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