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From UK To Auroville: Meet Musician & Organic Farmer Krishna McKenzie

It was 1993 when Krishna Mckenzie travelled all the way from the UK to Puducherry in India. Little did Mckenzie know then that years later, he would go on to become a champion of organic farming and an advocate of eco-friendliness in the quaint township of Auroville.

Inspired by the Indian culture from his alma mater, J Krishnamurti School in the UK, Mckenzie made his life-changing decision of stepping into India. Today, he finds happiness in farming with special emphasis on the Tamil cuisine and culture.

The 45-year-old is nothing short of a local celebrity. The Logical Indian spoke to Krishna Mckenzie about his love for natural farming which has been inspiring people to take the greener route. He said, “Man has lost their relationship with mother nature and hence, we have lost sight from where our food comes from.”

Telangana couple inspiring others to take-up organic farming

“We both worked together. We started with Rs 3,500, and in just four months, we have a yield of 6.35 quintals of sugar-free rice which has fetched us Rs 50,000,” say the young couple, Bhosle Sanjeev (28) and Rekha (26) who are ushering a more natural way of farming on some stretches of Kavval forest at Dongargaon, Adilabad district.

Dongargaon is a tiny village, which falls in the Indravelli mandal, and has a population of less than 1,000. The primary sustenance of its people is agriculture. And until 2013, Sanjeev’s farming pratices resembled his neighbours – using chemical pesticides and buying standard seeds from seed shops. However, over time, Sanjeev, who is educated till class 10, came to the conclusion the effort and risk of these methods of farming were not yielding corresponding results.

HP Guv exhorts farmers to switch to natural farming

Solan: Chemical fertilisers are resulting in deadly diseases such as cancer. According to a research, the number of cancer patients in the last one-and-a-half year has increased by 25 per cent.

This was stated by Hichal Pradesh Governor Acharya Devvrat while addressing a farmers’ meet under the Prakritik Kheti, Khushhal Kisan scheme (formulated on Subhash Palekar model of natural farming) at Dr YS Parmar Horticulture and Forestry University, Nauni, here today.

More than 800 farmers from Solan, Shimla, Bilaspur, Sirmaur and Una districts and scientists participated in this programme.

NGO roots for pesticide-free crops

Gunbir Singh has a mission – to coax farmers to go natural and enable ecological conservation and sustainable living. We are ingesting deadly toxins through food and water, he said. As president of the Dilbir Foundation, an NGO, he has been motivating farmers to grow pesticide-free food crops.

“Our objective is to support natural farming movement and organise outreach programmes to support farmers,” he said. The task is challenging and there are many problems that need to be addressed.

There is a degree of scepticism that has crept into the buyers’ psyche – the consumers are not sure whether the products sold as “organic” are actually pesticide free.

Promotion of organic pineapple based enterprise in NEH Region

Organic farming is a system which avoids or largely excludes the use of synthetic inputs (such as fertilizers, pesticides, hormones, feed additives etc) and to the maximum extent feasible rely upon crop rotations, crop residues, animal manures, off-farm organic waste, mineral grade rock additives and biological system of nutrient mobilization and plant protection” (USDA).

FAO suggested that “Organic agriculture is a unique production management system which promotes and enhances agro-ecosystem health, including biodiversity, biological cycles and soil biological activity, and this is accomplished by using on-farm agronomic, biological and mechanical methods in exclusion of all synthetic off-farm inputs.

Future belongs to organic tobacco

As one motored down the Mangamoor Road, farms in the traditional tobacco growing area in Prakasam district showed signs of severe moisture stress as the drought-prone area did not receive sufficient rain this year as well.

But the one farm that looked healthy was that of a progressive farmer, V.V. Prasad, who had taken to cow-based natural farming to protect soil health, cut costs on farm inputs and get highest rate for his produce.

So is the farm of P. Krishnaiah, who revived the traditional practice of preparing decoction from locally available leaves, that included neem and crown flower, for plant protection.

His farm also exhibited less moisture stress when compared to other farms grown by using synthetic fertilizers and pesticides.

Mixed farming helped this farmer earn good income

Mixed farming has helped a progressive farmer at Athigere in Kottigehara village of Mudigere taluk to earn additional income and lead a content life.

A B Suresh Gowda cultivates ginger, coffee, cardamom, pepper, banana, pineapple, cucumber on his three-acre land in addition to apiculture.

He has been following an organic system of farming. He has cultivated coffee on his three-acre land and pepper vines are spread in the shade of trees in the estate.

Organic farmer shows how there’s moolah in lemon

Surendranagar, like much of Gujarat’s Saurashtra region, is reeling under drought. Most farmers in this district, which is India’s largest cotton producer, have harvested little crop following last year’s monsoon failure. Hamirsinh Parmar from Gautamgadh village in Surendranagar’s Muli taluka is an exception. He hasn’t taken much of a hit — thanks to the income from his lemon orchard and the higher prices of his organically-farmed produce.

Parmar has six hectares land, on which his lemon orchard is in a plot measuring around 1.6 hectares. “I was growing cotton and groundnut, whose market prices and yields were prone to fluctuations. About 25 years ago, I decided to develop this particular plot into an orchard by planting 220 lemon saplings,” he states.

Punjab bags Jaivik India Award

Chandigarh Punjab has been declared the second best state among states of north and north-east India for extensive promotion and implementation of organic farming and bagged prestigious “Jaivik India Award”.

Union Minister for Commerce and Industries Suresh Prabhu conferred the award upon the state, which was received by Managing Director, Punjab Agro, Sibin C, IAS, in a function held here at Delhi.

India exports 10 lakh tonnes of spices in 2017-18

India has exported 10,28,060 tonnes of spices worth Rs 1792955 in 2017-18, according to official figures released recently.

Government supports the producers of spices in the country through its flagship programme, Mission for Integrated Development of Horticulture (MIDH), with the objective of promoting holistic development of horticulture including spices, the release added.

The Mission programmes are implemented through State Horticulture Mission (SHM) in the various States.

The MIDH has components like production and distribution of planting materials, establishment of new garden (area expansion), creation of water resources, promotion of Integrated Pest Management (IPM)/Integrated Nutrient Management (INM), promotion of organic farming, promotion of Good Agricultural Practices (GAP), mechanization, creation of market infrastructure, processing and value addition etc.

These programmes are aimed at improving production, productivity and quality of the spices.

Caught in the cycle of debt and death, India’s farmers drove home the severity of the agrarian crisis in 2018

In Karsod, (Palghar district) a village about 100 km from Mumbai, a middle-man buys cluster beans which are in season for Rs 10 a kg from adivasi farmers. He rests on a cot and behind him, in a makeshift tent, the mound of cluster beans is growing. He will sell them in the city for Rs 70 or 80 a kg while the farmer who grew them cannot even cover his or her cost of production. This year, farmers sold onions for a profit of Rs 2 per kg; they threw milk and vegetables on the road in Nashik, because selling it was too demeaning and fetched little money. This is what agriculture has come to.

In Maharashtra, a farmer died while he was protesting outside a bank, or committed suicide because he did not get a loan: incidents like this are endless — the cry of despair from the farming community often ends in death because there seems to be no other way out. The wives of farmers who committed suicide from Vidarbha and Marathwada regions held a moving “condolence” meeting in Mumbai to share their grief and stories of survival.

Pushed to the brink, from the start of this year, and all through 2018, thousands of farmers have made their voices heard by marching on the street to big cities like Mumbai or Delhi, conducting countrywide yatras and protests, and amassing outside Parliament in the hope that their demands will be heard and met. And they are not asking for much — only better prices for their produce, timely credit, right to land, and implementation of the law, so they can make a decent living.

Make financial allocations to make crop insurance schemes attractive for farmers: Parliamentary Panel

The parliamentary panel, chaired by senior BJP leader Murli Manohar Joshi has also recommended re-formulation of agricultural insurance scheme in order to suit the needs of farmers who engage in organic farming, while also suggesting inclusion of multi-cropping system under it.

10 Indian farmers whose amazing ideas are changing the face of agriculture

Farming is often correlated with like barren land, unpaid loans, water scarcity, unfair prices, crop losses and farmer suicides.

And while some of these are harsh realities that we cannot turn a blind eye to, there is also an unexplored and underrated side of agriculture that doesn’t get the limelight it deserves. These are stories of innovations, successful farmers and farming techniques that have the power to change the face of agriculture in India.

Rewind 2018: How farming hogged headlines, yet not spotlight

Farmers’ protests ruled the headlines this year. Their distress over low farm prices, poor logistics for transport and government-assured purchases has been evident.

While the 14 volumes of Dalwai committee report on doubling farmers’ income provided a road map for transition from a mere Green Revolution to an Income Revolution for farmers, controversies around stubble burning causing air pollution too made news this year.

Why organic farming is an uphill task in Pakistan

Vendors at the Karachi Farmers Market sit calmly in front of their stock of organic vegetables stacked neatly on tables. Customers stroll by, trying to gauge which table has the best produce. Men are dressed comfortably in shorts and jeans while women look casual yet stylish with their branded bags tucked under their arms and their sunglasses perched on top of their heads. Laughter of children running around can be heard over soothing music playing in the background. With omelettes being made at some stalls and some vendors selling fresh juices, the market looks like a food festival.

This is how a small group of people, who have switched to consuming organic food, spend their Sunday mornings. They believe organic vegetables will reduce the health risks non-organic ones expose them to. Most importantly, they are willing to pay extra.

Record foodgrain output of 284.83 MT for 2017-18 as per 4th advance estimates

DAC&FW fixes the target for the production of foodgrains in the country annually. The target for the production of foodgrains has been fixed at 290.25 million tonne (MT) for 2018-19. The production of foodgrains in the country has been estimated at 284.83 MT (as per the Fourth Advance Estimates) for 2017-18, which is a record.

The total Rabi foodgrain production in the country is estimated at 144.10 MT, which is higher by 7.32 MT than the previous record production of Rabi foodgrain of 136.78 MT achieved during 2016-17. The Rabi production during 2017-18 is also higher by 13.58 MT than the previous five years’ (i e between 2012-13 and 2016-17) average production of foodgrain.

The production of foodgrains in the country during Kharif 2018 was estimated at 141.59 MT  against 140.73 MT during Kharif 2017, which is higher by 0.86 MT. Further, kharif foodgrain production is 11.94 MT more than the average production of five years (between 2012-13 and 2016-17) of 129.65 MT.

For these farmers in Bihar’s Jamui, hope is 27-years-old

Till nearly two years ago, Suhawan Singh Rathore from Bihar had the world before him. He had completed his Masters in Development at the Azim Premji University in Bengaluru, and started working as an innovation officer at a private firm in Bhubaneswar.

But then, he had a change of heart. And now, he is back home in Naxal-hit Jamui, helping a collective of paddy farmers battle a cycle of debt and distress by planting additional, organic vegetable crop within a low budget.

Organic farming: a win-win for health, economy

Organic farming protects soil fertility and crops produced in this form would protect human health and also the environment, said Collector M. Ram Mohan on Sunday. He was addressing a meeting organised in connection with the Rythu Dinotsavam (Farmers’ Day) under the aegis of the Chinnikrishna Desi Vithana Parirakshana Samithi, at Pragathinagar.

He pointed out that organic farming is cheaper compared to farming based on synthetic chemicals and fertilizers. Initially, the production rate may be slow, but it improves in course of time, he added.

The Collector said under the Rythu Bandhu scheme, ₹400 crore was distributed to 2.23 lakh farmers in the district and the amount under the scheme would go up to ₹500 crore in the next season.

The district has also set a record in the State by procuring 4.81 lakh metric tones of food grains in kharif season, he said.

Mumbai college fest to promote farmers’ market

Come 2019, the students of Nirmala Memorial Foundation College will mark their intercollegiate youth festival, Elaan with a new social initiative. The festival will be organised by the departments of BMC, BCom (A&F) and BMM. The festival will be held on 30th and 31st January 2019.

The students will promote the farmers’ market which runs in D’Monte Park in Bandra west every Sunday. A skit will also organised by the students to create awareness among the people and promote organic products that are brought by farmers traveling from across the state.

Revenge of the antique rice grain

As Chinmoy Das tells it, it all began in September 2007. Several districts of West Bengal were flooded. Walking through one such limpid countryside along the banks of the Kulik river in North Dinajpur, Das, a Geography teacher, was surprised to see some paddy crops still standing erect, undamaged.

That left Das and his two friends — Sudipta Mukherjee, an officer with the fire services department in Calcutta, and Rupak Kumar Paul, a college teacher — intrigued. Das says, “That is the first time we learnt about paddy that is flood-resistant.” Thereafter, the three decided to follow up the revelation with some serious research. In due course, they came to know about paddy varieties that are drought-resistant and others that can grow in brackish water.

They also learnt that these indigenous or folk varieties with names such as Kalli, Changa, Kochi, Malsera, Kakri, Bahurupi had ceded place to high-yielding hybrid rice, a hot market favourite. Five years later, Das and his friends launched the Forum for Indigenous Agricultural Movement or FIAM, a platform to rejuvenate lost varieties of rice.

Bihar CM worried over stubble burning

Patna: Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Thursday expressed concern over reports of stubble burning in some districts and called for urgent steps to check the practice. At a meeting held in the Chief Minister’s Secretariat, where the agriculture scenario of the state was reviewed, he also highlighted the need for herding stray cattle to “gaushalas” since cow dung and urine were required for organic farming.

“There have been reports that farmers in Patna and Nalanda districts have taken up the practice of burning crop stubble. This must be stopped at all costs and the farmers should be made aware that this leads to atmospheric pollution,” Kumar said. Similar practice by the farmers of Punjab and Haryana has had deleterious effects on the air quality in Delhi, Kumar said.

Earth heroes, 2018: meet 10 path-breaking Indians saving our planet

However, all such paths come with a string of obstacles and setbacks. So it is quite understandable when people slowly lose the ability to keep fighting the good fight. Life, as we all know, has a habit of coming in the way of the best-laid plans.

But there do exist a rare breed of more resilient individuals, who keep at it, no matter how tough the going gets. For them, every thorn is a lesson imbibed. Months, years and sometimes even decades go by, but these people persevere – until their goal is accomplished.

This resilience is all the more required if your cause is environmental conservation – where you battle vast public apathy, death threats from builders or poachers and – as is sadly all too common – a string of police cases filed after each protest.

Despite it all, in this fight to save the planet from our own blind actions, some do persevere.

They are not the heroes we deserve, but the ones we need, especially at a time when our insatiable needs are, to be frank, eradicating many large forms of life on the planet.

With yet another year coming to an end, we at The Better India would like to celebrate these green crusaders, who have shown through their tireless actions and unrelenting efforts that it is never too late for us to step up and fight for our environment.

Here are 10 amazing Earth Heroes we’d like to honour with The Better India Spotlight, 2018. Their selfless pursuits are helping raise a new wave of environmental consciousness amidst people—one initiative at a time:

Health conscious citizens fancy a new trend of organic millets

Vizag: As the people are growing conscious about maintaining a healthy diet, the millet seem to have taken to the charts at a decent number of households and the new trend is obvious for the increasing footfalls at the store that are selling millets within the city.

The traders at the MVP Rythu Bazaar and the say that they have been doing a good business for the past few months.

“Even the high prices are no deterrent even to the average middle class customer. We have been buying jonnalu and ragulu grown through natural farming practices for the past few years. Since the past few months, we have started purchasing ‘chiru dhanyalu’ too as they have high nutritive value. Protein deficiency is growing among vegetarians. I have been watching several programmes on Youtube and learnt about the benefits of millets,” says K.V.P.S. Achari, a resident of Sector-III, MVP Colony.

Traditional ‘wonder grass’ helps TN farmer earn Rs 1.5 lakh profit per acre of land!

C Pandian, a farmer from the Sivaganga district in Tamil Nadu, walks through his 10-acre land, all covered in grass. This 5-feet-tall Vetiver grass that spans all over his farm will fetch him profits in lakhs.

Inspired by stories like his, several people are quitting their cushy jobs to return to their villages and take up farming.

And some, like Pandian, are taking an unconventional route in traditional farming to earn huge profits.

Vetiver grass, also known as the “wonder grass” of Tamil Nadu, has seen high demands from various sectors, including the pharma and cosmetic industries.

Farm that will live forever: meet the couple teaching this special technique!

Nestled amidst the foothills of Morni Hills near Panchkula, the quaint little Aanandaa Permaculture Farm was flagged off by a husband-wife duo in 2010 for a simple purpose—to encourage urban folk get back in touch with nature.

But unlike the various other ‘retreats’ across the country, this is no fancy hotel with a sprinkling of trees amidst the waiters. In Aanandaa, one can truly understand how to give back to Mother Earth, by learning the wonderful practice of permaculture.

Hailing from Chandigarh, Manisha and Agam were working in Mumbai when they were introduced to permaculture. This addressed a significant concern that gnawed at Manisha—the deteriorating quality of the food and water.