Thursday, November 6, 2008

Indian farmer suicides not GM related, says study

This is an extract from the newspaper " The Guardian" where James Randerson reports on the Indian Farmer Suicides,published on 5th November,2008

Suicides among Indian farmers have not increased as a result of the introduction of GM crops, according to a large scientific study.

The finding runs counter to arguments often cited by NGOs in the country such as Gene Campaign that oppose GM crops. They say that the supposed hike in suicides is a tragic social consequence of farmers being forced into debt as a result of growing the crops.

Farmer suicides were recently cited by Prince Charles in a lecture via video link to the New Delhi based NGO Navdanya as one of the ills of GM technology. He spoke of "the truly appalling and tragic rate of small farmer suicides in India, stemming in part from the failure of many GM crop varieties."

But the new analysis suggests that if anything, suicides among farmers have been decreasing since the introduction of GM cotton by Monsanto in 2002. "It is not only inaccurate, but simply wrong to blame the use of Bt cotton as the primary cause of farmer suicides in India," said the report from the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) in Washington DC. "Despite the recent media hype around farmer suicides," it added, "fuelled by civil society organisations and reaching the highest political spheres in India and elsewhere, there is no evidence in available data of a 'resurgence' of farmer suicide in India in the last five years."
It also found that the adoption of pest-resistant Bt cotton varieties had led to massive increases in yield and a 40% decrease in pesticide use.

"What we argue is that it's far more complex than simply adopting a technology," lead author Guillaume Gruère told New Scientist magazine. The report identifies a lack of financial support for farmers as a key problem leading many to borrow money from loan sharks at crippling interest rates. The IFPRI is a thinktank funded by governments, private foundations and international and regional organisations.

The researchers examined data from a variety of sources on suicide rates among farmers and on their costs and yields from crops. Although there were initially some catastrophic failures of Bt cotton varieties for some farmers after their introduction the report said that conventional varieties did equally badly because of drought - particularly in Andra Pradesh and Maharashtra.

By 2006, Bt cotton covered 3.8m hectares or more than 39% of the total cotton area. Yields of the crop have nearly doubled since GM varieties were introduced and India is now the largest cotton producer in Asia and has overtaken the US to become the second largest in the world.

Friday, October 3, 2008

MIS - what an organisation needs today........

I was asked to jot down a note on Lift Irrigation Project of Naandi Foundation the other day, perhaps a lot of things happened in this project from 1999 onwards. While doing this assignment I got to learn an important lesson on how important is information gathering for an organization and what is the importance of information for the purpose of research and analysis.

Information is usually an outcome of data. To collect data in an efficient manner needs a proper and systematic approach. Specially in a project like Lift Irrigation in livelihoods sector needs a complete understanding so that these data can be used as a source of information for analysis in any impact studies or in assessing the outcomes and growth in different parameters developed for the surveys.

To disseminate information in a more planned and sophisticated manner Management Information System (MIS) is used in different organisations. MIS is a planned system of collecting,processing,storing and disseminating data in the form of information needed to carry out the necessary functions. It is used to refer to the group of information management methods tied to the automation or support of human decision making. In a certain sense this term MIS is given to the discipline focused on the integration of computer systems with the aims and objectives of the organisation.

For gathering of concrete information in a systematic manner Naandi foundation Lift Irrigation project has adopted this management system where the field coordinators will collect data from the farmers at the village level and put it in the format decided by the team. This will certainly help in arranging and updating the data in an organised manner. There are different ways in which we can arrange and distribute information,but to put in a way where one can easily access information and updates and can comprehend is actually important.

The purpose of MIS is to help the smooth running of the business by providing information on the firms data (such as accounting figures). Employees from different levels will then evaluate this information so that decisions can be made to ensure that the business remains competitive and successful. MIS have been created to support the whole range of business's administration and regulatory activities.

The Concept of management information systems originated in the 1960s and it attempted to relate computer technology and systems to data processing in business. During the early 1960s, it became evident that the computer was being applied to the solution of business problem,concentrating almost entirely on the computerization of clerical and record – keeping tasks.

Thus MIS is an integrated Man-machine system that facilitates information to support the planning and control function in an organisation. In a nutshell,MIS facilitates planning, it encourages decentralisation of authority, it brings co-ordination and also assembles,process,stores,evaluates and disseminate the information.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Kudos to Andhra.....

HYDERABAD: Andhra Pradesh has bagged the ‘Leadership Award’ as best performing State in agriculture instituted under the aegis of ‘Agriculture Today’.This was informed to Chief Minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy by Haryana Governor A.R. Kidwai, who is the chairman of the Agriculture Leadership Awards Committee. –Special Correspondent

For a food-secure South Asia

It is an editorial published in "The Hindu" on 7th August,2008

The Colombo statement on food security, adopted by the leaders of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) at the 15th summit, brings into focus one of the basic issues confronting the peoples of the region. For this laudable initiative that could make a difference to the region, described by the World Bank as home to 40 per cent of the world’s poor, SAARC has to incorporate time-tested approaches, also taking into account ground realities. That t he regional grouping has remained a laggard in this crucial area is evident from the fact that the SAARC Food Security Reserve, agreed upon in August 1988 and renamed the SAARC Food Bank in 2007, is yet to become fully operational. Recent experience shows that, in times of emergency, the bilateral mode of cooperation has prevailed over regional cooperation. For instance, member-states such as Sri Lanka and Bangladesh gained from India’s supplies to tide over shortages in the past two years. Effectively transforming a string of bilateral arrangements into a regional framework is the essential first step. As things stand, there is little to foretell an early switchover from the bilateral to the multilateral mode in the near-term. The systemic changes that are reshaping the agricultural sectors in all the member-states lend urgency to operationalising the Food Bank.
In addition to the short-term concern over the food crisis, there is the larger question of redefining the scope of food security and making it contemporary. In the two decades since 1988, the definition of food security has widened to include components such as availability, stability, accessibility, and nutritional content. Yet, the Colombo statement continues to emphasise only the quantitative aspects of food security or raising production levels, a focus reminiscent of the 1970s. One common affliction of South Asian countries is malnutrition. Addressing the nutritional aspect of food security is the more important long-term challenge for South Asia. There is a lot to share within the region in terms of the experiences of individual countries in this area. Moreover, given South Asia’s agrarian base, the ongoing economic changes have serious consequences for livelihoods. The similarities provide the scope for SAARC nations to adopt common solutions. One charge against SAARC is that it is slow to act. Last year, the group said that it had moved to the implementation stage. The time has now come to deliver on its decades-old promises to its peoples. Food security is a good starting point.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Too much fruit, too little bounty

This is an extract from the online edition of 'India Together' about the Pineapple cultivation in Tripura where Ratna Talukdar has explored the troubled Pineapple growers and reported on 30th May ,2008.

Ratna Bharali Talukdar is a freelance journalist based in Guwahati, Assam. She received the Chameli Devi Jain Award for Outstanding Women Media Person and the Ramnath Goenka Excellence in Journalism Award in 2005 and 2006 respectively. This article has been produced as part of a study facilitated by a grant under the TATA-RGVN Senior fellowship programme.

30 May 2008 - They had pioneered pineapple cultivation in Tripura. In their traditional lore too, they have carefully preserved a belief. That pineapple would never betray them. That, any crop may fail in an unfavourable circumstance, but pineapple is just a viable crop of survival, providing substantial income year after year. This popular belief of the Darlongs, a sub tribe of Mizos, residing in Nalkata area of Kumarghat Block of North Tripura district, 140 km off Agartala, the capital city of Tripura is still instrumental in ensuring bumper pineapple crops in their hamlet.

In fact, all other tribes and communities in the state had derived the rich tradition and improvised method of pineapple cultivation from Darlongs, as claimed by officials of the of the Department of Horticulture. Now, each year Tripura produces a bumper pineapple crop. In 2007-08 it produced 1,15,829 metric tonnes of pineapple. No wonder, the Darlongs had also pioneered in improvised pineapple cultivation by introducing it in high hilly slopes of Tripura.
Heaps of pineapples speak volumes about the bumper crop.

The centuries-old belief of Darlongs to rest their faith on pineapple cultivation is, perhaps because of its sustainability. Following each harvesting season, one has to just clean the cultivation patches and can expect a healthy fruit-crop for the next year. Growers can also simultaneously go for multi-cropping of horticultural products including jackfruit and other firewood trees in the cropped area. Other factors like suitable soil and agro-climatic condition and lesser effort have made communities like Darlongs opt for pineapples as the most favorite alternative crop-cultivation to Jhum, their traditional slash-and-burn cultivation, to suit an easy-go tribal life!

Productivity of pineapple per hectare in Tripura is 18.73 tonnes, which is higher than the national average of 15.80 tonnes. The Dhalai district, another buffer zone of pineapple cultivation records the highest yield per hectare production in the state with 21.88 tonnes, according to Sibnarayan Sen, Director of the state government’s Department of Horticulture.

Darlongs can still espouse their belief, for there is a fruit juice concentration plant that was set up by the North Eastern Regional Agriculture Marketing Corporation (NERAMC) in their locality of Nalkata where they sell their produce. Besides, their produces also have a market in Silchar in neighbouring Assam.
Enter troubled times, and rubber :
Far away from this buffer pineapple pocket of the Darlong’s, Dayalpada Jamatia, a 65 year old pineapple grower belonging to Jamatia tribe of Jumer Dhepa village in Nalchar area of Melaghar Block in West Tripura district, 50 km off the capital city Agartala, however, cannot dream high over his crop. This is because of an oversupply of pineapples in the local market that has an adverse impact on price per pineapple. These traditional pineapple growers earlier had a conventional pineapple market in bordering Bangladesh.

Tripura shares a border of 856 km with Bangladesh and there used to be a cross-border conventional pineapple trade in these areas. However, this market has become extinct following erection of barbed wire fencing along the international border. Tripura, is a completely landlocked state and 80 per cent of the border with Bangladesh being already fenced. While the conventional market has virtually stopped, no formal trade tie-up with Bangladesh has come up till now. Another market with neighbouring Assam has also been affected due to insurgency situation, says Jamatia, who talked to India Together on May 20.

“At times truckloads of pineapple used to be transported to Assam from our locality. But due to insurgency situation, it has been stopped,” he says. While these two conventional markets have declined there is no processing industry in the area to regularly consume the marketable surplus pineapple.
Jamatia has 25 kanis (about 6.5 kani constitutes one hectare) of tilla land (high lands) where he introduced “queen” -- a very special variety of pineapple which is rich in aromatic quality and taste but less juicy and relatively small in size – peculiar to the soil condition of West Tripura and North Tripura district, some 30 years back, as an alternative living to traditional Jhum.

Barely 6000 metric tones of more than one lakh metric tonnes of pineapples estimated to be produced this year is going to be procured for processing and subsequent supply to the domestic and international markets.

While the 'queen' variety is unique to the soil condition these two districts, in two other districts mainly “kew” variety is cultivated, which is best suitable for processed foods with a relatively bigger size that varies between 1.5 to 2.8 kilogram, juicy substances and less fiber—thus highly suitable for canning.

This year too, Jamatia has cultivated the fruit-crop in the entire land, but with one difference. Simultaneously he has also planted some rubber trees in half of his cultivable land. Jamatia plans to completely remove pineapple when the gestation period of rubber cultivation is over and tapping would start.

Like Jamatia, there were several other cultivators in the area, whom I met, who have decided to shift gradually from pineapple to rubber plantation. Would the decision of gradual shift from pineapple to rubber prove wiser?

Growers in the locality said that as far as profitability in the future is concerned, rubber is the best option. With his 25 kanis of cultivable land, Jamatia is likely to earn Rs.50000-Rs.60000 this year, much lower than his expectation level. Pineapple is a single-crop cultivation and these people who adopted the crop as alternative livelihood for traditional jhum cultivation, do not have land for any other crop like rice, which makes the family to buy everything from the market for household consumption.

In such a situation, the one-time earned money is too little for the family to survive for the whole year. This often made Jamatia to work as daily wage labourer till some years ago till one of his sons became a school-teacher, that has given the family immense support, he adds.

Heaps of pineapples, falling prices :
Even small heaps of pineapples piled up in Jamatia’s courtyard, and also deposited in the local market of nearby Mohanbhog area of Sonapura sub-division, 20 km away from Nalchar, also had tales to tell. Small heaps – meant a relatively a higher price in the market that is Rs.5 per piece. The pick season of pineapple is likely to start in another week’s time and the entire Mohanbhog pineapple market will be covered with big heaps of pineapples. As the heaps would grow bigger in sizes the procurement prices will go down drastically from Rs.5 to Rs.2 and finally to 50 paise per pineapple, says Priyalal Sharma, a local pineapple grower, who has also started rubber plantation in some portion of his land.

Dayalpada Jamatia in his pineapple cultivation where he also planted some rubber trees:
News of Tripura's pineapples finding its way to export markets in countries like Italy has hardly provided any satisfaction to growers like Jamatia, on the ground that these companies give growers only a nominal price per pineapple, that normally do not cover the cost of production. In April this year, 65 metric tones of pineapple in the form of canned product slices were exported to Italy by Piyush Agro Food Tech.

Sharma, who is also a member of All India Kishan Sabha, says that as an alternative livelihood, one can expect economic prosperity in rubber far better than pineapple. First, once tapping is started, rubber provides an income almost all throughout the year and it lasts for over 30 years. With a gradual increase in price of rubber in the market which is Rs.120 per kilogram now, farmers in Tripura have become more ambitious for rubber plantation, as it has already been proved as the most effective scheme in terms of providing a sustainable alternative livelihood to rural and more particularly to tribal people.

The Rubber Board, which has its regional office in Agartala, too, has been providing financial assistance to farmers during the gestation period up to Rs.50,000 per hectare. The Tripura model of providing tribal people successful alternative livelihood through rubber plantation has received widespread admiration throughout the country.

Sharma, however, said that for poor cultivators, shifting from pineapple to rubber is not possible, because of the higher cost of production per hectare at initial stage, which is about Rs.45,000. The small land holdings of farmers also come in the way of shifting to rubber, he adds. The Mohanbhog Gram Sabha has 400 families of and all of them cultivate pineapple.

Government and private procurement: not matching massive harvests
To provide growers more market linkage, the North Eastern Regional Agriculture Marketing Corporation (NERAMC) had set up a fruit juice concentration plant, way back in 1988, in Nalkata with an initial capital investment of 3.60 Crore. The aim was to purchase surplus marketable pineapple and other fruits. The plant has an installed capacity of 48 metric tonnes per day. In 2007-08 NERAMC procured 750 metric tonnes of pineapple from the growers, much below than the average production of the state.

The officials of the department of horticulture revealed that in 2008-09, NERAMC is likely to enhance its procurement to 1500 metric tonnes. Meanwhile, the state government has already initiated a plan for reconstructing and modernisation of the plant in Nalkata, which is under consideration for the approval of Ministry of Development of North East Region (DONOR).

Dabur Food Pvt. Ltd. of West Bengal has procured 1000 metric tones of pineapples from identified blocks of Agri-Export Zone in 2007-08. Their procurement is likely to be increased in 2008-09 by 4000 metric tonnes.

Taking all these projected procurement figures into account, barely 6000 metric tones of more than one lakh metric tonnes of pineapples estimated to be produced this year is going to be procured for processing and subsequent supply to the domestic and international markets.

Other efforts to help growers :
The Department of Horticulture has recently adopted the strategy of applying staggering method to prolong the cultivation period to at least 8 months of the year, by ensuring that crop would be harvested as and when required. In this method a chemical is applied, which, Pulak Choudhury, an official of the Department, says, has no adverse impact on the quality of the produce. The growers can expect getting fruit within 5 months of applying the chemical.
“The staggering method has been tested and proven in the Horticulture Research Complex in Nagricherra area. Then, it was first introduced if 25 hectares of farmers land in 2005. By 2007-08 altogether 200 hectares of pineapple was brought under staggered cultivation for getting raw pineapples in 8-10 months per year,” says Director Sibnarayan Sen. In 2008-09 the department has targeted to bring 300 hectares of pineapple under staggered cultivation, says Sen.

Sen says that pineapple is a highly perishable food-crop and even in the cold-storage it lasts only for 28 days. The ripening period of pineapple too is very short. In such a situation, staggering method is likely to ensure to a viable market support for at least 8 months a year simultaneously increasing grower’s income almost round the year. When there would be no oversupply due top adoption of staggering method the price would remain steady for longer period. ,br>

The horticulture department had also come up with an ambitious and comprehensive export oriented pineapple cultivation plan with Agricultural and Process Food Products Development Authority (APEDA) to facilitate export market of the fruit focusing on access to international market of pineapple product in the year 2003-04. As part of the project, 5 Agri-Export Zones in the state were selected in Melagarh, Kakrabon, Matabari, Manu and Kumarghat area in 2006-07. Altogether 2,157 growers covering an area of 935 hectare were identified. The horticulture department has also been trying to get organic certification for these identified growers with the assistance of APEDA.

Another ambitious “Pineapple Powder Project”, that was proposed to be established with the initiative of Technology Development Board of the central government in 2002, the first of its kind in India, is yet to come up. “Even though the state government provided the necessary land for setting up of the proposed industry, no promoter has so far come forward to invest. But the state government is very keen to initiate the project even now,” says Pabitra Kar, Chairman, Tripura Industrial Development Corporation.
Ratna Bharali Talukdar May 2008

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Naandi – In The Final Race

The 2008 Global Development Marketplace (DM2008) is a grant competition held in collaboration with the Agriculture and Rural Development team of the World Bank entitled “ Sustainable Agriculture for Development,” and it is supported by the Global Environment Facility ,International Finance Corporation and other Partners.

The competition is looking towards three sub themes includes-
a) Linking small scale farmers to input output markets.
b) Improving land access and tenure for the poor.
c) Promoting the environmental services of agriculture in addressing climate change and biodiversity conservation.

In this event called DM2008 Marketplace Event,among the list of 100 finalist across 7 regions Naandi is in the list of South Asian region contenders. Naandi has achieved this position for its Organic Coffee Cultivation in Araku Valley . Its attempt to empower the tribal people of Araku has really proved to be successful.

The 100 finalists selected on June 23rd ,2008 were invited to the World Bank headquarters in Washington D.C. On September 24-26th,2008.

This competition will provide a big platform to turn an innovative idea for sustainable agriculture into reality. A huge grant funding of around US$200,000 which will be funded for 2 years to the best innovative idea based on selection will be decided by a bank of jury comprising of International Development Experts.

So,its time for Naandi to turn its idea into reality,moreover - an idea can change lives,and

Naandi has always a better idea.

The list of the South Asian Contenders are given below and Naandi is marked-

NoCountryProposal TitleOrganization Name
4277IndiaSeawater Greenhouse For Arid RegionsSeawater Greenhouse Ltd
4893 IndiaWaste To Wealth By Incubating Mini Cold Storage Technology Ventures In Ppp ModelTrec-Step
5108IndiaPromoting agriculture systems resilient to climate variability and change by creating self adjusting community institutions enabled through use of ICT in coastal GujaratWinrock International India (WII)
5401IndiaInternet Kiosk-Community Radio Stations In The Mountains,Joining Local Farmers To Global MarketsUmeed
5610IndiaFarmer's Commodity Exchangei4 INFOTECH PVT LTD
5775IndiaSampark-Kranti: Creating Opportunities For Assured And Remunerative Horticulture Marketing For Small And Marginal Farmers In Central Uttar Pardesh, IndiaSampark Samaj Kalyan Sansthan
6240IndiaDemonstrating “Collective Land Ownership Models” Of Panchayat Land That Reflects“ Collective Entrepreneurship” To Improve Economic Outcomes For Socially Excluded Women Manav Seva Sansthan "Seva"
6258IndiaAeinex - Agro Enterprise Information ExchangeCommunity Enterprise Forum International
6259IndiaImproving Livestock Health For Small Farmers Through Market Linkages And New Technologies: Applying Move (Market Oriented Value Enhancement) Through A Vet Net Portal Best Practices Foundation
6440IndiaSustainable Livelihoods For Tribal Farmers In Araku Valley Through Organic Coffee CultivationNaandi Foundation
5414NepalDignifying High Altitude Agriculture through Gravity RopewaySupport Activities for Poor Producers of Nepal
6252NepalRiverbed Farming For Landless In NepalHelvetas
6261NepalDeveloping Market For Carbon Sequestration In AgriculturePeople's Agriculture Research And Development Center
6875NepalPromotion of Rice Husk Stoves in NepalNational Agricultural and Environmental Forum

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Impossible is Nothing!

This is not an an Adidas ad which speaks of 'Impossible is Nothing' but in reality Raju,24 of Ammagaripalli village of Khammam district is not less than a wonder. About 30 kms away from Bhadrachallam town this village of Ammagaripalli is primarily inhabited by Koya tribe. The Koya is a large tribal community distributed in South Malkangiri of Orissa, South Baster of Chhattisgarh, East Godavari and Khammam districts of Andhra Pradesh in India. As per the 2001 census, out of the total population of Andhra Pradesh 6.6% belongs to Scheduled Tribe(ST) population. The Koyas constitute 11.3% of the total ST population.

Raju ,the son of a farmer in Ammagaripalli also belongs to the Koya tribe.A smart young and energetic Raju is not an ordinary college going chap. He deserves an applause for his dogged determination to gain education despite losing his both hands in an accident occured by electric current while he was in the second standard. The most fascinating activity what Raju does is he writes with his legs.

A student with Economics,Political science and even Telegu as his Modern Indian language subjects wants to become a teacher in his future. “ I don't want to join farming now as my father does ,i want to be economically sound first and then will see to it”, Raju says who has three brothers and one sister after him. Being from a family whose annual income is not more than 8000 Rs. its a great achievement for him to reach such a level.

Raju even operates the computer with his legs. There are around thirty more student in this village who are studying in the colleges of Khammam district. Among the major STs, Yerukulas have reported the highest literacy rate (45.4per cent), followed by the Koya tribe (41.8 per cent).

The son of a farmer who is a beneficiary of Naandi foundation's Lift Irrigation(LI) Scheme in Ammagarapalli village is proud of his son. Naandi's LI schemes in this village is one of the successful initiative in Khammam district. Mainly inhabited by Koyas ,this village will see a ray of hope with the initiative of young bloods like Raju who will stand as a glaring example for those who thinks- 'Impossible is Nothing'.