
The agreement was prepared without transparency and its details have been kept confidential. Two multinational giants—supermarket leader Wal-Mart and the seed multinational Monsanto—are part of this Indo-US initiative. The two multinationals have already said they are not interested in research and development but in the increased trading opportunities that India offers.
One implicit objective of such agreements is a transfer of the unwanted and risk-laden technology of genetic engineering of plant and animal species. The US sees India as an easy dumping ground and has used the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to ask India why it is curtailing the import of genetically modified food. The process is being put in place without first ascertaining the reasons for the terrible agrarian crisis, which in part is due to the imposition of an alien and damaging technology.
This ‘knowledge initiative’ is, however, a boost for the cash-starved ICAR, the umbrella organisation for agricultural research and education in India. It will give plant scientists an opportunity to justify the huge public sector investment in the monolithic and gasping research insitution. The ICAR has clearly shifted its goalpost – from subsistence to commercial farming.
Even in America, the entry of retail chains in the agricultural sector has transferred the profits to a clutch of middlemen—retailers, processors, certification agencies, quality controllers and others. Farmers earn only 4% from whatever they sell. In 1990, farmers could earn as much as 70% from their sales. In Canada, the National Farmers Union has shown in a study how the combined profits of 70 retail and agribusiness firms have multiplied while the farmers’ losess have mounted. The same model is now being shifted to India.
Nowhere in the world has big agribusines worked in real cooperation with farmers. In North America and Europe, agribusiness companies have pushed farmers out of agriculture. Only 900,000 farming families are left on the farms in the US. In 15 countries of the European Union, the number of farmers has dwindled to less than 7 million. The underlying message is crystal clear: farmers should get out of agriculture. A similar process will lead to a catastrophe in India, worsening food insecurity and multiplying hunger.
As part of the process, the Economic Survey 2005-06 categorically talks of dismantling the minimum support price (MSP) and the procurement-based food subsidy system in India. This will enable the food retailers to directly purchase from farmers. In other words, Indian farmers will have to face not only the vagaries of the monsoon but also of the market. The Economic Advisory Council to the prime minister has prepared a report that calls for a shift in price policy – leaving the farmers at the mercy of the market forces.
In a country where land holdings are meagre, the big challenge lies in making agriculture more sustainable for the small and marginal farmers. In the former Green Revolution areas of Punjab, Haryana, western Uttar Pradesh, parts of Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, agriculture faces a severe crisis of sustainability. Punjab and Haryana are fast heading towards desertification – a process that renders the land unable to sustain the production levels achieved during the ‘revolution’.
The answer does not lie in allowing private corporations to take over through contract farming. Private businesses enter agriculture with the specific objective of garnering more profits from the same piece of land. Contract farming has already done irreparable damage to agriculture in countries like the Philippines, Zimbabwe, Argentina and Mexico.
The private corporations, as experiences in other countries show, bank on intensified farming practices, drain the soil of nutrients, suck groundwater in a few years and leave the once-fertile lands almost barren after four or five years. They are then likely to hand back the barren and unproductive land to the farmers who leased it to them and move to another fertile piece of land.
This is already happening in many parts of India. Contract farming accentuates the crisis of sustainability by destroying whatever remains of the land’s production capacity. The monoculture methods of contract corporate farming destroy biodiversity in the region, which further affects long-term sustainability. Contract farming is the modern version of ‘slash and burn’ agriculture.
It took decades to realise that the technology promoted by the USAID and unthinkingly followed by national agricultural research systems in developing countries, was disastrous. This realisation came about after the technology had already inflicted irreparable damage on human health and the environment. It would be dangerous to believe that the second Green Revolution promoted by the United States, that is being allowed through open doors into India by the government, will not leave behind still more damaging consequences.
We must ask several pertinent questions—how will the second Green Revolution aggravate the existing agrarian crisis? Will it push farmers out of agriculture and allow agribusinesses to take possession of the farm land and then destroy its production capacity? Will it not disable and drive out farmers and create an enabling environment only for agro-industries? With what untold consequences will the vital power to produce food be shifted into the profiteering hands of multinational food giants?
(Devinder Sharma is a Delhi-based agricultural scientist, researcher and policy analyst who specialises in issues related to global food and agriculture. He was invited to address six Parliaments in Europe in 2004-05.) Devinder Sharma can be emailed at:

Society And Suicide

By Amit Chamaria
22 September, 2006
Certainly, a significant attention specially the PrimeMinister Manmohan Singh's attention towards Vidarbha district of Maharashtra is a welcome sign but of the consequences of unpleasant incidents. Obviously, not only the farmers of Maharashtra but the farmers of all states of India are under distress. But the problem of farmer suicides in Maharashtra has acquired the greater length. The number of suicides particularly, in Maharashtra has risen from1083 in 1995 to 4,147 in 2004.However recent announcement of relief package worth of rupees 3750 corers by the Prime Minister to solving the egregious condition of farmers has compelled to do a comprehensive debate by raising the question that-"Is this relief package a satisfactory solution of the problem of farmer suicide?"
Now, it is essential to understand the social analysis of suicide as a social problem. In this situation the significant work of Emile Durkheim, a French sociologist can't be forgotten. As per Durkheim's view simply, 'suicide' means 'self destruction'. But it reveals something lots. At least after the serial suicidal death of Vidarbha's farmers, it didn't remain confine to merely 'self destruction'-the simple means of suicide. If we go by Durkheim, suicide is a social fact and not simply an individual act but a product of social forces external to the individual. In fact, He rejects the various extra social factors such as heredity, climate, mental alienation, racial characteristics and imitation as the cause of suicide. Even 'Poverty' - the most general cause of suicide, as presented by media and politicians behind the every case of suicide, has been utterly rebutted by him. He, for simple understanding, argues that the greater the integration of individuals within the social group the less likely they are to commit suicide.
Apparently, one thing must be raised in our mind that why Durkheim negates poverty as one of the causes of suicide. If we believe at least some amount on a survey report conducted by the agency of the Govt. of India that reveals most developed states have more suicide rate as compared to the most backward states. In 2001, Maharashtra (14618), Karnataka (11881), Tamil Nadu (11290), Andhra Pradesh (10522) have highest suicide rates respectively. On the other hand all tribal dominated states like Arunachal Pradesh (111), Manipur (41), Mizorum (54), Sikkim (94), and the most backward states like Bihar (603) and Jharkand (250) have very less suicide rate. The place Kalahandi in Orissa at one time was the center of attention in media only because of serial deaths of persons and children due to hungry and malnutrition respectively. But it is quiet surprising that no suicide case was reported from Kalahandi at that time.

In addition to this, as per the ' Situation Assessment Survey of Farmers' conducted by National Sample Survey Organisation in 2003, the average monthly income (excluding rent, interest, dividend etc.) from all sources per farmer household ranged from Rs.1, 062.00 in the state of Orissa to Rs. 5,488.00 in the state of Jammu and Kashmir during the agriculture year of 2002 -03 and the all India average are Rs.2, 115.00.

To compare the average monthly income of per farmer household in Maharashtra (Rs.2, 463.00) and Gujarat (Rs.2, 684.00) from backward states like Bihar (Rs.1, 810.00), Orissa (1,062), Rajasthan (Rs. 1,498) and Madhya Pradesh (1,430.00), it can be easily revealed that lower monthly income is not a causative factor of suicide. By analyzing these statements it can be said that Durkheim is very close to the truth.
Then, what are the causes of farmer suicides?
According to him, this kind of suicide falls within the purview of 'Anomic Suicide' - one of the classifications of suicide. In fact, anomic suicide results from normlessness or deregulation in society. Although this kind of suicide occurs during industrial and financial crises, it is not because they cause poverty, since crises of prosperity have the same result but because they are crises of the collective order. If poverty and starvation are really the adequate causes of suicide then the suicide rate in all backward and northeastern states should have been high but it is not. Further he says that poverty protects against suicide because it is a restraint itself. The less one has the less he is tempted to extend the range of his needs. Sociologically, the incident of farmer suicides in Punjab, Andhra Pradesh, and Maharashtra due to indebtedness is actually the result of the combined effect of 'Relative deprivation' and 'Sudden crises', which came in the category of anomic suicide. Significantly, the feelings of relative deprivation are the outcome of the first green revolution and these feelings has been augmented by the present market policy of Globalization. And it is one of the major drawbacks of the first green revolution. One thing that is essentially noticeable that mainly middle class peasants have committed suicide in that the effect of relative deprivation has fallen greater on them. The big achievement of the first green revolution was the enhancement of crops only by quantitatively not qualitatively.
Now, what should be the solutions of this menace? There are certain measures that should be adopted while formulating the new agriculture policy. Firstly, it is essential to provide better irrigation system and adequate rural infrastructure. So for better farming, farmers should be self-dependent and it can be achieved by maximizing the expenditure on irrigation and other basic facilities. Ironically, India has yet only one rural management institute IRMA after the 57 years of independence though major part of GDP depends on agriculture. Secondly, the causes should be found out that compel the farmers to taking debt either from moneylender or private and govt. banks. Essentially, farmers take debt mainly for boring well and for purchasing seeds and fertilizers.
So govt. should provide adequate irrigation system without disturbing the ecological cycle and a training camp must be organized in various places to provide the knowledge of rain harvesting system. And a comprehensive seed policy should be formulated but not under the pressure of WTO so that farmers could easily get seeds from their own product. The role of moneylender should be the least and in this place co-operative bank come should forward. One thing that is the most vital solution to the distress of farmers is to provide a better market without the intervention of mediators. A policy-"farmer's approach to market directly" should be adopted. But market should not be under the control of MNCs and some big business elites. The concept of market must be based on co-operative principle. Apparently the cotton cultivators committed suicide due to lack of proper market. Undoubtedly agriculture is the biggest source of employment generation. But the employment in agriculture is reducing gradually in accompanying with green revolution and increase in agricultural technology. Significantly the rate of development of employment in agriculture sector has reduced to 0.18 in 1994 from 2.17 in 1988, according to national sample survey report. The people are leaving off the practice of cultivation day by day. The situation of our agriculture will be improved only and only when people come forward for farming with their own pleasure but not as perfunctory. If the second green revolution would be the offshoot of the first green revolution then there is no need of second green revolution because we all have seen the aftermaths of first green revolution. Now it is time to frame a comprehensive policy for the development of sustainable agriculture with considering the every pros and cons in Indian perspective. A policy should be for "Aam Kisan" in that they are the real cultivators.
Amit Chamaria is a freelance journalist.He has done PG in Sociology From PU.
Amit Chamaria
C-251, Sector-19
Rohini; Delhi-85
Ph: - 9868457198

1 comment:

Riot said...

Looks like a treasure chest of information.