Maharashtra organic farming policy a bluff, allege farmers

Farmers experts complain there is no clarity on how the allocated Rs 70 lakh has to be used

By Aparna Pallavi
Published: Monday 26 May 2014


A year after it was instituted, the Maharashtra government has finally decided to set its organic farming policy rolling. In a notification dated May 22, 2014, the state Department for Agriculture, Animal Husbandry, Milk Trade and Fisheries Development has announced the release of Rs 70 lakh for 2014-15.

The amount will be dedicated to an ambitious project aimed at diverting at least 10 per cent of the state’s agricultural land to organic farming. The policy, though was finalised in January 2013, could not be implemented due to the absence of funds.

Organic farmers groups are miffed with the notification, which not only allocates fewer funds but also does not give clarity on the use of funds. “Government should state under what heads the amount, however less, is to be used,” says Wardha based zero-budget farming guru Ghanshyam Chopde. “Or else, how can anyone say if the plan is good or bad, or the fund sufficient or insufficient?”

‘Policy not for benefit of farmers’
Chopde said the brand of organic farming, which the government is pursuing under the policy, is impractical as it is input heavy, just like chemical farming. “The policy has been chalked out on the basis of university recommendations, without consulting experienced farmers. It talks of cow dung, but not of cows as part of the holistic farm economy. It talks in terms of vermicompost sheds and similar infrastructural expenses, which only cost the farmer money and benefit the dealers of these materials,” says the farmer. He adds that there was no talk of climate-suited crop patterns or saving local seed. “This is not organic or natural farming but merely chemical-free farming, which the government is pursuing in view of raising exports to developed countries,” he says.

Amravati-based Subhash Palekar, known as the father of zero-budget farming, says agriculture universities see organic farming as just another form of input-based agriculture which is not based on any understanding of how the soil-biology works. “Universities have always recommended the application of huge amounts of cow-dung to the soil. But, this does not facilitate the formation of humus, which forms the basis of soil fertility,” informs the farmer. He explains that the carbon content in cow dung gets oxidised at high temperatures, thus not enriching the soil at all.

“There are 4 million organic farmers in Maharashtra and all of them have been using a combination of crop residue and small amounts of fermented cow dung and cow urine to revive flora and fauna in the soil, which ultimately are the basis of sustained soil fertility,” says the farmer. “The concept of crop residue, however, does not figure in the brand of organic farming, conceptualised by government agencies, at all.”
Encourage food crops, provide market

Farmers opine that government funds to promote organic farming should firstly be spent in making the local public aware of the hazards of food containing chemical residues and then, in providing subsidies on organic produce. “It is only when people are willing and able to pay for healthy organic food that the farmers will be benefitted,” says Palekar. “Also, the government has to promote food crops suitable to agro-climatic regions. All farmer suicides till date have happened in cash crop-dominated states, thus proving that food crops, which are not capital intensive, are more beneficial for farmers,” adds farming expert.

Demanding that organic farming funds should be used to revive farm ecology, he further adds, “Government and universities are constantly using the crunch in farm-yard manure (FYM) as the reason for not promoting organic farming. But they are not doing anything to revive village forests and grazing lands which were the basis of fodder security for livestock. Palekar goes on to explain that the policy does not say anything on the subject and if farmers can have assured free fodder supply in the form of healthy forests and grasslands, there is no reason they would not rear cattle and go for natural farming.”

The zero-budget farming expert also says organic farmers groups in Maharashtra have made repeated presentations to this effect to government, but their views have not been taken into account in either the formulation or implementation of the policy. State agriculture commissioner Umakant Dangat was not available for comment.

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