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Representational Image (File Photo | Express)
Express News Service
CHENNAI: The DMK government’s decision to present a dedicated budget for agriculture has kindled a lot of expectations within the farming community and activists.
One of the focal areas in the budget, they believe, should be organic farming, so that soil spoiled by chemical farming can be revived.
Activists under the banner of Thalaanmai Uzhavar Iyakkam (Self-Reliant Farmers’ Movement) and the Safe Food Alliance, which offers safe-food solutions, have submitted detailed representations to the State government for promoting organic farming.
Pamayan, an activist and an organic farmer himself, shared his views with Express on why organic farming needs a big push in Tamil Nadu and the initiatives needed.
The chemical farming, encouraged after 1965, has transformed agriculture as one that requires massive amounts of water.
The consequent extraction of groundwater pushed many villages to water crises whenever rains fail.
“Our ancestors classified land into five categories and developed agriculture methods suitable for each. But, the Green Revolution and market situations forced the farmers to draw more groundwater,” Pamayan said.
“At present, subsidy for organic farming is paltry when compared with that for chemical farming. While Rs 1.30 lakh crore in subsidy is allocated for chemical farming, organic farming, which also protects the environment, gets just Rs 300 crore,” Pamayan pointed out.
Asked how the State government could help, Pamayan said: “The State government is disbursing subsidy provided by the Central government. So, it can make equal allocations for chemical and organic farming. But, only when there is a separate policy for organic farming can separate allocations be made.“
Hurdles to be removed
Farmers hesitate to turn to organic farming and rightly so, said Pamayan.
“The State government is charging huge amounts for organic-farming certification. This affects the farmers much. The government should come forward to offer the certification for free. Also, the 100 day-job-guarantee scheme should be used for organic farming works.”
Since farmers engaged in organic farming are contributing to the protection of the environment and water resources, the government should announce an incentive in proportion to the acreage under organic farming.
This would prompt many to take it up. Also, organic farming requires a separate university or a research institute.
Expectations on budget
M Ananthoo, Coordinator of Tamil Nadu Safe Food Alliance, is confident that the State government would provide necessary impetus to organic farming in the forthcoming agriculture budget.
The government should apportion at least 30 per cent of the budget to organic farming.
It can also focus on setting up a series of retail shops along the lines of Aavin or Horticultural Producers’ Cooperative Marketing and Processing Society (HOPCOMS) in Karnataka to market organic-farm products.
Ananthoo said large-scale awareness campaigns among the farmers as well as consumers should be undertaken to promote organic farming.
Village-level farmers’ institutions (production and marketing) should also be established.
Investing in systematic capacity building, including agricultural department officials and agricultural scientists, is important.
Concurrent to promotion of organic farming, chemical farming and genetically modified crop cultivation should be regulated.
Revive traditional seeds
The government should also focus on organic-seed production, revival of traditional seed varieties, and integrating food schemes, especially for children, with organic-producer collectives.
Organic-market yards should be set up with grading, processing, and value-addition facilities.
“We also propose that Uzhavar Sandhais (Farmers Markets) have separate sections for selling organic products,” he said.
Thazhaanmai Uzhavar Iyakkam’s suggestions
Special schemes to revive soil fertility should be devised in Tamil Nadu as soil with more organic matter can facilitate recharging of groundwater-level. Also, this type of soil needs lesser quantity of water for cultivation.
Exclusive villages for preserving and producing traditional seeds. Farmers should be given training in protecting the genetic purity of the traditional seeds.
Village rivulets that went dry should be revived to conserve groundwater. If revival of rivulets in Rajasthan, which gets just 200mm of rainfall a year, is possible, it is possible in Tamil Nadu, where the rainfall is 900mm a year. The government should take proactive steps to make this a people’s movement.
In Andhra Pradesh, by adopting non-pesticidal pest management, farming without pesticides has become a possibility in 75 lakh acres. Tamil Nadu, which was a pioneer in this technique, should revive this method.
In Tamil Nadu, 60 per cent of cultivation takes place on rain-fed lands. So, 60 per cent of the budget should be allocated to rain-fed cultivation.
The State government should establish its own crop-insurance agency.
A farmers’ Income Commission should be established in Tamil Nadu to ensure minimum income for farmers. When the income of farmers gets reduced, the government should compensate for it.
A Debt Relief Commission, along the lines of that in Kerala, should be formed in Tamil Nadu to reduce the number of farmers committing suicide due to debt burden.
A legislation for protecting the farmers engaged in agriculture on leased land. In Tamil Nadu, 30 per cent of cultivation takes place on leased land.
Safe Food Alliance’s suggestions
Around 10 States already have an Organic Mission. Tamil Nadu, being a pioneer in organic farming, should have its own.
Exclusive Organic Farming Outlets should be established.
Separate markets should be established for organic produce (self-certified or PGS) through existing channels of marketing.
Retail outlets exclusively for the sale of organically grown produce should be opened by the government. Private entrepreneurs, with the support of government, should offer such produce to city residents.
In rural areas, organic-product retail outlets by women and unemployed rural youth should be encouraged. There could be such outlets across the State by the Department of Horticulture, along the lines of Safal outlets of Mother Dairy or HOPCOMS of Karnataka.
Read the full story on www.newindianexpress.com
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