It just amazes me to this day how short memories are especially Indians suffer such memory losses when it comes to their own history including that of agriculture history. It is now anthropologically established that rice cultivation in India was known in 3000 BCE. Rig Vedic people were more of herders and animal keepers however in YajurVeda there are plenty if instances of mention of grains such as rice used in fire sacrifices (homas and havanas), barley, ghee and other grains. These grains were cultivated. There was sufficient food for all. There is not much mention of famines or droughts. Prior to the British rule Indian and Muslim rulers encouraged irrigation agriculture and there is plenty of evidence of canals, ponds and channels which catered for irrigation and stored water and recharged aquifers. However when British ruled India famines and grain shortages were common including in 1940s where grain from India was shifted to the British soldiers for WWII effort as documented in historical records. Much of the knowledge critical to Indian farming and agriculture was lost and India which contributed over 22% to the world economy was reduced to contributing about 3% to the world economy according to renowned economist Angus Maddison in his book. Amrthya Sen estimated that over 3 million people were killed due to sheer starvation in Bengal famine alone. Of course mismanagment of agriculture and cyclones etc did not help.
It is with this background I am highlighting this article below for all the young agriculture graduates. Over the decades farmers and indigenous peoples knowledge has been ignored in India and replaced by people with paper degrees. It is not say degrees are not important however any group of people who don't learn from knowledge of farmers who have done farming through trial and error over several decades can not be ignored. Prior to 1960s when Norman Borlaug worked on dwarfing genes in wheat and fertilizer companies started selling synthetic nitrogen as urea, Indian agriculture was organic agriculture. Organic agriculture is neither new nor innovative for India. However, it has to be done right to minimize losses and reduce wastage. Organic agriculture did not have the power to feed the people of India after the British Raj which numbered to 434 million. Yes organic agriculture has a place however a combination organic agriculture practices mixed with strategic Integrated Pest Management (IPM) strategy will help India to become a net exporter of several grains and earn valuable dollars for the economy. The article in Hindu below shows that a combination of farmers knowledge and agriculture practices can benefit not just an individual but a group of people.
So any new agriculture student should heed and learn from farmer knowledge in local area, use scientific principles learned during the degree, develop evidence based methods to prove farmer knowledge through replication reproducibility and repeatability principles and show how older knowledge in combination with modern practices.
Illiterate Lalitamma teaches trainee IAS officers
Can you imagine an illiterate taking class to trainee IAS officers? That’s what has been accomplished by Aaidala Lalitamma of Raipally village, about 50 kms from the district headquarters. But one may raise eyebrows at the thought until he/she converses with Lalitamma who more than willingly shares that she was the one to impart knowledge on non-pesticide management methods (NPM) to trainees.
Meet the 45-year-old Lalitamma who recently went to Lal Bahadur Sastri National Academy of Administration (LBSNAA) at Mussoori to take classes to the trainee IAS officers for one day.
Ms. Lalitamma is an active farmer who has been practicing NPM for the past five years in addition to following rain-fed harvesting system. She not only prepares her own seed and organic fertilisers and pesticides, but also sells it to others based on their requirement. She has been active in spreading NPM methods in the district and trains others in preparing required liquids and solids for their farms using cow dung, cow urine, neem leaves and other organic materials.
Her income grew after shifting to organic farming and she even has constructed a house. She had an income of Rs. 70,000 by growing leafy vegetables for three months.
“It’s a great experience to have an opportunity to teach NPM methods to the trainee collectors at their institute. I have explained to them on how I am into this, the advantages I am enjoying, the cost reduction in cultivation and being self-reliant in seed, fertiliser and pesticide requirements,” proud Lalitamma told The Hindu while sharing her Mussoori experiences. Did she fear to speak with them? “No. I felt as if I was speaking with my children and I was happy to share my knowledge with them,” she said, who has been cultivating 13 varieties of crops in her farm. She was taken in a flight from Hyderabad to New Delhi and then to Mussoori. Earlier, she had gone to Delhi to receive an award from the Union Government for her initiative in NPM practice.