Will the government disregard lobby pressures and back these methods?
In the last few years the prices of almost all agricultural commodities shot up by more than sixty per cent.
Prof Anil Gupta, Co-ordinator, Sristi and Honey Bee Network, and Executive Vice Chair, National Innovation Foundation, Ahmedabad in his blog mentions one clue on why this problem is becoming intractable - we are too focussed entirely on output prices as a balancing exercise.
Need more attention
We do not pay enough attention to reduction of cost in most commodities. We need to aim at reducing unit cost of all goods and services in manufacturing as well as agriculture sector.
Farmers also will not plead for higher prices every year if the cost of their inputs can be controlled and reduced, according to him.
He adds that it is alright for the agricultural minister to say that to pay farmers well, society should bear the inflationary burden.
But that is not the right or understanding attitude towards the poor who suffer the most, nor towards farmers who do not care about prices as much as profits.
He even wonders how to convince the wise people in the planning commission considering the inflation, and adding cost of ten per cent or so to every unit cost.
He gives the example of growing cotton. The crop consumes almost forty per cent of the country’s chemical pesticides followed by paddy at 20 per cent.
What are we doing?
“What are we doing to reduce the cultivation cost of cotton? Farmers like Mr. Lakhra Bhai of Surendra Nagar in Gujarat used the idea of growing lady’s finger around cotton crops to trap the cotton pests nearly 20 years ago,” he says.
If that did not work, they sprayed jaggery or sugar solution to attract black ants which controlled the pests.
Prof Gupta was requested by the Government to look into the problem of farmers’ suicides in India. “While recommending establishment of village knowledge management systems, I pointed out a great tragedy confronting the children of farmers who committed suicides.
“I asked them whether they knew about any low cost or non-monetary technologies for reducing pest in cotton, since that is what pushed their fathers to the extreme step with no hope of coming out of their debt. The answer was a loud and repeated NO,” he rues.
Ironically, farmers from another district of Maharashtra which he visited, shared a traditional practice (also found in many other parts of India) that lady’s finger as border crop acts as a good trap crop.
It belongs to the same family as cotton and flowers earlier than cotton.
“Has any experiment been done to prove that the above simple traditional method is wrong in India or Africa or central or West Asia?” he asks.
But will these practices ever reach the masses?
“No. because then farmers will become self reliant and sustainable. Will the department of agriculture share this disregarding the pressure from the pesticide lobby, I doubt it, as for twenty years they did not do it,” he voices his point emphatically.
Free for all
“These kinds of solutions are available on sristi.org web site in open source for decades. When the cost of failure is low, and chances of success high, only inertia can explain the indifference to such bottom-up grassroots solutions for decades.
“These solutions will reduce cost, check inflationary pressure, and make the poor better off too as they will not suffer from exposure to chemicals. I hope technocracy will prove that we are wrong,” he concludes with a chuckle.