Anarcho-environmentalism allegorised

The name Anaarkali in the present context has many meanings - Anaar symbolises the anarchism of the Bhils and kali which means flower bud in Hindi stands for their traditional environmentalism. Anaar in Hindi can also mean the fruit pomegranate which is said to be a panacea for many ills as in the Hindi idiom - "Ek anar sou bimar - One pomegranate for a hundred ill people"! - which describes a situation in which there is only one remedy available for giving to a hundred ill people and so the problem is who to give it to. Thus this name indicates that anarcho-environmentalism is the only cure for the many diseases of modern development! Similarly kali can also imply a budding anarcho-environmentalist movement. Finally according to a legend that is considered to be apocryphal by historians Anarkali was the lover of Prince Salim who was later to become the Mughal emperor Jehangir. Emperor Akbar did not approve of this romance of his son and ordered Anarkali to be bricked in alive into a wall in Lahore in Pakistan but she escaped. Allegorically this means that anarcho-environmentalists can succeed in bringing about the escape of humankind from the self-destructive love of modern development that it is enamoured of at the moment and they will do this by simultaneously supporting women's struggles for their rights.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Biodiverse Agriculture

Subhadra bought about an acre of land last year in Pandutalav village in Dewas district of Madhya Pradesh with the idea of pursuing bio-diverse agriculture. The land has a hilly portion and a plain portion. The hilly portion was cut a little bit and the excavated soil was used to level the plain portion further including filling up a gully that was there in it. Then fertile soil from a tank nearby was transported to the plain portion to level it further. Stone bunds were placed on the edges of the land to ensure that all water remained in the farm. Biodiverse farming involves not only sowing a variety of crops but also having forested land nearby for a variety of trees, shrubs and grasses to produce enough bio mass for mulching. There are close to thirty different types of cereals, pulses, oilseeds and vegetables on this small farm and the first crop that will ripen in another ten days or so is rala or fox tail millet as shown below.
The Bhil Adivasis tradtionally had bio-diverse farming and so some part of the harvest would always come in regardless of whether there was more or less rainfall. There were also forests nearby which provided the mulch and the bacteria to enrich the soil. The aim was to produce for subsistence rather than for the market taking only so much from nature as they could give back to it. However, with aggressive promotion of chemical mono crop agriculture the traditional system is in decay. Nothing can exemplify this more than the fate of Aapsingh and Dunibai of Kanad village. Buoyed up by the high prices they received in 2014 for a few quintals of onion that they had grown that year, they decided to sow onions on as much as 5 acres in 2015. Other farmers too across the onion belt of Madhya Pradesh did the same. So when the onions were finally harvested there was a glut in the market and the price of onions came crashing down to just 25 paise a kilo. Aapsingh and Dunibai had already spent some fifty thousand rupees on the cultivation of onions and had a bumper crop of 40 quintals of onions which at the 2014 prices would have fetched them rupees one lakh sixty thousand which would have been a handsome profit. But since the prices had crashed in 2016 they would not even recover the transport cost of taking the onions to the market. They did not have the money to put their harvest in a cold storage and wait for the prices to rise again like some of the richer farmers were doing. Then their youngest son who is studying to be an industrial engineer hit upon an idea to create an aeration system to keep the onions from rotting in their home and two of his older sons who are employed in the army and the police agreed to fund this idea and so they have implemented an innovative onion storage system. This involves putting in a drum with perforations in the middle of the onions and driving air through the drum into the onions with a heavy duty fan. The picture below shows Dunibai alongside this aeration system installed in their house full of onions.
The whole house is smelling of onions and Aapsingh jokingly says that they have become onions themselves in the process. Whether Aapsingh's gamble will pay off or not depends on how the harvest will be in Maharashtra this year. If the harvest creates a glut once again, then the price of onions will remain subdued and eventually Aapsingh will be forced to throw away his onions despite his heroic efforts to salvage something from them. Aapsingh and Dunibai have been able to bear their travails with smiles because they have two sons in well paying Government service as otherwise they would have been on the verge of committing suicide.
Thus, for biodiverse organic agriculture to make a come back, there has to be a drastic change in agricultural policy providing support to it instead of chemical monocultures as at present.

1 comment:

Sadanand Patwardhan said...

Very Tellingly told, Rahul.