Vol -1,  Issue-1,    October- 2010                       www.farmerswelfare.org                         Dowload Newsletter        
Editors Note

Indian farmer is going through an unprecedented crisis.  Earlier he faced natural calamities, highly exploitative revenue system specially during British rule etc. However this time the crisis is multidimensional.  He is not only facing natural calamities but also man-made crisis such as shortages and exploitative market conditions and indifferent systems.

On one hand he has to face shortages of inputs like seeds, fertilisers, credit and on the other side he is being cheated by suppliers of adulterated fertilisers and pesticides, poor quality seeds and unpredictable water and electricity supply.  Instead of guiding him the system seems to be miss-guiding him. The time he wastes in running around for credit, inputs and facilities under different schemes is difficult to calculate.

However the worst thing is that he has no place in the decision-making system which makes decisions on his behalf. Government sets up commissions, committees and forums where he is not represented.

The last straw on the camel's ( farmers ) back is that he has no respectable place in the Indian society. This is obvious from the recent NSSO survey which has reported that 40 per cent farmers are ready to leave agriculture at first opportunity.

Urban people have disdain for them, decision-makers don't want to talk to them and now young farmers are finding it hard to even get good spouses.

This newsletter is an effort to highlight some of the crisis and the solutions. We look forward to a fruitful sharing for this cause.

Alerts and News
Floods wreak havoc in India
Like every year, the floods have wreaked havoc this year also in various parts of India. Even regions like Laddakh, Haryana, Punjab and Delhi are suffering from the impact of floods taking a heavy toll of human lives and property and inundating hundreds of villages in their wake.Prospects of heavy monsoon rain in India this year have raised the risk of floods in some regions that may hurt India's cane, corn and rice crops.
Impact of Floods
Data from India's ministry of water resources shows that in a typical year the loss from floods in India is:
  • Area affected: 7.3 million hectares
  • Crop area damaged 3.725 million hectares
  • Value of crop damaged 10,95132 billion rupees
  • No. of people affected 40.9 million
  • Human lives lost 1,793
  • Cattle lost 85,599
  • Houses damaged 1,452,904
  • Value of houses damaged 3.7 billion rupees
  • Public Utilities damaged 11,86 billion rupees
  • Total losses 27,06 billion rupees ($575 million).
Is There Fertilizer Shortage in Andhra Pradesh?
Yes! A social unrest is building up among farmers due to severe shortage of fertilizers in Telangana district this season. With bountiful rainfall and regular power supply, the farmers had gone for hectic sowing activity in the last one month. But their hopes of a good yield have dashed with the authorities failing to supply enough fertilizer stocks.

For instance, Warangal district received only 10,000 metric tonnes (MTs) of urea as against the requirement of 45,000 MTs in August. This huge shortage in the fertilizer supplies is forcing the ryots to take to the streets. Hundreds of ryots were lathicharged at Hathnoora in Medak district when they staged a dharna demanding supply of fertilizers.

While the requirement for Warangal this kharif season was 1,43,429 MTs of urea, only 10,000 MTs was supplied. Little wonder, enraged farmers are taking out protests and rallies at Narsampet, Mahabubabad, Jangaon and Warangal demanding immediate release of urea, otherwise, the sown crop will wither away and the farmers will suffer huge losses.

Sources said dealers in cahoots with agents are creating an artificial shortage of urea. At several places, the dealers insist that the ryots buy zinc bag along with urea bag. While one urea bag (50 kg) costs Rs 290, the zinc bag is priced at Rs 310. "Zinc usage is minimal for the crop but we are forced to buy that," a farmer complained.

A cotton farmer expressed that if the urea was not supplied in sufficient quantities, cotton plants would die. "I came to purchase urea in Warangal on Tuesday but in vain. Our livelihood is at stake but our pleas for fertilizer supplies have fallen on the deaf ears of the authorities," he regretted.
Legislative News
Long-Pending Bills in Parliament Relating to Agriculture
Two major bills, namely – The Seed Bill 2004 and The Pesticide Management Bill 200, which impact agriculture in a major way, are still pending in parliament. Details  
Farmers Suicides
Nearly 2 Lakh Farmers Suicides Since 1997
There were at least 16,196 farmers' suicides in India in 2008, bringing the total since 1997 to 199,132, according to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB). The share of the 'suicide belt' - Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, and Chhattisgarh - remains very high; these states account for two-thirds of the total farm suicides in the country. P Sainath who has been reporting on this vital issue since almost a decade now details it in his article. Read Article
Disadvantaged Groups in Agriculture
Fishermen are a Large Number in India
India with her 6000 km coastline and innumerable rivers, lakes, reservoirs and ponds, has one of the largest population of fisher people in the world. The total population of fisher people is over 7 million with one-third depending on marine fishing and the remaining two-third on fishing in a variety of inland water bodies. The fishing communities are generally very poor.

         With the introduction of export oriented mechanized deep sea fishing and aquaculture, the threat to the livelihood of fisher people has necessitated fishworkers to organize themselves and forge new linkages. The growth of All Goa Fish Workers' Union, the Kerala Independent Fish Workers' Federation, the Tamilnadu Fish Workers' Union, are a result of assaults on the fishworkers' livelihoods. Fisheries being a subject handled by State Governments, most fishworkers organizations have been and are at State level. The National Fish Worker Forum is an all India organization that represents the interests of and unites these local movements.

Agriculture in Difficult Areas
  Challenges of Farming in Himalayan Deserts
Growing enough food is not easy in Ladakh. And this bare and cold Himalayan area struggles to feed its 300,000 people. Still. In spite of the artificial glaciers and new greenhouses, the farmers of this cold desert are regaining self-sufficiency in food.  Read on…
Hill Farmers Demand Protection From Wild Animals
The damage being done by the wild animals and extra labour being borne by the farmers due to shortage of irrigation water as well as unavailability of hybrid seeds at the village level were observed as the main problems faced by the hill farmers in the state and the Uttarakhand Agriculture Director Madan Lal also confirmed menace of wild animals in rural areas. Read on…
Rainfed Areas
  Government Focuses on Rainfed Areas Through NRAA
Based on the recommendations of National Farmers Commission under Chairman Dr MS Swaminathan, Government of India has setup National Rainfed Area Authority (NRAA) to oversee development of Rainfed Areas ( including Dryland Areas ) which constitute almost 60 % of the total area under agriculture in the country.

The mandate of NRAA is:

  • To evolve common guidelines for all schemes of different Ministries
    including Externally aided project (EAPs) for development of Rainfed/ Dry
    land Farming Systems.
  • To coordinate and bring convergence within and among agricultural
    and wasteland development programmes being implemented in rainfed areas of
    the country.
  • To identify rainfed areas in different States which need priority
    attention and prepare watershed development programmes for integrated
    natural resource management, in consultation with States, focusing on multi
    dimensional crop, livestock, agri-pasture integrated systems and programmes
    for landless farming communities.
  • To identify gaps in input supply, credit availability, dissemination
    of appropriate technology and other requirements relevant for development of
    rainfed areas.
  • To guide the implementing agencies on priority setting and monitor
    the specific interventions required.
  • To develop plans/ programmes for for capacity building and centre/
    State Government functionaries in rainfed areas.
  • To suggest modalities to strengthen National and State Level
    Institutions concerned with Rainfed/ Dryland areas, and establish
    institutional linkages with prioritized watersheds.
  • To monitor disbursement of rural credit/insurance cover/ safety net
    programmes developed for rainfed areas.
  • To set the research agenda including a critical appraisal of
    on-going farming in rainfed areas to district and lower level authorities.
  • To evaluate on-going programmes.
    Read more about NRAA
Success Stories
Innovative Farming Provides Rural Livelihoods
Rajib,an innovative farmer, finds a better life by using dry-season (boro) rice technology in Jorhat District of the flood-prone... Read more
Successful Intercropping Motivates Farmers
Hats off to Sri D.P Choudhary for innovative ideas of intercropping Dalbergia sissoo with Papaya success gained by him has motivated neighbouring farmers to take up plantation of these tree species on. Read more
Zero Farming Guarantees Gold

A banker-turned farmer, Mr Kailash Murthy now has a yield of 3 tonnes of paddy per acre. He doesn't use any fertiliser or pesticide. He hasn't used any external input other than seeds. His neigbours get only 1.18 tonnes per acre, and that too after using chemical fertilisers and pesticides.Read more

Web Resources

Farmerswelfare ( Issues, Links & Documents)

Department of Agriculture (GOI)

More on agriculture

Articles & news on agriculture

Websites on Agriculture

Videos on Agriculture

Agriculture crisis - An interview with Dr YK Alagh, Former member Planning Commission on Agriculture

World Food Crisis – An interview with Devendra Sharma an Expert on Agriculture Policy

Classics on Agriculture

The Agriculture Testament” by Sir Albert Howard


1."The Changing Profile of Indian Agriculture" by Surinder Sud ( Publisher :Business Standard Books)

2.“Unleashing India – Water, Elixir of Life” by M.Veerappa Moily (Publisher : Rupa & Co.)

Some FAQs on Natural Farming
Q: What is Natural Farming?
A: http://www.satavic.org/fukuoka.htm
Q: Can non-chemical farming give good yields?
A: That non-checmical farming needs less or zero inputs is evident. Supporters of chemical farming methods say that non-checmical farming doesn't give good yields. Some of these myths are debunked here: http://www.satavic.org/mythsandfallacies.htm
Q: Has it worked in India?
A: Yes it has -- although it is true that very few farmers have tried it. Bhaskar Save is understood to be the pioneer of natural farming in India. Read about him here: http://infochangeindia.org/20030205672/Agriculture/Stories-of-change/Nat... Save-ji's farm has a site as well: http://www.savesanghavi.com/
In this context, you might like to read an open letter Save-ji sent to MS Swaminathan, one of the champions of chemical-intensive farming in India: http://www.doccentre.net/Tod/Tod/Open_Letter_to_MSS.php
Another good read would be about Mr Subhash Sharma of Yavatmal, who is another very successful natural farmer. Even when farmers were committing suicide in Maharashtra due to debt caused by poor monetary returns from agriculture, Subhash-ji was profitably farming away in the same area. You can read about him here: http://infochangeindia.org/20070707223/Agriculture/Changemaker/Working.

Q: Where can I see pictures of an Indian organic farm?
A: Raju Titus is another very successful organic farmer who lives near Hoshangabad. See his picasa photos: http://picasaweb.google.com/rajuktitus
Q: What are the bad sides of natural farming?
A: Well, it is alarmingly bad for the chemical and pesticide industry. If more farmers start switching to a mode of farming where they don't need to buy seeds or chemicals or pesticides, what will the big biotech corporations like Monsanto do? Natural farming is to chemical industry what open source software is to closed-source giants like Microsoft
Q: How fast can a farmer using chemical methods switch to one without using one?
A: This does take time, 3 years is the estimate I have read in most places. But the ongoing agrarian crises in many parts of the country is going to complete 20 years of its existence pretty soon -- and one of its big reasons is the HUGE input costs of chemical farming.

Q: Who started natural farming?
A: Masanobu Fukuoka started it in the modern world. You can read his celebrated book 'The One Straw Revolution' even if you never ever do any agriculture (an e-book is available here http://vidyaonline.org/arvindgupta/onestraw.zip ) . Otherwise this is a pretty old idea, and even in the Vedic age there was something called 'Rishi Kheti' practised by the sages (who didn't have any money and not much time to spend after growing their food).                                         
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