‘Low external input and sustainable agriculture (LEISA) offers solutions ’

Focussing too much on commercial (cash) crops will endanger food security, proponent of organic agriculture Nammalwar has said. In a statement, he said industrialised agriculture does not lead even to breakeven situation. That was why farmers switched over to commercial agriculture.

For example, Tamil Nadu has 38 sugar mills each one having a registered cane area of about 20,000 acres. In other fertile lands, cash crops such as banana, coconut, turmeric, cotton, flowers and tobacco are raised.

All the governmental assistance such as free electricity and fertilizer subsidy go only to commercial crops. Thus food production faces serious threat, he added.

Pointing out that 80 per cent of the farmers in the State own less than two acres each, he lamented that they are forced to rely on income from other sources for their livelihood. Their farming activities are totally dependent on rivers and rains. And the skirmishes between the States regarding water, drought due to climatic changes and floods, affect them directly. “Industrialised agriculture contributes 35 per cent to global warming,” he observed.

He said that industrialised agriculture required items from industries and hence would require quite a lot of energy. Thus it becomes “high energy input agriculture.” But organic agriculture, which is given several names including ecological farming, bio-dynamic agriculture, and natural way of farming, is one with “low external input and sustainable agriculture (LEISA).” Farmers and non-governmental organisations which wanted a change found LEISA method to have a number of solutions to the complexities of agriculture.

That’s why organic farming is considered both producer-friendly and consumer-friendly, he added.

Mr.Nammalwar said as early as 2006 the National Commission for Agriculture pinpointed the problems faced by Indian agriculture. Even the commission’s chairman and the father of Green Revolution M.S.Swaminathan had said that if proper solutions were not found, agriculture would reach an irredeemable stage, he warned.

The organic scientist said farmers at present are meeting too many problems and are incurring huge expenses. A large number of them are committing suicide. Only 28 per cent of them are able to get loans from the nationalised banks while the rest are still at the mercy of private lenders.

While groundwater level is going down year after year, salinity in cultivable lands has increased. Nutritional deficiency is found in almost all the fields.

Farm produce do not fetch remunerative price. And there is no scope for improving the productivity of the lands that offered food grains for the public distribution system at the initial stages. And consumers become victims of diseases such as jaundice, diabetes, and cancer. Both pregnant and lactating women suffer nutritional deficiency. Even children are born with low weight and poor physical and mental growth. Crops with high nutrient content like cholam, cumbu, ragi, varaghu, kudiraivali, samai, thinai and panivaraghu require less water. But the lands where these are raised have been rendered fallow and hence considered orphan crops.

Quoting Mr.Swaminathan, Mr.Nammalwar says “in late 1960s we were awaiting the arrival of ships for food. Now we don’t have even such an opportunity.”

As African countries are facing serious drought and suffering, the entire focus of the world has turned towards them.

The problems of Indian agriculture need a deep and long-term research and the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University has the facilities to do so and the NGOs can involve the public both in research and growth.

Hence, he is confident that if both these organisations were to act in unison it could bring about a sea change in agriculture in the State.