Book of Abstracts
11th IFOAM Scientific Conference
11-15 August 1996, Copenhagen, Denmark
Agriculture in India has generally been in tune with nature throughout the history. Elaborate references to farming attuned to nature are to be found in old Indian scriptures dating from before the Christ. Varieties were innumerable and yields high. Advent of chemical fertilisers and pesticides in the post Second World War era changed the pattern of agriculture. While this increased the yields, the damage to environment and soil were noticed on extensive scale. Not only the individual farmer suffered, loss to the community was irreversible. About 19 million ha out of 51 million ha brought under irrigation between 1951 and 1989 were lost for ever due to intensive chemical farming.
Diverse practices for sustainable farming have emerged in India during last twenty years. All of them accept the total withdrawal of chemical fertilisers and pesticides as the common need. In addition to marginal farmers who by and large could not afford the high cost of chemical farming, many a farmers have changed over to natural and organic farming, 'do nothing' and biodynamic farming, permaculture after observing damage to the soil and environment. A few of them like Bhaskar Save, Punamchand Baphna, Narayan Reddy, Badri Joshi, Kapil Shah provide inspiration to the new entrants. Prakruti, a public charity and registered association, took up the promotion of Vermiculture as a regular activity to augment biomass in the depleted soil. This had a salutary effect. More than 3000 farmers have gone over to vermiculture and organic farming in last ten years. A surge for organic farming is visible amongst farmers while the government continues to promote chemical farming. For many, organic farming has become a moral responsibility to the community. Cotton has perennially been the biggest user of chemical pesticides. Hybrid varieties need plenty of chemical fertilisers and therefore large quantity of water. Prakruti launched during the 1995 season a campaign for organic cotton cultivation to which about 130 farmers committed 1200 hectares of land for growing cotton organically on the IFOAM standards. The produce was tested on the IFOAM standards by a German Accreditated Agency AGRECO which found the cultivation to be of high order and satisfactory to learn subsequently that this programme turned out to be the single largest participatory programmee among the developing countries coming as it did without any official support. This programme broke the myth that cotton cannot be grown without chemical pesticides and fertilisers.