Jan 1, 2010

Two inspiring lessons for farmers, from farmers

As 2009 fades into history, let me begin by sharing two relevant news items that you can use. Moreso, at a time when the world is racing towards global warming and turning fertile agricultural lands into deserts, we need to provide everlasting solutions to the innumerable problems created in the name of growth economics.

To begin with, I draw your attention to my earlier blog about this amazing farmer breeder in Varanasi who has developed some 100 improved plant varieties. In case you missed it, here is the posting: You have to meet this farmer breeder. He has developed more than 100 improved crop varieties (http://devinder-sharma.blogspot.com/2009/11/you-have-meet-this-farmer-breeder-he.html).

Prakash Singh Raghuvanshi has just returned from his travels to Poona and Jalna districts in Maharashtra. Like all of us, he has been much concerned about the plight of farmers, perpetually in distress, in the infamous Vidharba belt in Maharashtra. He strongly feels that one of the major reasons behind the farm distress is that these farmers have handed over the control over their crop seeds to private seed companies. "Once you allow the seed companies to dictate to you, you not only lose your sovereignty but also become dependent upon them for all times to come," he says, adding : "This is beginning of the end of farming."

Raghuvanshi has therefore been telling fellow farmers to take control over their seeds. For the past 6-7 years, hundreds of farmers in Jalna district have been cultivating Kudrat-9 and Kudrat-17 wheat varieties that Raghuvanshi developed. These two dwarf varieties are basically selections from the RR-21 wheat (Rust Resistant Sonalika variety) that he made in 1991-92, and are resistant to the tambera disease that afflicts wheat in the Maharashtra region).

With the help of farmers from Jalna, who provided him with 20 quintals of seeds (and an additional 12 quintals he brought with him from Varanasi), Raghuvanshi distributed 32 quintals of wheat seed, in packs of 100gm each, to over 25,000 farmers in the two districts. Isn't this inspiring to begin the New Year with? What a powerful message Raghuvanshi leaves behind.

I think this is an outstanding feat, and is a lesson for all of us involved in farming and agriculture. After all, when farmers realise the advantages from controlling their own seed supply, they come forward to share the seed without any profit motive. I am sure similar initiatives must be happening in other parts of the country too. If you know of any, please let me know. Let us build a farmers movement where sharing of seeds and  its related traditional knowledge is revived.

The second feat that I wish to share with you is the effort that a farmer in Jind district of Haryana has made, to find a natural control for the mealy bug menace in cotton. As you are aware, mealy bug has suddenly emerged as a major pest of cotton, especially after the introduction of Bt cotton. Farmers have incured huge losses as a result of the expensive pesticides they were made to purchase to control this dangerous pest. Mealy bug has in fact become a multi-billion rupee business for the pesticides industry.

Surender Dalal has been relentlessly on the mealy bug trail. He has done a lot of research on the subject, and is now very confident that the harmless and attractive Lady beetle (scientifically called Coccinella septempunctata) is the right predator for the mealy bug. It feeds merrily on the mealy bug. You can watch a small video on this natural pest control. This video has been prepared with help from farmers in rajpura, igrah, nidana, roopgarh and lalit khera villages in Jind district.

Our ally in war against mealy bug

Who said farmers are not innovators! Give them the right enabling environment, and they will provide you the right solutions for sustainable farming.

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