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Members of organic farming organizations have said that the organic farming policy announced by the Tamil Nadu government is a good effort but lacks understanding and proper action plans.
Arachalur Selvam, president, Tamil Nadu Traditional Farmers Federation said: “Even though draft reports on organic farming were drawn up during the regimes of Karunanidhi and Jayalalithaa, it did not materialize. It is welcome that the Tamil Nadu government has now formulated the organic farming policy. Of course, the policy has some good ideas, but has been formulated without proper understanding.”
“A certificate for organic farming can be obtained only if you do organic farming on a piece of land for three years consecutively. However, it is not possible to continuously cultivate the same crop on a piece of land. The land is cultivated on a rotational basis. Without taking all these factors into account, the government’s policy of focusing on districts where certain crops have high potential is wrong. This will not help in the development of organic farming,” Mr Selvam pointed out.
“The goal should be shifting the entire agricultural land to organic farming. That is to say, it is necessary to set a time-bound target and work out action plans to give up the use of chemical inputs and pesticides and switch over to organic farming entirely. The policy does not guarantee that the genetically modified crops do not figure in organic farming. While the emphasis is laid on the export of organic agricultural products, there are no action plans to make organic farming products available at affordable prices to the downtrodden who produce them. It is also not clear how much funds will be allocated in the state government’s budget for the development of organic farming,” he added.
It is necessary to set a time-bound target and work out action plans to incentivise the switch from chemical inputs and pesticides and to organic farming entirely
“Kerala has a well-formulated organic farming policy, but lacks action plans to implement it. Such a situation should not prevail in Tamil Nadu too. The policy should cover all kinds of organic farming practices. The views of natural farming ryots should be elicited on this policy and necessary changes should be made accordingly. Only then will this policy yield good results.
The government policy should be implemented in such a way that organic farming is transformed into an education movement. Action plans are important to gradually move from organic farming, which procures and uses inputs such as bio-fertilizers from outside, towards organic farming which produces and uses inputs either on the farm or near the farm,” he says.
K. Venkatraman, coordinator, Tamil Traditional Farmers Federation, is more scathing. “This agriculture policy is just a propaganda document to educate farmers on organic farming and does not propose any concrete plan on the part of the government to develop organic farming,” he said.
‘Create market linkages’
Citing an example of market linkages for organic produce, he said, “The Telangana state government gives priority to organic agricultural produce in temple food supplies including the Tirupati laddu. Tamil Nadu should formulate such policies. At least, a certain percentage of organic farming products must be allocated in ration shops, hospitals and government hostels in Tamil Nadu. Accordingly, the government should procure organic agricultural produce, thereby augmenting the market for organic farming products. Urban women’s self-help groups and organic farmers must be brought together and markets expanded through mobile phone apps.”
Though it has been proposed to coordinate the rearing of cattle including goats, cows, buffaloes, chicken, bees and so on, the policy offers no concrete action plan. Goat and cow herders earn their livelihood from the dung discharged by the livestock, which is highly in demand as manure. Cow dung manure is the primary input for organic farming. The policy statement does not contain any announcement about institutionalized schemes to integrate the herders of livestock and organic farming farmers, Mr. Venkatraman pointed out.
‘Need for organic farming board’
“Highlighting the evils of chemical farming which mushroomed in the name of green revolution, the policy has no incentive scheme for chemical farming farmers to switch over to organic farming. Farmers desirous of changing to organic farming need at least three years to restore the microbes and vitality of the soil. But they cannot switch over to organic farming if the government does not implement a special crop insurance scheme or a direct relief scheme to fully compensate these small and medium farmers for the losses that may be incurred during the transition period. The Tamil Nadu government’s organic farming policy has no announcement regarding this. It is said that a high-level committee headed by the chief secretary will be set up. But instead of the committee, a self-reliant organic farming board had better be set up so as to take organic farming on a sustainable trajectory,” Mr Venkatraman said.
Pamayan, an organic farmer, says that he welcomes the government’s policy on organic farming. He says, “After more than a decade of struggles, now the government has released the organic farming policy. But many of its features and ideas are very sad and disappointing.”
He adds, “The difference between organic farming and natural farming has been misinterpreted in the policy. Bio-farming (natural farming) includes the use of any of the materials such as compost, bio-fertilizer, etc., whether they are made in the farm or brought from outside. The term angaka velaanmai (organic farming) is not a Tamil expression that is now used; instead uyirma velaanmai (bio-farming) must be used. Various farmers’ organizations and Tamil aficionados are using the pure Tamil word uyirma velaanmai to denote organic farming or bio-farming.”
The policy does not guarantee that the genetically modified crops do not figure in organic farming. While the emphasis is laid on the export of organic agricultural products, there are no action plans to make organic farming products available at affordable prices to the downtrodden who produce them
While defining the objectives of the policy, the government should also focus on the health of agricultural laborers because they and peasants are badly affected by the extensive use of poisonous pesticides. The aim should also be to ensure self-reliance in agriculture, especially self-reliance in seeds.
In terms of transformative agricultural strategies, there is only a system of bio-agricultural certification for lands. Experts suggest that just like the contribution certificate, a system of certification for rice and pulses produced by farmers should also be incorporated into the policy. For bio-agricultural research, an autonomous institute must be set up. The existing research institutes and universities are promoting chemical-based farming only, they point out.
The role of farmers’ markets (uzhavar sandhai) in marketing agricultural produce has not been mentioned in the policy. In fact, the farmers’ market is the dream project of former Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi. The farmers’ markets can be tapped for promoting organic agricultural products so the local people will get toxic-free farm products.
A fair price policy must be in place for organic agricultural produce; it will be beneficial to farmers and consumers alike.
Cities are generating larger amounts of biodegradable waste which can be used as manure in the organic farming. A twin purpose will be served: The cities will become litter-free and organic farming hassle-free.
The policy must lay stress on awareness campaigns to explain the evil of pesticides and benefit of organic farming that produces toxin-free food.
Tours around organic farms and sojourns at the farms can be made part of the policy so that the organic farmers augment their revenue.
There should be a plan to gradually remove the harmful pesticides from the farms. If the departments of agriculture, environment, climate change, forest, tourism and health work in tandem to promote organic farming, the initiatives will pay rich dividends.
Medicinal plants (herbs) produced in natural farming are very essential to medicine. There are now many poisonous herbs under cultivation. Therefore, a programme to cultivate non-toxic medicinal plants should be made part of the policy. .
In addition, a scheme should be drawn up to provide incentives to organic farmers who protect water, soil and environment from contamination during the cultivation of crops.
The policy should clamp a ban on the cultivation of genetically modified crops in the bio-agricultural zones and eliminate polluting industries from the bio-agricultural zones and to ensure that no new polluting industries are set up in the zones.
“As stressed by states like Tamil Nadu when it came under the GST regime, farmers who switch from chemical farming to organic farming should be given financial assistance for upgrading the health of the soil for a period of time,” says Pamayan.
“Neither the government nor the agriculture policy-making officials have any understanding of the pastoral community in Tamil Nadu, which has been contributing to traditional agriculture for ages through the use of cow dung inputs and farmyard manure. But the grazing industry has not yet received its due recognition. The organic farming policy has been formulated with the understanding of bio-fertilizer as an alternative to chemical fertilizers. The Tamil Nadu government should review this report and announce a new policy that has a unified vision about the people engaged in the grazing industry,” said Rajiv Gandhi, coordinator, Tamil Nadu Livestock Feeder Welfare Association.
“The sustainable farming activities are those using livestock waste as manure for organic farming. At the same time Siddha medicine should be used to ensure the good health of the cattle. Only then can we avoid the presence of chemical residues in the cattle’s excreta,” says N. Punniamoorthy, former professor at the Tamil Nadu Veterinary University and a Siddha medical researcher.
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