Needs Her Small Farmers
By Vandana Shiva
30 April, 2007
is a land of small farmers, with 650 million of her 1 billion people
living on the land and 80 per cent farmers owning less than 2 ha of
land. In other words, the land provides livelihood security for 65 per
cent of the people, and the small farmers provide food security for
Policies driven by corporate
globalisation are pushing farmers off the land, and peasants out of
agriculture. This is not a natural evolutionary process. It is a violent
and imposed process. The 150,000 farmers suicides are one aspect of
this violence. The killing of dozens of peasants in Nandigram who were
resisting land acquisition for a Special Economic Zone is another aspect
of the violence involved in the forced uprooting of India's small farmers.
Citizens have been outraged
and shocked by both dimensions of the violence against the providers
of our food. Yet the government is putting the policies of uprooting
the peasantry on fast forward. The Prime Minister, the Agriculture Minister,
the Head of the Planning Commission have all made statements that are
in effect a declaration of a war against the small farmers, treating
two-thirds of India's population as disposable.
On 26th March 2007, while
addressing the Confederation of Indian Industry, Prime Minister Man
Mohan Singh stated, " As I said recently in Parliament, we have
to recognize that in a country like ours, where the average size of
landholding is small, there are limitations to what you can do to improve
agricultural productivity." (Pioneer, 27/03/07)
This is a false assumption,
as Navdanya's work over two decades has shown. Infact, it is the small
biodiverse farm, which has higher productivity than large industrial
farms. Large farmers and industrial farming has serious limitations
on increasing agricultural productivity.
Productivity is output per
unit input. Biological productivity is output per unit acre. Small biodiverse
farms have higher productivity than monocultures, which are a necessary
aspect of industrial agriculture based on external inputs. Higher biological
productivity translates into higher incomes for small farmers. In Rajasthan,
monocultures of Pearl Millet gave Rs. 2480 of net profit per acre, whereas
a biodiverse farm of Pearl Millet Moth Bean Sesame gave Rs. 12045, a
difference of nearly Rs. 10,000 per acre. In Uttaranchal, a monoculture
of paddy gave Rs. 6720 per acre, whereas a biodiverse farm gave Rs 24,600
per acre, a difference of Rs. 16,000. In Sikkim, a monoculture farm
of maize gave Rs. 4950 per acre while a mixed farm of maize, radish,
Lahi saag and peas gave Rs. 11,700. Navdanya's rice and wheat farmers
have doubled the production of rice and wheat by using indigenous seeds
and organic methods. Jhumba rice in Uttaranchal has 176 quintal per
ha of biomass production compared to 96 quintal per ha of Kasturi, a
high yielding rice variety. The paddy yields are 104 and 56 quintal
per ha respectively.
Farmers in West Uttar Pradesh
have got 62.5 quintal per ha using a native wheat variety 308 for organic
production compared to 50 quintal per ha for chemically produced wheat.
Small farmers have tremendous
scope for increasing productivity because the natural capital - the
soil, the water, the biodiversity, can be enhanced through conservation
and rejuvenation. On large farms, natural resources are exploited and
depleted. The soil looses fertility through chemical fertilizers; it
is compacted by heavy machinery. Water is over exploited since chemical
farming needs ten times more water than ecological farming. Biodiversity
is eroded since industrial scale farming can only be practised as a
monoculture. And energy use is intensified, contributing to global warming.
The small farms of India have the highest potential for increasing productivity.
There are scientific reasons for this. A small farmer can intensify
biodiversity and the higher the biodiversity, the higher the productivity
and stability and sustainability of agriculture. A large farm has to
intensify external inputs such agrichemicals and fossil fuels, which
lower the productivity, and lead to non-sustainability and economic
and ecological vulnerability. When the industrial model of high external
inputs is imposed on small farmers, the result is debt and suicides.
The industrial model of farming is at the root of farmers' suicides.
Yet, the disease is being offered as a cure.
Small biodiverse farms based
on internal inputs are in fact the only promise for increasing agricultural
productivity, whether productivity is defined in terms of biological
productivity or in terms of financial returns, or in terms of energy.
Large industrial farms use ten times more energy than they produce as
food, most of the energy goes to pollute the atmosphere and destabilize
the climate. The present Prime Minister needs to remember the words
of an earlier Prime Minister of India, Choudhary Charan Singh who had
"Agriculture being a
life process, in actual practise, under given conditions, yields per
acre decline as the size of the farm increases (in other words, as the
application of human labour and supervision per acre decreases). The
above results are well nigh universal; output per acre of investment
is higher on small farms than on large farms. Thus, if a crowded, capital-scarce
country like India has a choice between a single 100 acre farm and forty
2.5 acre farms, the capital cost to the national economy will be less
if a country chooses the small farms."
Yet, every government institution,
which should be looking after the welfare of the country and the welfare
of small farmers, is launching an assault on the peasantry. The Agriculture
Minister, Sharad Pawar, whose job is to look after farmers' and provide
them livelihood security has stated that farmers' need to be "weaned"
off the land.
And the Vice Chairman of
the Planning Commission, Montek Singh Ahluwalia has talked of "the
feasibility of large corporate ownership of farmland" (Economic
The peasants of Singur and
Nandigram, Paradip and Kalinga Nagar, have declared loudly and consistently
that they intend to farm their land. The future defined by the majority
of small farmers of India is in terms of their land sovereignty and
food sovereignty. India needs her small farmers because her freedom
is in their hands. Wherever the totally inappropriate model of industrial
corporate agriculture has been applied, farmers are in distress, the
soil has been destroyed, and the water has been over exploited and polluted.
And wherever the government has pushed rural communities off the land
for industrialization, it has had to use violence and has created zones
where Naxalism is viewed as the only alternative.
A food secure and peaceful
India is in the hands of her small farmers. Without small farmers, India
will be a food insecure, violent and undemocratic society.
The Congress came to power
because the Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) had neglected demands of the
small farmers. The Congress lost two regional elections because of the
crisis in food and agriculture the government is creating in order to
benefit its friends in the corporate world - the Monsanto's and Cargills,
the ITC's and Levers, the Reliance's and Wal-Mart's.
In 2009, India will have
its general elections. If the anti-farmer, pro-corporate policies continue
to be pushed by the Prime Minister, the Agriculture Minister, the Vice
Chairman of the Planning Commission, the Congress will have to pay a
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