Thursday, March 06, 2008

FOOD SECURITY: THE WAY AHEAD

Manu Sankar.
Researcher, Delhi

India is a land of small farmers. 650 million of her 1.2 billion people are living on the land and 80 percent farmers are owning less than two hectares of land. In other words the land provides livelihood security for 65 percent of the people and the small farmers of the country provide food security for over one billion of the population.

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. More than 1,50,000 farmers have committed suicide in India due to distortions introduced in agriculture as a result of trade liberalization. The killing of peasants in Kalinga nagar and Nandigram who were resisting land acquisition is another aspect of the violence involved in the forced uprooting of India’s farmers.

It is also depressing to know that the Government is also least interested to improve the lot of the farmers and the agricultural productivity. On the 26th of march 2007 while addressing the Confederation of India Industry (CII), Prime minister Dr Manmohan Singh stated that “ As I said recently in the parliament we have to recognise that in a country like ours, where the average size of land holding is small, there are limitations to what you can do to improve agricultural productivity”

Every Government institution, which should be looking after the welfare of the country and welfare of the farmers are launching an assault on the peasantry. The agricultural minister Mr Sharad pawar whose job is to look after the farmers and provide them livelihood security, has stated that farmers need to be “weaned” off the land . The deputy chairperson of the planning commission, Montek Singh Ahluwalia is talking of the feasibility of large corporate ownership farmland. While, the farmers of Kalinganagar and Nadigram has declared loudly and clearly that they intend to farm their land.

Globalisation and trade liberalisation policies have lead to privatization of land, water, forests, natural resources and above all the biodiversity. It is often the farmers of the country who share a close association with these commons.

Village commons well categorized as “wastelands” under the British revenue system since the colonial powers could not collect revenues from them. Today, these so called wastelands are being transferred to industry. These watelands are actually the common lands. Common lands are a significant form of natural resource endowment. It plays a vital role in maintaining the ecological balance, and more particularly in supporting the people, especially the rural poor in eking out a livelihood. However the contribution of common lands to the rural economy and more particularly in supporting the people remain unappreciated. They also provide the people with the necessary fuel and fodder. Now these common lands are being diverted for the cultivation of Jatropha, a plant used for making Biofuel.
Village commons, as pastures, as wood lots, as sacred growers, grow biodiversity, which serves the rural economy, especially the landless, for needs of fuel, fodder, medicine and food. Jatropha plantations provide no fuel, no fodder, no food, for the village community. Village commons now provide raw material for the fuel for the cars of the urban rich. This is a shift from equity to inequity from sustainability to non-sustainability.

Privatisation of such living resources merely deprive the common people, especially the poor farmers of vital needs to sustenance and livelihoods. It also imposes non-sustainable patterns on food production and agriculture.

Whereever the farmers have been deprived of their land and livelihood and wherever they have been forced into corporate agriculture, the farmers have been in distress, the soil has been destroyed, the water has been overexploited and polluted. Wherever the farmers and the rural communities have been pushed off the land for industrialization it has lead to violence and they have turned out to be breeding ground for naxalism.

Our Food security is too vital an issue to be left in the hands of a few transnational corporations with their profit motives. Food security for all is not possible within a global market system based on the dogma of free trade, competition and profit maximization. On the other hand Food security can be achieved if people within their local and regional economies feel responsible, both as producers and consumers for the ecological conditions of food production, distribution, and consumption and for the preservation of cultural and biological diversity where self-sufficiency is the mail goal. It is vital to note that a food secure and peaceful India is in the hands of her small farmers. Without the farmers India will be a food insecure, violent and undemocratic society

It is high time we move from Globalisation to localization, from aggressive domination to non-violence, from competition to equity and from understanding humans as masters over nature to humans as part of nature to achieve the larger goal of food security and food Sovereignty

4 comments:

D.Dhanuraj said...

I dont agree with some points raised in the article. we need to differentiate the impact of globalisation and the influence of the globalisation. In agriculture, the impact of the globalisation are; the open market and pricing while the influence of the globalisation is the invlolevment of the non-agriclutaure actors in the Agri field. For me the influence has overarching results over impact. if we can answer the question; why agriculture is not profitable in this country. for me it has more to do with the titles and assest valuation of the agri land. in a country where the size of the agriland is normally less than two hectres and success of farming largely depends on the weather business, we need heavy invstment in agril fields of this country.I dont think Rs 60,000 crores loan waiver is the remeady for the crisis nor remorsing on Globalisation. Globalisation has actually resulted in opening verious tools and methods to overcome these issues.

Anonymous said...

I really did not understand which was the point of difference. For me the’ influence of globalisation’ and the’ impact of globalisation’ almost crosses over and is overlapping. On a long run it is almost one and the same.

If the influence that is talked about is on a positive way then I beg to differ. Whether it is open market, pricing or the involvement of non agriculture actors, it is all designed to be disadvantageous to the farmers.

Open markets and non agricultural actors are flashy terms introduced by the world Bank to liberalise the Indian agriculture. It gave way to entry of seed companies like Monsanto. Today the worst farmer suicides are precisely in those areas where monsanto’s seeds have spread. Free trade/trade liberalization has allowed seed monopolies and market monopolies to emerge.

Now lets deal about pricing. In a free market scenario the pricing is dictated by food corporations and the farmers are hardly given a say due to the monopolistic pracises of the corporation. Open market operations have very cleverly ejected out the middle man, but at the end of the day the farmers are left with a raw deal. The companies like Monsanto, ITC, Cargill and Lever have engaged in hoarding and other monopolistic practices to push up the commodity prices especially wheat. This leads to a situation where farmers are earning less and the poor are paying more for food. Open marketing and free trade has only resulted in opening up of tools and methods to dismantle something like the PDS system in the country and the APMC Act by amending it. By amending the APMC Act, the government is actually encouraging development of linkages to markets through a variety of instruments including contract farming and corporate agriculture which is advocated by the free trade agencies.

Though the average size of the land holding is less than two hectares of land, one thing that has to be remembered is it still provides livelihood to 80% of the farmers. The studies of Amartya sen (1962) proves that cultivation in small landholdings are more profitable than large area cultivation. Cultuvation in large acres of land and contract farming are the solution offered by the World Bank for India’s agrarian crisis. I agree with you when you said that there should be higher investments in agri field. Agriculture sector should get higher investments, but those investments should be in terms of more subsidies to the sector and for building up of infrastructure. And these investments should not be the one which the world talks about, the investment in genetically modified seeds for the farmers.

Centre for Public Policy Research said...

i dont believe that impact and influence are same. personifying it on an individual can defintiely will give a better argument. usually influence leads to the impact. but that impact can be positive or negative. it depends on the nature of the influence. this has attributes to Social impact theory as well.

Aneish Rajan said...

what is "social impact" thoery?