Saturday, December 12, 2009

SWANIRVAR-20th Annual Report (2008 – 2009)

Work in 105 villages of 28 GPs in 7 blocks with ~ 10,000 farmers
Continuing Work : ( i) Integrated Pest management in rice (ii) Poyra ( relay ) cropping (iii) Intensive home garden (iv) Organic and Bio soil nutrients (v) Land shaping (vi) Trials with new varieties and indigenous rice (vii) Mulch Potato (viii) Consumer Awareness on safe food: (ix) Promoting herbals (x) Non-chemical pest & disease control (xi) SRI method of rice cultivation (xii) Growing vegetables in sacks and buckets where appropriate (xiii) Expanding farmer’s seed network (xiv) Village grain banks
Farmer’s Conference : After several years gap we held 2 farmer’s conferences in 2 blocks with 400 farmers from 22 villages attending . The highlight was the experience narrated by some of our totally committed organic farmers to whom we had provided some initial inputs 4-5 years back. From reports that we got , many farmers were enthused enough to start trying some of the ideas they had heard .
Orientation for the Leaders of Farmer’s Groups : We now have many farmers groups . But quite a few of them are unstable and go through various ups and down. For the first time this year we held 7 orientation meetings for 100 leaders of these groups on some of the nuts and bolts of running a group. New groups are also being formed
Area Resource & Training Centres (ARTC) : In the last 5 years we had failed to establish this concept floated by DRCSC of creating farmer managed and owned centres. This year we were able to form 3 and they have just started functioning. We will know the result only after another 2 years.
Sale of vermicompost by farmers: Out of the farmers who had been making vermi-compost for own use after getting trained by us , some of the leading one this year started selling it to others and have earned a decent amount of money .
Amrita-pani becoming popular : A simple liquid concoction made from cow urine which we learnt from Maharashtra has become extremely popular as it is very easy to make and has proved to be quite effective in many cases.
Totally organic : In our triple cropping , highly chemical intensive, very low land holding district, we had not been able to get a substantial group of farmers to agree to make their lands totally organic. But finally we seem to be getting some success where 60 farmers have agreed to make their 80 bighas (~27 acres ) of land totally organic. We will have to nurture them for several years.
Fish in Tubewell water : 12 women started the trial this year of digging a 4’X6’ pit where the water of their home tubewell accumulates and are farming local catfish there. The sides of the pit are lined with various herbs like Helencha, Thankuni, Kulekhara , Brahmi etc

Annual reports for the previous years can be seen in

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Use of bucket in Home Kitchen Garden:

Our staff, Mina and Anjana worked with the women farmers groups. Their main responsibility was to train the housewives on making vegetable gardens adjacent to their house. They trained the women groups on – mixed farming, vegetable rotation system, different types of compost making, preparation of bio-pest controllers, etc. The main aim of this training was to ensure the basic nutrition of poor families and the concept was zero waste. Converting the peels of the vegetable and other house hold waste into manures and making vegetables with these manures, so that the family members could get organic, home made fresh vegetable with minimum efforts.

In the month of April, 09, they went for a training programme in Vaduria village of Swarupnagar Block. There was a training on kitchen garden making with the housewives from BPL (below poverty line) families. One of the trainees, Shyamali Mondal asked Mina that she was very much interested in making such kitchen garden but she had no land adjacent to her home.

Hearing this, Mina advised her to use their tiles roof as trellis for pumpkin and bottle gourd. She(Mina) told her to collect two plastic buckets and filled it with sand clay and vermicompost in 1:3 ratio and also told her to make a small orifice at the bottom so that the excess water could passed through it. After the filling of the buckets she was asked to put one sapling of pumpkin in a pot and one sapling of bottle gourd to another. Shyamali also put some bamboo sticks adjacent to the buckets so that the saplings could climb these and could reach to the tiles roof easily.

From, July, 09, Shyamoli got a number of pumpkins and bottle gourds on her tiled roof. So far she had got 25 bottle gourds and 11 pumpkins. She and her family members were very happy with it. Her detailed income –expenditure reports were given below.
Unused Bucket                          8.00
Vermicompost                          10.00
Saplings                                      1.00
T O T A L                                 19.00
ITEM                   WT(Kg)         UNIT RATE        PRICE
Bottle gourd           100                    6.00                600.00
Bottle gourd leaf       20                    4.00                  80.00
Pumpkin                   33                  10.00                330.00
Pumpkin leaf             12                    4.00                  48.00
T O T A L                                                            1058.00
NET PROFIT: Rs. 1039.00 (Rupees one thousand thirty nine only)

Monday, December 7, 2009

Successful livelihood regeneration programme in Hingalganj

       After the initial relief operation in Hingalganj, our main focus was to regenerate livelihood regeneration in Hingalganj. As most of the farm yards were under the saline water and made it unsuitable for farming. 20yrs ago farmers had many saline tolerant country paddy like Nonasree, Talmugur, Ashfal etc. But after AILA, we found that farmers had no such seeds left. We tried to restart the farming of such paddy varieties. As the entire sundarban areas are mono cropped so our main focus was paddy so that the poor farmers could get their rice throughout the year. Our technical partner, DRCSC send some seeds of Talmugur paddy for the Aila affected areas. We distributed these to the farmers and also collected some amount of Nonasree Paddy seeds for them.

      We also got some training on techniques and concepts on cultivation in the saline land from Ardhendhu Chatterjee of DRCSC. We asked the farmers to make canals in the boundaries so that the rain water could be deposited there. During the monsoon, the washed rain water could also be deposited there. The farmers followed our suggestion. We also requested them not use any kind of inorganic fertilizers in soil. They used only vermi-compost in their field. They used only bio-pest controllers. Finally they have achieved a successful gain from their field. In Hingalganj Block, only our farmers were able to produce paddy in their field.

        Local Agriculture Development Officer (ADO) had visited their field and had met our staff, Nishambhu Sarkar. The ADO office had requested Swanirvar to campaign for SRI paddy farming in Hingalganj. Below there are pictures of our farmers, Swapan Roy and Debdas Baulia who had successfully produced Nonasree and Talmugur in their field.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Dying to be green? Now, try ‘bio-cremation’

REUTERS 3 December 2009, 12:24am IST

VANCOUVER (BRITISH COLUMBIA): Worried you haven’t been green enough in life? Don’t let death come in the way of a more eco-friendly you.

From coffins made of recycled cardboard to saying no to embalming chemicals that seep into the soil, people are increasingly searching for ways to make their final resting place a more environmentally-friendly one.

Now cremation, the choice today of a third of Americans and more than half of Canadians, is getting a green make-over. A standard cremation spews into the air about 400 kilograms of carbon dioxide — a greenhouse gas blamed for global warming — along with other pollutants like dioxins and mercury vapor if the deceased had silver tooth fillings.

Enter alkaline hydrolysis, a chemical body-disposal process its proponents call “bio-cremation” and say uses one-tenth the natural gas of fire-based cremation and one-third the electricity.

C0² emissions are cut by almost 90% and no mercury escapes as fillings and other metal objects, such as hip or knee replacements, can be recovered intact and recycled.

Matthews International Corp, the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania-based company that makes caskets and other funeral products is planning the world’s first commercial launch of human alkaline hydrolysis in January at a funeral home in St Petersburg, Florida.

In alkaline hydrolysis the body is submerged in water in a stainless steel chamber. Heat, pressure and potassium hydroxide, chemicals used to make soap and bleach, are added to dissolve the tissue. Two hours later all that’s left is some bone residue and a syrupy brown liquid that is flushed down the drain. The bones can be crushed and returned to the family as with cremation.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Rural Ambulance service inauguration in Hingalganj:

Professional Institute for Development and Socio Environmental Management – PRISM, a non-governmental, non-profit organization, is set up to develop and implement solutions that balance the need for food, shelter, income and environmental quality prescribed for all.

PRISM has developed a rural ambulance, which is an improvised version of the common rickshaw van, well designed to serve the purpose of an ambulance in a much more effective way. After its introduction villagers have started getting an Ambulance Plus service - It has been used for 'early warning', 'rescue' and 'relief' before and during the floods in the Gaighata and Swarupnagar Blocks of North 24 Parganas district, West Bengal since 2004.
(Details of their activities are available in

SWANIRVAR and PRISM worked together in relief and rehabilitation works in Hingalganj block. One day our staff, Nilangshu and Nishambhu requested PRISM’s Technical Director, Dr. Aniruddha Dey to visit one of our ARTC ( Agri-school) in Hingalganj and meet our sustainable farmers. During his meeting with the farmers he expressed his willingness to give one such Rural Ambulance to them. ARTC farmers gladly accepted his proposals and they sent a request proposal to PRISM. Finally it was decided that the ambulance would be handed over on 28th November, 2009.

Hingalgnaj was famous for its rich cultural heritage of folk(vatiali songs) and drama. One of the ATRC member, Basudeb Das was a famous Jatra( folk drama) actor wrote a drama and requested us for some financial help so that they ARTC farmers can perform that on the same venue.

On 28th November,09 three SWANIRVAR staff and three PRISM officials and a Government Medical Officer, Dr. Supti Biswas went to Hingalganj and was splendid after seeing that the entire Police ground was decorated by the colorful ribbons and papers. A small stage was made in the corners of the field for the drama and ambulance opening. The function was started at 6.00p.m. The key of the ambulance was handed over by Dr. Biswas to the president of the ARTC. More than 2 thousand villagers expressed their cheers in that moment and after that a drama was performed by the local farmers.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Rise in sea level may hit Kolkata

Days before the Copenhagen conference on climate change kicks off, a major study by a group of 100 international scientists has said that sea levels are likely to rise by as much as 1.4 metres by the end of this century.
That’s twice as much as predicted in IPCC’s fourth assessment report in 2007.
The study also enhances the threat to the Indian coast — and cities like Kolkata, Mumbai and Chennai.
The Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research report is the first comprehensive review of the impact of global warming on Antarctica. The IPCC report had projected that sea levels could rise 18-59 cm by 2099.
Subsequent studies of glacial melts in Greenland and Antarctica had raised fears that the rise could be higher.
TNN 2 December 2009

Sundarbans water warming eight times faster than global average

NEW DELHI: In the Sundarbans, surface water temperature has been rising at the rate of 0.5 degree Celsius per decade over the past three decades, eight times the rate of global warming, says a new study.

That makes the Sundarbans one of the worst climate change hotspots on the globe.

The study, carried out over 27 years from 1980 by scientists from India and the US, found a change of 1.5 degrees Celsius, a clear challenge to the survival of flora and fauna in the world's largest mangrove forest.

A Unesco World Heritage site, the Sundarbans covers 9,630 sq km in India and Bangladesh. It is home to a number of endangered species.
"Surface water temperature in the deltaic complex of the Indian Sundarbans experienced a gradual increase of 0.5 degree Celsius per decade in last three decades. This rate is much higher than the global warming rate of 0.06 degree Celsius per decade and Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)-documented rate of 0.2 degree Celsius per decade in the Indian Ocean during 1970-99," Abhijit Mitra, professor in the Department of Marine Sciences, Calcutta University, told IANS.

The study published in the latest issue of scientific journal Current Science found that faster melting of Himalayan glaciers have decreased the salinity at the western end of the Indian Sundarbans while salinity has increased on the eastern end due to clogging of connections of the estuaries with fresh water on account of heavy siltation and solid waste disposal from Kolkata.

The scientists also studied variations in dissolved oxygen, pH level (a measure of acidity), transparency and water quality to know the impact of global warming on the ecosystem.

"The surface water pH over the past 30 years has reduced in the region, thus increasing acidification. The variations in salinity and increased temperature could be reasons for observed variation in pH and dissolved oxygen," said Mitra.
The concentration of dissolved oxygen (DO) in the western sector of the Sundarbans showed an increasing trend in contrast to the eastern part where it is decreasing significantly.
"Depletion in dissolved oxygen can cause major shifts in the ecological habitation in the region. Rising temperature could also be one of the reasons for decreasing dissolved oxygen in the Sundarbans," he said.
Global warming accelerates the process of erosion in coastal and estuarine zones either through increased summer flow from the glaciers or by increased tidal amplitude due to sea level rise.

Erosion and sedimentation processes, along with subsequent churning action, increase the saturation of suspended solids, thus decreasing the transparency.
"The reduced transparency affects the growth and survival of phytoplankton, the small microscopic plants in the oceans that produce three-fourths of the earth's oxygen supply. Damage to this community may adversely affect the food chain in this mangrove-dominated deltaic complex, which is the nursery and breeding ground of 150-250 species of fish and other organisms," said Mitra.
The study concluded that although the observed changes could result from a combination of climate change and human interventions and related phenomena, the changes are real and their impact will be felt in the ecosystem in the coming years.
Times of India, 1 December 2009

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Inspiring Sustainable Farmer-Ranjit Samanta

       Ranjit Samanta is a resident of Mamudpur village of Hingalganj Block. For the last three years, we are running village Krishipathshala (agriculture training school) in different parts of Hingalganj. 2 (IN 2007) years ago he visited one of our agri -schools and met our staff, Narayan Bachar and Nishambhu Sarkar. He was very impressed after seeing our activities and immediately joined one of our farmer’s groups, NABACHETANA. Gradually he got training on making bio-composts and bio-pest controllers and learned the necessity of Land Shaping. In 2008, one of our main focuses was to promote the use of pond sludge in the field and he used it very successfully and got miracle production from his field.

        In September, 2008 he applied for a land shaping grant from NREGA (National Rural Employment Guarantee Act) schemes for his 2.5 Bigha farmland and his scheme was sanctioned in October,08. Our staff, Nishambhu Sarkar gave technical guidance during the Earth work in his field. From, 2009 he became a complete organic farmer. Presently he is producing Fish, Duck, Amaranth,Egg plant, Indian spinach, Okra, Tomato, Cowpea, Bitter gourd, Field bean, Spinach, Sweet Pumpkin etc in his field.

        His land shaping has become a center for excellence in Mamudpur GP. So far many Govt. officials have visited his place and advised the farmers to visit that land shaping. We provided him some amount of saline sustainable paddy seeds, like Nonasree and Kerala Sundari after the devastating AILA. At present he is one of our successful producers of such paddy verities in Hingalganj.
Below, there is an income-expenditure statement of his land shaping plot from August, 09 to Oct, 09….

Friday, November 13, 2009

Kolkata facing brutal future in warmer world

Times of India, 12 November 2009

NEW DELHI: Dhaka, Manila, Jakarta and Kolkata are topping a new list of major Asian cities vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Kolkata is the fourth most vulnerable Asian city but number three among those least prepared to adapt.

According to Mega-Stress For Mega-Cities, a new report by World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), many of these cities are highly exposed to threats such as storms and flooding while lacking the capacity to protect themselves at a time when their severity and frequency are rising due to global warming.

"Climate change is already shattering cities across developing Asia and will be even more brutal in the future," said Kim Carstensen, leader of the WWF Global Climate Initiative.

"These cities are vulnerable and need urgent help to adapt, in order to protect the lives of millions of citizens, a massive amount of assets, and their large contributions to the national GDP."

The WWF report covers 11 large cities across Asia, all located in coastal areas or river deltas. Following Dhaka (9 out of 10 possible vulnerability points), other cities at high risk are Manila and Jakarta (8 each), Kolkata and Phnom Penh (7 each), Ho Chi Minh City and Shanghai (6 each), Bangkok (5), and Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong and Singapore (4 each).

"Kolkata is within the Ganga delta and thus only metres above current sea level, making it prone to salt-water intrusion and sea-level rise effects. Being eastern India's main centre for business and commerce, it has expanded to accommodate the swelling population by reclaiming significant amounts of surrounding wetland, compounding the problem of flooding," says Anurag Danda, head of the Climate Adaptation and Sundarbans Programme, WWF-India.

Allowing climate change to go unchecked will cost more lives and more money in the future, but damage can be averted if action is taken now.

"There are a number of no-regret adaptation options that can be implemented now to minimise future costs," Danda said.

"To sustain Kolkata's development, the city's adaptive capacity needs to be significantly shored up, the lack of which was acutely felt this May when cyclone Aila passed over West Bengal."

The report includes rankings for sub-categories such as environmental exposure, socio-economic sensitivity and adaptive capacity. Poorer cities often lack sufficient adaptive capacity and generally rank higher in terms of their overall vulnerability.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Weather Report

Calcutta, India Weather Forecast

40% of farmers will quit farming in India: Survey

Himangshu Watts
12 November 2009
A new generation among the farming community in India is not interested in taking up agriculture as a profession as it is increasingly getting less profitable. Agriculture’s share in the country’s GDP shrunk to 17.5% last year from nearly 30% in the early 1990s.
New Delhi: For a man who will inherit vast tracts of fertile farmland in Punjab, India's grain bowl, Jaswinder Singh made what seemed to him a logical career move – he took a job with a telecoms company in New Delhi.
"I can't go back to the village after an M.B.A. Delhi has more money, better quality of life. The job is more satisfying, and you don't depend on the weather or prices set by the government," said Singh, who earns rent from his farm, while a tenant tills the land.
Singh's choice reflects a growing and worrisome trend in the nation's agriculture sector: Indian farms are failing to attract capital or talent, either from rich landlords like Singh, or the 21,000 students who graduate from India's 50 agricultural and veterinary universities.
"At present, most of the farm graduates are either taking jobs in the government, or financial institutions, or in private sector industry. They are seldom taking to farming as a profession," a report by the M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation said.
The views of the foundation – set up by M.S. Swaminathan, who led India's Green Revolution in the 1960s that helped make this vast nation self-sufficient in food – were echoed in a poll by the National Sample Survey Organisation, a government body. The survey showed 40% of Indian farmers would quit farming, if they had a choice – an alarming revelation for a country where two-thirds of the billion-plus people live in villages.

Slow growth
India's farm sector has changed remarkably little since the advent of the Green Revolution, while other industries have been transformed over the past two decades. As a result, agriculture’s share of the Indian economy shrank to 17.5% last year, from nearly 30% in the early 1990s.
"We are not realising that farming is becoming an increasingly less profitable profession. There was a time when farmers had very little choice. Things have changed. Farmers would like to make a shift," said T.K. Bhaumik, a leading economist.
This has raised concerns that India's farm output could lag demand and the country – which ranks among the world's top three consumers of rice, wheat, sugar, tea, coarse grains and cotton – will become a large food importer unless yields jump.
"The increase in yields in the past decades have been insignificant. India sorely needs another Green Revolution," says Kushagra Nayan Bajaj, joint managing director of Bajaj Hindusthan, India's top sugar producer, which is importing raw sugar after a drought ravaged the domestic cane crop.
But the next revolution faces a tougher challenge – in part because of the environmental damage done by the previous one. Back then, abundant groundwater was available and the soil was not degraded by pesticides and fertilisers, which initially helped boost productivity.
P.C. Kesavan, distinguished fellow at the M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation, said chemicals used in agriculture had destroyed the sustainability of productivity in the long run.
"Yes, a second Green Revolution is indeed very essential – the very need of the hour. But, it should not be the same kind of Green Revolution that the first was," he said.
In India's Punjab state, the flagship of India's Green Revolution, groundwater is declining rapidly.
"The water table of Punjab is falling at an alarming rate, especially in the central districts, due to excess drawing of groundwater," said Karam Singh, an agricultural economist at the Punjab State Farmers Commission.
Sardara Singh Johl, an economist and former chairman of India's Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices, said there would be very little water available for farming in the state.
"This could severely compromise the food security of India. Government should realise the gravity of the situation and allocate funds for research to conserve groundwater," he said.
To prevent food shortages, economists and scientists are calling for a range of policy initiatives, such as allowing genetically modified crops, greater investment in irrigation, better economics in farming and greater government attention to agriculture.

Weather risk
With 60% of Indian farms depending on erratic rains, it took just one failed monsoon to force India to import 5 million tonnes of sugar in 2008-09, after exporting a similar quantity a year earlier.
The drought, after the worst monsoon rains in 37 years, is also expected to slash rice output by 17%, encouraging India to begin importing rice, after being a leading exporter of the commodity for decades.
Last year, when rice stocks dwindled in many countries, India's panic move to ban exports helped push global rice prices to a record, and the country can potentially rattle the world market again.
L.S. Rathore, head of the agricultural meteorology unit of the government's weather office, said, if the monsoon fails again next year, the country would face a shortage.
"Higher imports will be the only answer to the food management issue then," he said, adding that it was unlikely that monsoon rains would fail in two consecutive years.
Still, changes in weather patterns are a major cause of worry. This year, drought-prone, arid regions of the western and northwestern states of Gujarat and Rajasthan received good rainfall, while traditionally flood-prone areas in eastern India endured a drought.
"Climate change could exert devastating impact on growth and productivity of several crops, particularly the food grain crops," said Kesavan of the M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation. He said agriculture in India had always been a "gamble with monsoon" and millions of poor farmers did not have the resources to cope with the uncertainty of monsoons.

Tough choices
Analysts say agricultural economics need to improve significantly to retain farmers like Jaswinder Singh, who handed over his farm to a tenant and works in New Delhi. But this is not easy in a country where inflation is always an election issue and a state government was voted out because onion prices soared.
"This is a million-dollar issue," said Bhaumik, the economist. "If you want to make farming more profitable, the price for farm products needs to be more remunerative. Will the middle class accept this?"
He said the government may have to allow genetically modified crops in order to improve farm revenue. "I think they will have to allow it. There are limitations on the supply side. Productivity improvement is the crux of the issue. That is why we need to have an understanding of GM foods. You have a crisis at hand," he said.
India so far has allowed genetically modified seeds only for cotton, which has boosted productivity, but use of such seeds for edible crops has always evoked strong protests.
Last month, a government panel recommended commercial cultivation of genetically modified brinjal (a type of eggplant), evoking sharp protests and a quick clarification from the government.
"Strong views have already been expressed on the Bt-Brinjal issue, both for and against. My objective is to arrive at a careful, considered decision in the public and national interest," Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh said in a statement last month.
Bhagirath Choudhary, a New Delhi-based representative of the International Service for the Acquisition of Agribiotech Application, said the case for using genetically modified seeds was compelling.
"You cannot do without this technology in agriculture -- even today, and more so in the future. We are unable to increase the production because productivity is not being increased," he said.
Others are not convinced.
"My personal view is that it has so far been more glorified for what it has delivered. It is commerce-driven, more than science-based," said Kesavan of the M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation.
"Time is ripe now to have a large-scale brainstorming on the social, environmental and economic impact of GM crops on resource-poor, small and marginal farmers."
Source : Reuters

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Global hunger worsening, warns UN

More than 1 billion people go to bed hungry every day as the deadly combination of severe food shortages and one of the worst global financial crises in living memory has shrunk food aid to an all-time low, says a UN body

“The combination of food and economic crises has pushed the number of hungry people worldwide to historic levels. More than 1 billion people are undernourished,” the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) estimates in its ‘Annual Hunger Report-2009’, produced in collaboration with the World Food Programme (WFP). The report comes ahead of World Food Day on Friday.

A bulk of the starving population belongs to the developing world, with Asia and the Pacific region estimated to have about 642 million hungry people in 2009, sub-Saharan Africa 265 million, Latin America and the Caribbean 53 million, and the Near East and North Africa 42 million, the report says.

“This represents more hungry people than at any time since 1970 and a worsening of the unsatisfactory trends that were present even before the economic crisis. After gains in the fight against hunger in the 1980s and early-1990s, the number of undernourished people started climbing in 1995, reaching 1.02 billion this year,” according to the report.

Targets to cut the number of hungry people in the world to fulfil pledges like the UN Millennium Development Goals, which aim to halve the number of people living in hunger and poverty by 2015, will not be met without greater international effort, the UN food agency warns. “No nation is immune and, as usual, it is the poorest countries and the poorest people that are suffering the most. Asia and the Pacific have the largest number of hungry people.”

The report, released in Rome on October 15, 2009, says the economic downturn has reduced foreign aid and investment in poorer countries and cut remittances from those working abroad. It says the loss of income is compounded by food prices that are “still relatively high”.

UN agencies are urging international investment in agriculture, and economic safety nets for poorer countries, “despite financial constraints faced by governments around the world”. The survey suggests that empowering more women in developing countries through education and better access to jobs is a key to reducing world hunger.

“In the fight against hunger, the focus should be on increasing food production,” FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf said. “It’s commonsense… that agriculture would be given the priority, but the opposite has happened.” In 1980, 17% of aid contributed by donor countries went to agriculture. That share was down to 3.8% in 2006 and has only slightly improved in the last three years, Diouf said.

The decline may have been caused by low food prices that discouraged private investment in agriculture, and competition for public funds from other aid fields including emergency relief, debt reduction, and helping set up institutions and improving government practices, said FAO economist David Dawe.

Agriculture may look “less sexy” because of its slower growth rate, but it still needs sustained investment to feed people in developing countries, Dawe said. Keith Wiebe, another FAO economist, said: Until recently, “there was still the idea that agriculture is something you move quickly out of in the course of development”.

The FAO, which is to host a world food summit next month, says global food output will have to increase by 70% to feed a projected population of 9.1 billion in 2050. To achieve that, poor countries will need $44 billion yearly of aid to agriculture, compared with the current $7.9 billion, to increase access to irrigation systems, modern machinery, as well as to build roads, and train farmers.

Source: Press Trust of India, October 15, 2009

Associated Press, October 15, 2009, October 2009

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

World will need billions for agriculture

09 October 2009

To have enough food to feed the world population, projected to be over nine billion by 2050, a net investment of $83 billion a year in agriculture will be needed in developing countries. This estimate has been provided by FAO.

Rome: Agricultural investment thus needs to increase by about 50%, according to the paper prepared for the High Level Experts’ Forum on How to Feed the World in 2050, Rome 12-13 October 2009.

Some 300 top international specialists will attend the meeting.

Required investments include crops and livestock production as well as downstream support services such as cold chains, storage facilities, market facilities and first-stage processing.

Private investment essential

The projected investment needs to 2050 include some $20 billion going to crops production and $13 billion going to livestock production, the paper said. Mechanisation would account for the single biggest investment area followed by expansion and improvement of irrigation.

A further $50 billion would be needed for downstream services to help achieve a global 70% expansion in agricultural production by 2050.

Most of this investment, in both primary agriculture and downstream services, will come from private investors, including farmers purchasing implements and machinery and businesses investing in processing facilities.

Public investment also necessary

In addition, public funds will also be needed to achieve a better functioning of the agricultural system and food security, the paper said. Priority areas for such public investments include: i) agricultural research and development; ii) large-scale infrastructure such as roads, ports and power, and agricultural institutions and extension services; and iii) education, particularly of women, sanitation, clean water supply and healthcare.

But in 2000 total global public spending on agricultural research and development totalled only some $23 billion and has been highly uneven. Official Development Assistance (ODA) to agriculture decreased by some 58% in real terms between 1980 and 2005, dropping from a 17% share of aid to 3.8% over the period. Presently it stands at around 5%.

Of the projected new net investments in agriculture, as much as $29 billion would need to be spent in the two countries with the largest populations – India and China. As far as regions are concerned, sub-Saharan Africa would need about $11 billion invested, Latin America and the Caribbean $20 billion, the Near East and North Africa $10 billion, South Asia $20 billion and East Asia $24 billion.

Regional differences

The projections point to wide regional differences in the impact of new investments when translated into per capita terms. Given different population growth rates, Latin America, for instance, is expected to almost halve its agricultural labour force while sub-Saharan Africa will double its own.

This means that by 2050 an agricultural worker in Latin America would have 28 times the capital stock – or physical assets such as equipment, land and livestock – available as his or her colleague in sub-Saharan Africa.

Foreign direct investment in agriculture in developing countries could make a significant contribution to bridging the investment gap, the paper said.

But political and economic concerns have been raised about so-called “land grab” investments in poor, food-insecure countries. Such deals should be designed in such a way as to maximise benefits to host populations, effectively increasing their food security and reducing poverty.

Source : FAO

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Innovative Rashonara- rural lass with an extraordinary dream:

The heroine of this story is Rashonara Khatun of Patua village under Swarupnagar Block. For the last five years Swanirvar is campaigning for sustainable farming in Swarupnagar and have been quite successful in spreading it amongst a number of farmers.
With our consistent efforts in Barghoria Panchayat, many farmers like Moksed Mondal, Nazrul Islam, Tumpa, etc have become organic farmers. But the story of Rashonara is different. Rashonara’s father, Moksed Mondal is practicing organic compost and bio pest controllers since 2007 and now he is producing rice and all kinds of vegetables only by using vermi compost. Previously his wife helped him in farming but in 2008 she met an accident and her hands became partially paralyzed. Moksed was in deep trouble.
Observing that situation, his younger daughter, Rashonara came forward and told her father that she would produce bio pest controllers at home.
Previously, she and her mother took some training from Dhokra Palli Unnayan Samity, a sister NGO of Swanirvar on Integrated Pest management and making bio pest controllers. Returning home she and her father made a small bamboo hut adjacent to their house and requested her father to give her some money for buying the ingredients for making bio pest controllers.
Initially her father was hesitant but his elder daughter, who is a quack Homeopath, supported her sister’s mission. Gradually Rashonara became an expert in making bio pest controllers in that locality. Later, she took more training from Swanirvar and DRCSC.
In mid 2008 she took over the responsibility from her father for vermicompost pit. Now she is making bulk amount of compost in her pit. She also had made a place for making bucket compost adjacent to their vermicompost pit. From there she is also producing a good quantity of compost. Previously, her father did not use vermi wash but when she came to know about the goodness of vermi wash she started making this at home.
For bio pest controllers, she produced compost tea and Neem solvent and Garlic – kerosene- soap mixture at the initial stage. But from December, 2008 she started some experiments of her own. She mixed some amount of green chilly with the kerosene-garlic mixture and applied it to their farm for controlling pest and her experiment was quite successful.
Now she is producing many kinds of bio pest controllers in her laboratory. I went to her laboratory on 10th March, 2009 to see her experiments and found that she is quite busy. She told me that initially many farmers taunted her; but now they were coming to learn the bio pest controller making process.
She confidently told me that organic farming was the ultimate destiny for the Indian farmers. She said that with the use of inorganic substances in farm the cost of farming was increasing day by day but in return the production was decreasing.
She also added that when a farmer applied inorganic fertilizers and inorganic pesticides, he was unaware of the appropriate ratio; and there was the maximum chance to get adverse result. But there was much less chance of getting such adverse results if there was any misbalance in applying bio-pest controllers or bio-compost.
Sometimes she visited her father’s farm and supervised the processes of implementing integrated pest management. She showed me her small kitchen garden adjacent to her house where she is producing many vegetables. She was also using trellis for producing Bitter Gourd, Bottle Gourd.

Reported by,
Nilangshu Gain,


Stories of some Innovative Farmers in Swarupnagar Block: Anada Mondal

Ananda Mondal and his wife Rita and their two daughters lived in Mallikpur village under Swarupnagar Block. Mallikpur is on the Bangladesh border. Most of the villagers in this locality are involved with smuggling and illegal trafficking of drugs and women.
During my visit on 3rd March ’09 to Anada Mondal’s house, I was asked by the Border Security Personnel about the reason for my visit to Mallikpur. There are many non irrigated lands but no body is interested in farming as a man can earn much more through smuggling rather than farming.
After reaching Mallikpur, I asked local boys to show me the Ananda’s house. They gave me the direction and added that villagers had termed Anada as ‘Chona Dada’ (i.e., cow urine dada). Concealing my chuckle, I asked them about the reason for this name and they told me that Anada had opened an agriculture school in his home and teaching the illiterate farmers about the utility of cow urine, cow dung and vermicompost. After reaching there, I saw that Rita was making food and she told that Ananda knew that I would come and gave me some drawing sheets to look.
I saw that there were some excellent paintings. I asked her who had drawn these. She replied that her daughter and also expressed her sorrow that very soon their daughters would give up studies as no girl from that village went for high school.
After a while Ananda came and we three sat together for discussion. I came to know that 4 years ago, Ananda and Rita decided to give up farming as costs of manures, pesticides, seeds were increasing day by day and planned to start small business. That time they went to their relatives’ house at Kalshi village (in Baduria Block) for taking some suggestions on small business and by chance there they met with our staff, Sujit and Noni Gopal at a farmer’s-group meeting in Kalshi. Initially they were surprised by listening that one can produce rice without using inorganic fertilizers and pesticides.
They invited Sujit and Noni Gopal to visit his farm. Within a month, three Swanirvar staff, Sujit, NoniGopal and Tarun went there and advised him to start Integrated Pest Management (IPM) in Rice and to make a small kitchen garden adjacent to his house.
Following all the steps in IPM he got 25% more production from his 5 bighas of land but his expenses reduced by 30%. Gradually he became an organic farmer. From 2007 he is using only organic composts, compost tea and bio pest controllers like soap-garlic- kerosene mixture, fresh cow urine and neem solvent mixture, etc in his farm.
In 2008, Rita went to a Swanirvar’s meeting on Land shaping and came to know there were multipurpose use of Pond and pond bank. She asked for a loan from DRCSC through Swanirvar and got loan for land shaping. With that money she had reshaped her pond; had made some plots for rice and some for fishes also made trellis on bank. Now she is producing rice and fish together and has planted lots of banana, papaya, turmeric and Elephant Foot Yam plants on the bank. On the trellis she is producing Bottle Gourds, Bitter Gourds. She has also planted some herbal plants like Prickly Amaranth, Indian Aloe, Ivy gourd (wild), Creat and Drumstick tree, etc.
In December 2008, Anada got some training on SRI system from our staff, Narayan and applied that concept in ½ bigha land area. When he was planting single saplings (Indian system of rice cultivation is to plant a bunch of saplings together) in his field all the local farmers thought that he had last the basic sense of farming. But after a month it was found that SRI was very successful and some of his paddy was taken by the district agriculture office, Barasat and Agriculture Training centre, Fulia, Nadia for demonstrating SRI in rice.
When I went to see SRI paddy with Ananda and Rita, a local farmer namely Arabindu came to us and told that he was taking training on SRI from Ananda and would apply it in his field for the coming session. He also told me that as they sprayed lots of pesticides in their paddy, they never saw butterflies and birds in fields. But in Ananda’s field one could always see lots of butterflies and birds. This had become a place of ananda ( Anada means joyfulness) for them.
Lastly, I requested Anada and Rita for a joint photo as they have none and they told me that I might take it in their vegetable garden adjacent to their house. There I went with them and suddenly saw that Rita was making some noise and surprisingly all of their hens and cocks came to them with their young ones . I took it (pic-1) both in my cam and in my heart to keep it for ever.

Reported by:
Nilangshu Gain,

Mob: +91 9647196250

Sunday, July 19, 2009


District : North 24 Parganas, West Bengal ( 22 blocks, 211 GPs, 1612 villages)
Blocks we work in : 7 --- Baduria, Deganga, Swarupnagar, Basirhat-I, Hingalganj, Habra- 1,Sandeshkhali
No. of villages : 110
No.of farmers : ~ 10,000.

# 1990 - 1994: SA workers undertook various experiments in lands belonging to or leased by Swanirvar for their own learning and for demonstration.
# 1994 - 1997: Swanirvar gave up working on such plots. Instead it got involved in extension work with about 500 farmers in 8 villages. The emphasis was on spreading various SA techniques and elements to as many farmers as possible.
# From 1997: Work expanded to 25 villages . There were major shifts
· Attempts at systematic “trials” and keeping data for proper learning and widespread replication;
· Forming farmers’ “groups” so that spreading SA becomes a collective effort;
· Trying to persuade some farmers to convert their total “system” into a sustainable one, instead of incorporating some isolated SA elements.
# From 2007 : Extension to other areas . Current status (Jan 2009) given above – a five fold expansion of area and farmers compared to status in 2006.

· Intensive Home Nutrition Garden Models: year round vegetables for balanced nutrition, proper use of sun and shade, multi-tier cropping, live fence, compost, liquid manure, herbs , totally organic etc.
· Upland organic model in the field : intensive mixed vegetable plots.
· Lowland integrated model : land shaping integrated farms including pond with fishery, rice field, bunds with trees and vegetables, poultry farming. Total trails : 20 ( Dec 2008)

· Azolla ; compost (at home ,in the field , with water hyacinth) ; vermicompost, ; liquid compost ; fish manure ; rock phosphate ; pond & canal sludge; oilseed cakes
· Rhizobium ; azotobacter ; phospho solubilising bacteria (PSB) ;--- multiplied in own bio-lab;
· Re- popularize a legume crop in crop cycle. We have tried 11 different species-varieties.

· Trials with new varieties : many rice varieties ; dals; beans ; various vegetables, oilseeds, other cereals
· Production, collection, treatment, preservation, and supply of quality seeds through individual and group based seed stores in different areas.
· A special Rice seed bank

· Use of mulching in cultivation of Potato and vegetables.
· Anti-Boro (the water- guzzling winter rice) campaign ,
· Use of dew in wheat cultivation by pulling a rope across the field
· Residual moisture crop (relay cropping).

· Bourdeaux Mixture ; cow urine + cow dung water
· Leaves of neem , ata ( custard apple) , tobacco , extract of turmeric, garlic, Dhol Kalmi, Kerosene-soap-garlic mixture, various roots etc for pests and disease control in many crops.
· Trichoderma viride in certain diseases.
· Integrated Pest Management in rice : During aman 2007 , this was done with 1556 farmers in about 3000 acres in 44 villages under 22 panchatats of 6 blocks

· Community Grain Banks
· Popularizing herbals for common disease
· Organic marketing: in collaboration with marketing agency NABANNA.

· Various kinds of training are given to farmers and workers of other NGOs, ranging in duration from half a day to three days.
· In 2007 gave training to 1009 farmers and 2360 women SHG members on vermicompost and home garden as per request of govt agri department in Swarupnagar block
· Street theatre has been used extensively for quite a few years for sensitization. Village notice boards, wall writings, audio-visual show, rally, awareness camps, posters are also used.
· Swanirvar participates in several village fairs.
· Written and audiovisual documentation of models, trials, case studies is an on going process; but has been one of our weak areas.
· Good liaison with National Innovation Foundation ( IIM , Ahmedabad ) to identify local innovators and to facilitate exchange of ideas. In 2007 and 2008 we have actively participated in shodhyatars ( 10 day village walks organized by NIF in various parts of India ) and food festivals in Ahmedabad.

Guidance and funding
vFrom 1992 till date, the SA work of Swanirvar has been guided and funded (till 2003) by a Kolkata-based resource NGO -- Development Research Communications and Services Centre (DRCSC).
vFrom 2003 funding is being provided by Friends of Swanirvar, Worcester, England
vFrom 2009 funding is being provided by CIVA
vWe also have some support from Sonja Brodt and Friends of Swanirvar, Worcester, England