Back to basics

Published: Tuesday 15 October 2002

-- Traditional farming was the buzzword at a meeting titled 'National Engagement on Food Security' in Karachi. This method has twin benefits. Firstly, it can be practised minus chemical agricultural inputs thereby increasing the farmers' income. And secondly, it does not affect land yield.

Speakers at the conference rightly pointed out that multinational companies had worked systematically to promote genetically modified seeds. They lamented that owing to official policies formulated under the influence of these conglomerates, the crop patterns had changed and farmers were forced to sow cash crops rather than food crops. This resulted in landowners making money, even as a large number of poor peasants starved.

Shahid Aziz of the Sungi Development Foundation said that under the onslaught of the big corporations, mono-culture crops were encouraged and chemical fertilisers, pesticides and new seeds were introduced. This initially showed good results, but gradually led to the degradation of land. In every subsequent season the amount of input had to be increased while the produce decreased.

The delegates at the meeting urged the government to provide assistance and incentives to the farmers who wanted to switch over to traditional farming. They pointed out the positive experience of such farming in countries like Bangladesh and Sri Lanka where small farmers were earning more by abandoning chemical inputs.

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