Thandapani: Karsog Valley Farmers Group (KVFG), a cooperative of farmers and Organic Farming Association of India (OFAI), held a joint three-day conference here from May 22 to 24, to discuss ‘organic farming and water conservation techniques’.
Among the participants included vice-chancellor of Dr YS Parmar University of Horticulture and Forestry Dr KR Dhiman, and vice-chancellor of CSK HP Agriculture University Dr Tej Pratap. Special guest speakers on the topics were Dr Bharatendu Prakash (Director North India – OFAI), Shri Rajender Singh (Ramon Magasaysay Award Winner and leading activist in the area of water conservation), and Miguel Braganza (Secretary of PGS Organic India Council). In addition, the conference saw participation of two judges of Himachal Pradesh High Court – Justice Deepak Gupta and Justice Sanjay Karol. – in their personal capacity.
Farmers from Gujarat, West Bengal, Goa, Madhya Pradesh and organic food marketers from Delhi participating in discussions and demonstrations.
Vikram Singh Rawat, spokesperson for KVFG, introduced the conference describing the problems faced by farmers of the region. He mentioned that nearly 100% of the farmers were using synthetic inputs in the region and although this did result in increase in yields in the initial stages, there was a remarkable decline in resistivity of plants in case of periods of drought. “The taste and quality of the produce such as apple is not the same as it used to be earlier. Growers in the region have moved to growing exotic vegetables on a large scale and in the past have sent a record 3-4 tonnes of these vegetables per day to Azadpur in Delhi during season. However, vegetable production demands a lot of water, which has in the years plummeted to levels where even consumption by households in scarce,” he said.
The core topic on organic farming was presented by Dr Bharatendu Prakash, who is spearheading a grassroots organic farming movement with farmers in Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. Dr Prakash spoke about India’s traditional organic agriculture and how last 70 years have seen rapid use of fertilizers and pesticides in the name of the Green Revolution. He also said that this period has resulted in a near irreversible loss of livelihood to millions of farming households and large scale misuse of chemical inputs. He also mentioned that the fields of water conservation is not separate from organic farming since it is the latter which improves water holding capacity of the soil, which further results in rejuvenation of underground and mountain water sources, in addition to reducing the overall consumption of water used for farming.
Dr KR Dhiman spoke to the audience about how over the years incessant use of chemical fertilizers has actually reduced the overall yield of crops across the country with large swaths of land actually going barren in the years. He stressed on the importance of using Geographical Indicators (GIs) for identifying produce from the region so that consumers can identify with the producers as well as the products.
Dr Tej Pratap spoke about how water has become a problem across the world and how the effects of weather would bring forth catastrophic changes in the foreseeable future. He reiterated that organic farming was closely linked water conservation and that if we choose to ignore it today we will be doing so only at our own peril, when in the future we will have no other choice but to farm organic. He spoke about his experiences travelling to mountainous regions across the world where villages had to be abandoned due to the extremities of climates.
Miguel Brganza described how India’s fear for food scarcity in the 60s was capitalized by western industries to market the explosive and poisonous chemical remnants for the two world wars were consciously marketed as fertilizer and pesticides to our nation. “The biodiversity of our country which has hardy millets and pseudo-cereals like Amaranth, Ragi and Buckwheat were reduced to mono-cultures of wheat and rice. It was not time to revive our heritage and globally unique biodiversity which characteristics of India. He also spoke of alternatives for farmers on certification techniques called Participatory Guarantee Scheme (PGS) which is directed as a simple and low cost alternative to complex and expensive third party certification which is in any case export oriented and not suitable for the domestic organic market,” he said.
Magasaysay award winner Rajender Singh spoke about his experiences in rejuvenating seven rivers in Rajasthan, which had been barren for years. Ashish Gupta, a trainer from Delhi, held field demonstrations on organic farming techniques such as biodynamic heap compost, Cow Pat Pit (CPP), panchgavya and green manuring.