Modi wants to take tech from ‘lab to farmland’

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday urged scientists to take technology to farms for raising crop productivity at a time when the government is being attacked for surging prices of some essential commodities.

Pitching for greater use of research for boosting the agriculture sector, Modi gave the slogan “lab to land”, saying that farmers should be able to enhance production to increase their income and feed the country as well as the world.

“We have to prove two points. One is our farmers are capable of feeding the whole country and world, and second, agriculture is capable of filling the pockets of our farmers,” said Modi while addressing the 86th foundation day of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research.

He called upon all agriculture universities and colleges in the country – the heads of many of which participated in the function – to immediately prepare a data bank of progressive farmers in their adjoining areas and also digitize their research papers and thesis.

“We should target to digitize and compile all the research being done and already completed in agriculture universities,” Modi said.

Retrieved from – http://www.business-standard.com/article/economy-policy/modi-wants-to-take-tech-from-lab-to-farmland-114073000044_1.html

The Manipuri Entrepreneur who has changed the tea drinking habit of the region and created 2000+ jobs

This story is as refreshing as the brew they make. Ragesh Keisham has set out to give Manipur its proper place under the sun, and make true the sobriquet attached to it of being the ‘land that laid the golden egg’.

Ragesh is the Founder of SuiGeneris Inc, a venture that has innovated and discovered a new variant of tea made from lemongrass aka Cymbopogon Citratus, being sold under the brand name of CC Tea.

Ragesh says they have got interests for the product from local as well as international market and by next year they will plant about 600 acres with CC Tea. CC Tea has captured about 25% of the local Manipuri market and by next year 2015, the plan is to double the share. What appears like a great future has had its own share of challenges and turmoils, but today the SuiGeneris story is one of hope and inspiration.

Beginning of journey

SuiGeneris means unique or “one of its kind” in Latin, and Ragesh says he chose the name because that is what he has set out to achieve with his venture. SuiGeneris and CC Tea were launched in August 2011, but the legwork started way back in 2007. However, this is not the first venture that Ragesh set out to do. Ragesh says he had nurtured the dream of being a businessman right from childhood. The inspiration is perhaps his grandfather, who, Ragesh says, was a flamboyant businessman of his time, but also went bankrupt in his lifetime. His parents then stuck to the norm that is characteristic of Manipur, which is taking up a government job. “Manipuri people are always dependant on government jobs, and today there are 7.5 unemployed youth registered in government registers,” he points out.

Ragesh dabbled in some freelancing and consulting jobs at the beginning of his career. The first proper venture he set out to do was a BPO business, which was a contract he took from his friend in the UK for data digitization. However, the venture folded up soon because of unfavourable social conditions in Manipur. The problem was reliance on electricity, which Ragesh says is a scarcity in Manipur. Regular power cuts plague the state and sometimes the power supply is only for 4 hours in a day. Given such constraints the BPO business soon folded up.

“Although I was born in Manipur, I have not lived there, my education happened in Pune. So I didn’t know much about the place. So I thought people are doing BPO business, let me also do it,” he explains. However, once he realized the constraints in doing a BPO business, Ragesh set out to understand which could be his next outing. About zeroing in on farming, Ragesh says the rationale was that to do any business in Manipur, it had to be something that could use the local resources available and not be reliant on something external.

Founding SuiGeneris

Farming, a dominant occupation in Manipur, caught his attention and that sow the seeds of SuiGeneris Inc. His tryst with agriculture started in 2005, when Ragesh started researching and brainstorming with many experts in the agricultural field about that one product which could be turned into a bigger venture.

During one such discussion with Dr. M Ahmed, a senior scientist from the aromatic field, the perfect solution was suddenly evident and Ragesh was impressed by the numerous therapeutic benefits of Cymbopogon Citratus (CC). As some varieties of lemongrass grow in the wild, a very high yield was predicted for CC in Manipur. Ragesh’s quest had finally found a direction and he incorporated SuiGeneris Inc in 2007.

Next he imported 10,000 saplings of superior quality CC from Indonesia in 2007. Ragesh Keisham “During my research I found that lemongrass could be used to make a type of oil, so I decided to do the same. On Dr. Ahmed’s guidance, I also made a project report and approached SBI for loan. I was given half assurance that I will get the loan, but it never happened. Six months down the line, the plants started flowering and Dr. Ahmed told me that if it starts flowering then the utility of the plant is gone. I had to cut it and burn it. The first 6 months was pure heart burn for me. Then in the next 6 months the plant started growing and flowering again, but I still had no loan from the bank,” recalls Ragesh.

Two crops had to be burnt down, and predictably Ragesh was dejected and thought of quitting and doing something else. In the process he attempted many things – tried using the grass as fodder for cattle, thatching roof, but nothing worked. He started searching online for a solution and came across an article that said lemongrass had been used to cure fever in Brazil and was called fever grass. This article gave Ragesh the idea to use lemongrass as a beverage. He boiled the leaf to make the beverage, but the brew that came from it was not palatable.  “I boiled the leaf and it was the most beautiful green I had ever seen, but when I drank it, it had the most horrible taste. It was literally undrinkable. So I knew I had to find a process of drying it. So after lot of trials, I found the process of drying it. And then the tea that came tasted really good,” he says.

With the product ready, Ragesh decided to convince his parents to try it, who were ardent tea fans and had about 20-30 cups of tea a day. In the beginning his parents found the tea little light, but over a period of use they developed a taste for it and took to it completely. “That was the day I knew I had hit a jackpot. Because if my parents who were tea addicts could drink my tea, then anybody can drink my tea,” smiles Ragesh.

With the first hurdle crossed, Ragesh now had to take the product to the masses, and to launch anything in Manipur market is an uphill task. With no money to invest in advertising, Ragesh thought of an ingenious way to sell his product. During his research for CC Tea, he had read a lot about the impact of gloabl warming on the environment. So he decided he  would give talks in local schools, colleges and clubs about the subject. “I prepared a presentation of 1.45 hours where I gave a lot of message about global warming and climate change. I recruited 2-3 people who helped me take appointments from local schools, colleges, and clubs. In the presentation, the last 15 minutes I reserved to talk about CC Tea, and how global warming and CC tea are linked. Once the participants understood the problem of global warming, I told them we had to plant lot of trees. I asked young children if they would like to be my volunteers. Those who wanted to volunteer had to pay me Rs 100 per month and I would plant a tree on their behalf and they would also get a pack of CC Tea.”

Ragesh says he had to adopt this method because not only was Manipur a tough market to launch in, but also because he didn’t have any money to for packaging of the product. Through this exercise CC Tea was handed out in very rough packing of transparent plastic pouches. With the tea in their hands, people started brewing and drinking it, and slowly the product caught on. Ragesh did this exercise for one whole year and then stopped it. “Once the product stopped, customers started enquiring where CC Tea was and there was a huge demand for it,” he says.

Ragesh then borrowed some money from his family and with proper packing launched CC Tea officially in the market in August 2011. “I only had enough money to make 200 packs of CC Tea, and on the launch date all of it was sold in 10 minutes,” he says proudly.

Present day and future

Ragesh took the first loan from his wife by mortgaging her jewellery to buy big machines and get the business up and running. “Nobody was giving me finance, although I was convinced about CC Tea. My parents, sisters and wife stood by me and understood what I wanted to do. They had complete faith in me. So with the money that I had in my hand I ordered more packaging material, and when people started seeing a good product in the market, it was easy for me to raise capital,” he says.

The beginning was still slow because money was coming in slowly. Ragesh says he has borrowed from unknown people who are willing to lend him Rs 20,000-30,000. “I started gathering small amounts; once I had a particular amount in hand I would order one machine. Then again I would go out and look out for investment and have another amount in hand, I would order another machine. That’s how I started recruiting men, buying machines — it was a very slow process, because it is difficult to convince people to give money,” he recollects.

From starting in a small 200 sq. ft. space to now a factory spread over 5 acres, SuiGeneris has come a long way. The company now employs 2,000 women in its fields and has a team of 77 executives who are responsible for the various aspects of business. The company had a turnover of Rs 3.5 crores this year. Ragesh says with the current machinery they are producing about 30,000 units of CC Tea – which includes 200 gms tea packet, as well as tea bags.

SuiGeneris has managed to take 600 acres of land on lease, where production is currently underway in full swing. Once the crop starts getting harvested and processed by next year June, Ragesh forecasts an ability to produce about 48 lakhs units of CC Tea.

Ragesh claims they have already captured 25% market share in Manipur and with increased production, they should be able to increase the share in the coming days.SuiGeneris recently entered into a contract with IBCC (Indian Baltic Chamber of Commerce), which will enable them to supply CC Tea to Europe and Commonwealth Independent States. For distribution within India, they are in talks with many companies and things should firm up in the coming days, says Ragesh.

“I don’t want to sign too many contracts, because what we are producing is not even sufficient for North East now. And we are slowly upgrading. The market opportunity is huge, and tea drinkers have started liking my tea. Normal tea drinkers consume 4.6 million tones every year, and if I could upgrade my production capacity 8 times, that would still mean only 0.03% of the world’s market share, and it’s not very difficult to achieve,” he says.

Another aspect that gets Ragesh excited is the difference he is making in the lives of Manipuri people. “0.03% of the world market share means Rs 96 crores each year, that’s 5000 number of employment. Yes I am concerned about revenues, but what is more beautiful is that I will be able to employ  5000 more people. There are under privileged women in the society, but with SuiGeneiris their lives have certainly transformed in whatever small way,” he says proudly.

Lessons from the journey so far

Ragesh says for anyone who wants to enter into agriculture or plantation, grass is a good entry point. “There are many plants in the world where you can earn good revenues from, but the difficult part is maintenance. Before you gain full knowledge, start plantation from a grass family. And try to come up with an end product. So if someone has to foray into farming, come up with an end product, else it is very risky,” he advises.

He encourages everyone to take the entrepreneurial plunge, because there is a huge satisfaction when you sit back and see things have shaped at the end of the day. “Failures are stepping stones to success, but luck is also important. However, luck is just 5% of the mixture, rest of the time you learn from your mind and experience. Use your mind to apply what you a have learnt, and there is nothing like a right or wrong decision. I make a decision and then I make it right,” advises Ragesh.

And finally he says he would like to send out a strong message to the people of North East not to be just reliant on government jobs. “If you are a police or IAS officer, it’s good, and you become a better person. But if you are an entrepreneur and if you are successful, you can change thousands of lives and I would say entrepreneurism is the need of the hour,” he says.

Reference – http://yourstory.com/2014/06/suigeneris/

India Ranks No 2 in Fish Output Globally

With huge coast line to an access of over 7000 km, India ranks number 2 in fish production globally, Indian agriculture minister, Radha Mohan said in Hyderabad.

“India stands world number 2 in global fish production. Further India stands world number two in the sectors of Inland capture and aquaculture. We are number seven in marine capture production/fisheries,” Radha Mohan said while addressing 33rd session of Asia Pacific Fisheries Commission.

“India registered an increase of 92.8% in aquaculture and 15.1 % in marine catches in the last 10 years (2003-12). The share of India’s production from aquaculture is 6.3% of the world. Currently, our total production is 9.51 million tonnes,” the minister adds.

India is bestowed with wide array of natural resources for developing marine, brackish water and inland fisheries and aquaculture holds importance, since enhanced fish production by sustainable aquaculture is the key for ensuring food security and poverty alleviation, the minister opined.
Aquaculture in India relies heavily on inland aquaculture of finfish even though potential for mariculture production of finfish remains largely untapped.

“We are finalising the guidelines for foraying in to mariculture in cages along with cage culture in open water bodies such as reservoirs. The cage culture is aimed at effective and optimal tapping the potential for natural water resources of marine and inland waters,” Mohan stressed.

According to Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) estimates, the human consumption of fish is about 80 per cent of the world’s fish production at per capita of 17.1 kilogram which is expected to rise considerably by the year 2030.

“It is necessary that we need to collectively take measures for sustainable increase in fish production. With the capture fishery resources dwindling at an alarming rate, the international community needs to take certain harsh / drastic measures for ensuring continuous supply of food fish.

This underlines the importance that fisheries and aquaculture, directly or indirectly, play as an essential role in the livelihoods of millions of people in the region and entire world from the small-scale fishers and farmers who harvest the fish to the men and women who work in the post-harvest handling and large processing industry,” the Minister said.

Representatives from FAO, the Fisheries Commission and Agriculture Ministry, and delegates from countries of Asia Pacific Region attend the meet.

Asia Pacific Fisheries Commission (APFIC) is an important platform for the governments of APFIC members, international and regional fisheries and aquaculture organisations to discuss important and emerging issues related to the development and management of fisheries and aquaculture in Asia and Pacific region.

Retrieved from : http://www.thefishsite.com/fishnews/23497/india-ranks-no-2-in-fish-output-globally

India Organic Food Market Set to Grow at 25% CAGR till 2019 Says TechSci Research

Growing Per Capita Income, Changing Lifestyles and Increasing Consumer Interest to Augment Growth in Organic Food Market in India.

According to “India Organic Food Market Forecast & Opportunities, 2019, the organic food market revenues in India are expected to grow at a CAGR of around 25% during 2014-19. Some of the key reasons attributed to anticipated high growth in organic food market include growing health consciousness among consumers, rising disposable income, expanding middle class population in the country. India is also emerging as a potential destination for organic farming due to growing number of certified farmlands, as well as diverse climatic conditions and soil types in different states across the country. The availability of organic food products is gradually increasing due to rise in the number of retail and distribution stores. Various major players such as Sresta Natural and Morarka Organic Foods are expanding their retail distribution network in Tier I and II cities through tie-ups with leading retail chains as well as through establishment of exclusive stores and outlets.

The certified land under organic farming increased to 5.21 million hectare in 2012-13 from merely 1.08 million hectare in 2009-10, which is expected to increase overall organic food production in the country. The western region is the highest revenue contributor for the country’s organic food market, followed by the southern region. The major organic food producing states in India include Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Uttar Pradesh. Considering high distributor margins, organic food companies are collaborating with leading retail chains, which is expected to increase the availability of organic food products in the future. Various organic food companies are also increasing their focus on selling their products through E-commerce websites. All of these supporting factors, both from the production side as well as demand side, are expected to significantly contribute in expanding the size of organic food market in the country over the next five years.

“The market for organic food products in India is highly unorganized.  With rising cases of food adulteration across the country, the demand for organic food products has gone up significantly. Growing number of upper middle class people are becoming increasingly concerned about the food quality, and are willing to pay a premium of 10-20% for organic food products. As a result, this segment of the society is currently emerging as a major demand driver for the organic food products market in India.” said Mr. Karan Chechi, Research Director with TechSci Research, a research based global management consulting firm.

Retrieved from: http://www.digitaljournal.com/pr/2020837#ixzz3662uvHR8

Narendra Modi stresses on ‘Organic Farming’ citing global market

Speaking for the first time on the Lok Sabha floor, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, on Wednesday, stressed on transforming whole of North-East India into an ‘Organic State’, which would be helpful in meeting the needs of organic products in the global market.

Modi gave an instance of a small state Sikkim, which will soon become an organic state. PM said that if Sikkim can do it, why the complete North-East can’t be developed as an organic state.

“Sikkim is a small state, sparsely populated, but is set to become the country’s first wholly organic state, which is a matter of pride,” Modi told the Lok Sabha while replying to the debate on the motion of thanks on the president’s address.

“There exists a massive demand for organic agricultural produce in the world today. A large section of the world’s population today is interested in holistic healthcare, and is willing to pay any amount of money for such organic products,” he said.

“If a small state like Sikkim can do it, why can’t we dream of developing the whole of north-east as an organic state? The government of India will help it in capturing the global market.”

While PM is batting for turning the North-East Indian into an ‘Organic State’, the Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav and his senior cabinet ministers are apparently against it. They are even hindering the work of companies, which are into the production of organic products in the state.

Growth of organic farming in India:

“In India, organic farming has grown manifold and number of initiatives at the Government and non-Government levels has given it a firm direction. By 2009, India has brought more than 9.2 million hectares of land under certification. Growing awareness and increasing market demand, besides other factors, has resulted in the phenomenal growth in total certified area during the last five years. As on March 2009, total area under organic certification process stood at 12.01 lakh ha and the overall market potential is estimated to be around Rs. 1,452 crore,” Registrar of Tamil Nadu Agricultural University, Mr. Rabindran said.

Here is the detail which shows the rapid growth of organic farming worldwide:

As of 2001, the estimated market value of certified organic products was estimated to be $20 billion. By 2002 this was $23 billion and by 2007 more than $46 billion. By 2012 the market had reached $63 billion worldwide.

Europe (2011: 10.6 million hectares, which is 5.4 percent of Europe’s farmland and an increase of 6% from the prior year; Europe has 29% of the world’s organic agricultural land) and North America (2011: 2.8 million hectares, 7.5% of the world’s organic agricultural land) have experienced strong growth in organic farmland.

In the EU it grew by 21% in the period 2005 to 2008. However, this growth has occurred under different conditions. While the European Union has shifted agricultural subsidies to organic farmers due to perceived environmental benefits, the United States has not, continuing to subsidize some but not all traditional commercial crops, such as corn and sugar. As a result of this policy difference, as of 2008 4.1% percent of European Union farmland was organically managed compared to the 0.6 percent in the U.S.

As of 2012 the country with the most organic land was Australia (12 million hectares), followed by Argentina (3.8 million hectares), and the United States (1.9 million hectares).

Retrieved from – http://www.pardaphash.com/news/narendra-modi-stresses-on-organic-farming-citing-global-market-up-govt-differs/759684.html

Monsoon hits Kerala, likely to cover entire country by mid-July: IMD forecast

On Friday morning, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) announced the onset of the southwest monsoon over Kerala, in line with its forecasts for the onset of the four-month rainy season that is vital to the Indian economy. However, the met department has warned of a below-average monsoon this year, which could pose a challenge to the new central government’s attempts to resuscitate the economy.

“Southwest monsoon has set in over Kerala today, dated June 6th. It has further advanced into most parts of south Arabian sea, Kerala and some parts of Tamil Nadu,” said LS Rathore, director general of meteorology, India Meteorological Department.

The Maldives- Comorin areas, most parts of southwest Bay of Bengal and some parts of west central Bay of Bengal have also been covered by the monsoon. Rathore added, “We see a steady progress of monsoon in coastal parts and even northeastern states. The scenario does not look the same for central India.”

In the next 24 hours, isolated heavy rainfall are expected to occur over sub-Himalayan West Bengal, Assam, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, Kerala and Lakshadweep. As per IMD, conditions were becoming favourable for further advance of monsoon into south and central Arabian sea, some parts of south Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Bay of Bengal during next 2-3 days.

In the next 48 hours, the monsoon is expected to hit parts of north eastern states, where pre-monsoon rains have picked up. The southwest monsoon normally arrives in Kerala around June 1. It usually advances northwards in surges and covers the entire country by July 15.

Meteorologists state that it was unlikely that monsoon would cover the entire country by mid July. As per the met department forecast in April, the monsoon rainfall was likely to be 95 per cent of long period average (LPA) for the period June to September with average rainfall over India for June to September to be 89 cm.

A couple of months ago, the US Climate Prediction Centre along with the US National Centres for Environmental Prediction had predicted signs of cyclone genesis in the Arabian Sea along with the onset of monsoon.

According to a report in The Hindu, if this were to happen, it could enhance cloudiness over the tropical Indian Ocean and enhance monsoonal activity in the Bay of Bengal. This would make for ideal conditions for the monsoon to progress along the west coast and take the Arabian Sea arm of the monsoon to where it should reach by that time – central India.

However, the report had warned, these are early days yet and a lot can happen from now and the actual onset and onward track of the monsoon over the landmass.

In 2014, India is likely to have below-average monsoon rainfall. A couple of months ago, IMD’s first monsoon forecast was in line with the outlook of the World Meteorological Organisation that predicted mostly below-average rains in much of South Asia, including India.
Policy-makers have been waiting for the monsoon as much as the farmers this time round owing to forecasts that the June-September southwest monsoon – which is vital for about 60 per cent of India’s farmland, mostly paddy – could be undermined by the warming of the southern Pacific Ocean, known as the El Nino effect.

The last few droughts in India (in 2002, 2004 and 2009) coincided with El Nino, particularly in 2009, when food inflation shot up to 20 per cent and has remained high since. Dealing with a below-average monsoon in the kharif cropping season will be top of the agenda for the Narendra Modi-led government at the Centre.

Earlier this month, the IMD had forecast that the monsoon would arrive in Kerala on June 5, with a model error of plus or minus four days. The onset date last year was June 1 and in 2012 it was June 5.

Farming accounts for 14 per cent of the nearly $2 trillion Indian economy but it has a much larger direct or indirect impact on the well-being of people, particularly in rural areas.

Good rainfall boosts output and incomes in rural areas, which increases demand for gold, consumer goods, farm implements and automobiles. The agriculture ministry is already working overtime to prepare contingency plans and is encouraging states to be ready to adjust cropping patterns and choice of seeds depending on the availability of water. Indian farmers still have 15-30 days to plan for the sowing of kharif crops, largely paddy, soyabean, cotton, pulses and coarse cereals.

Retrieved from: http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/articleshow/36136381.cms?

Read more at: http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/monsoon-hits-kerala-know-when-it-is-reaching-you/1/365552.html

NE India and Italy eye business ties

Italy is looking forward at developing bilateral business and trade ties with North-east India. The Kolkata-based consulate of the west European nation has identified food processing, infrastructure and energy as three sectors where bilateral relations could be developed.

“To start-with, I think we can primarily work on three sectors, food processing, energy and infrastructure, to build bilateral relationship with North-East India,” said Cesare Bieller, consul general of Italy.

He added: “I cannot deny that there isn’t much business opportunity in North East. Also, the awareness level regarding this region is far less amongst the business community in Italy compared to other regions of India. But, I feel there exists great potential in food processing, energy and infrastructure in this region. My job is to pass on the message to the business community in my country so that business and trade relations could take-off.”

Bieller was in Guwahati today and had an interactive session with a group of journalists under the banner of Federation of Industry and Commerce of North Eastern Region (FINER).

Bieller, however, had a word of caution for the food processing sector of North-East. Citing the recent ban on alphonso mangoes by EU, he said Italy, along with other European nations, adhere to strict quality checks when it comes to import of food products. “You need to ensure certain standards. These are requirements you cannot avoid. Ensure the quality of what you grow and what you produce meet our standards,” Bieller said.

The North-East’s industry is looking forward at attracting technology from Italy, particularly in the food processing sector. “We have potential in food processing industry. What we need most to exploit that potential is technology. We also want some sort of buyback arrangement so that investors is ensured, at least in the initial years, that selling his products would not be a problem,” said RS Joshi, chairman of FINER.

FINER has also urged upon the consul general to press upon the Union government to ease ATA Carnet norms for North-Eastern states of India. ATA Carnet is an international uniform customs document which permits duty free temporary admission of goods especially for exhibition and showcasing purpose. “We would want food products be included under ATA Carnet for North-East as then only it would be of much help for us. We would also want Guwahati international airport to be authorised to avail ATA Carnet facilities,” said Joshi.

Retrieved from – http://www.business-standard.com/article/companies/ne-india-and-italy-eye-business-ties-114052601244_1.html

Agriculture must get climate smart

With the Indian Met department having recently warned of weak monsoons this year due to the El Nino effect, there will be serious implications on agricultural production and food prices. More than 60% of the area under cropping in India is rain-fed. Low and erratic monsoon will severely affect the livelihood of those dependent on agriculture. It may be recalled that the frequency and intensity of droughts have increased during the last two decades. This is the direct impact of global warming and climate change. The recent IPCC report has highlighted that India’s high vulnerability and exposure to climate change and global warming will slow its economic growth, impact human health, and make poverty reduction and food security efforts more difficult. It is also projected that the climate change will lead to severe water shortage and trigger water-borne diseases. There are projections that India could lose 10-40% of its current crop production by the end of century due to global warming. A recent IFPRI-CCAFS study estimated that a 10% drought will increase prices of rice by 23%, followed by maize (16%), and pigeon pea (10%). These evidence indicate that drought will upset the government’s efforts of increasing agricultural production, ensuring food security and controlling food inflation.

There is no choice but to avert the negative impacts of a drought-like situation to meet the future demand for food, feed and fibre. It requires a long-term strategy which would prepare farmers to adapt and respond to climate change, and effectively overcome the threat of drought and other climate change eventualities. Climate-smart agriculture, which sustainably increases agricultural productivity and enhances achievement of national food security goals, provides a window of opportunity to avert the impact of drought. It contributes in:

  1. Promoting sustainable increase in agricultural productivity by incorporating climate change perspective (including drought),
  2. Building adaptive capacity and resilience of production portfolio to climatic risks without compromising food security and,
  3. Minimising green-house gas emissions and maximising carbon sequestration by improved management practices.

More precisely, it is a ‘win-win’ proposition that enhances agricultural productivity and farm incomes, reduces climatic risks (especially drought), and controls emission of green-house gases. To avert negative impact of climate change, accelerated adoption of climate-smart agriculture would be necessary which would require dynamic national policies and investment priorities that will positively influence local institutions and interventions to adapt climate change.

To prepare for averting impact of drought, we need to have a four-pronged strategy -

1) Climate-smart technologies: An array of climate-smart technologies are available, well-tested in different agro-ecological regions. These include  -

a)       stress resistance high-yielding varieties,

b)       soil test based nutrient management,

c)       rainwater conservation and management,

d)       efficient irrigation practices, and

e)       judicious use of energy.

The available technologies need to be complemented by risk-reducing agricultural diversification without compromising the national objective of food security and income stability. Village-level need assessment should be done to identify promising technologies which improve resource use efficiency, increase farm production and income, and minimise climatic risks.

2) Capacity building of key stakeholders: Knowledge management at the grass-root level is a basic necessity for preparing for climate change eventualities. Therefore, a campaign may be initiated to enhance capacity of farmers to implement climate-smart technologies and effective use of weather advisories. Capacity-building programs at village/cluster level may be organised. Use of electronic and print media may also be used to prepare farmers to meet the challenge of climate change.

3) ICT-based weather advisory: Weather advisory at the local level will play an important role in pursuing climate-resilient agricultural production systems. Location-specific weekly weather information and value-added agro-advisories should be disseminated to the farmers through the ICT. The already available Kissan SMS portal should be used for disseminating weather advisory to the farmers, extension specialists and other stakeholders. The Indian Met and the Indian Council of Agricultural Research should work in tandem to evolve value-added advisories for dissemination.

4) Weather index insurance: A part of the risk can be reduced by climate-smart technologies and improved management practices, but risks arising due to extreme weather events have to be mitigated through agricultural insurance. Several models of agricultural insurance are now available, but in recent times, index-based insurance has become more popular. Provision should be made the farmers crops are insured to compensate then in the extreme event of drought or other climate change eventuality.

Efforts need to be made to transform each village into climate-smart agricultural locations, which synergises the interventions listed here. Such initiatives will prepare farmers and other stakeholders to meet the threat of climate change, including drought. These efforts will avert any likely agrarian distress due to changing climatic conditions and will also safeguard the efforts of government to ensure food security and alleviate poverty.

Retrieved from – http://www.financialexpress.com/news/column-agriculture-must-get-climate-smart/1252242/1

A burgeoning organic market beckons to India’s rural farmers

Indian farmers have started to reap dividends from their budding interest in organic farming. It wasn’t long back, around seven years ago, when Indian farmers started to go organic.

In 2006-07, around 4.32 lakh ha reported organic produce — a large portion came from wild and non-agricultural land — which has now reached around 11 lakh ha, as per the recent report ‘The World of Organic Agriculture, 2013’ by FiBL and IFOAM (Research Institute of Organic Agriculture and International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements).

“The growth rate has reached around 20% per year, much higher than early expectations,” says Krishan Chandra, director, National Centre of Organic Farming. The government is promoting organic farming in a big way as a result of which India exported agri-organic products of total volume of 160276.95 MT and realization was around Rs.1155.81 crore in year 2012-13.

The current market for organic foods in India is pegged at Rs.2,500 crore, which according to ASSOCHAM, is expected to reach Rs.6,000 crore by 2015.

It’ll still leave us at 1% of the global market. Thus, a huge potential is seen in the nascent Indian organic sector.

“Apart from states like Sikkim or MP, we’re seeing a rising interest in Gujarat, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, UP and Bihar”, says Chandra.

India outnumbers every other country in terms of organic producers — with an estimated 5,47,591.

Organic products, which until now were mainly being exported, are now finding consumers in the domestic market.

“Even Tier II cities like Nagpur, Allahabad, Gorakhpur and Bhatinda show an increase in organic consumption,” says Sunil Kumar, AGM at Morarka Rural Research Foundation.

According to a survey of 1,000 consumers in ten cities done by Morarka Organic Foods, around 30% of Indian consumers preferred organic products and were even prepared to pay 10 to 20% more for them.

“Soil abused by chemical fertiliser excesses takes more time to produce comparable yields. Although, the cost of organic cultivation is much less, reducing cost incurred in purchasing costly inputs,” says Rohitashwa Ghakar, Project Head, International Competence Centre for Organic Agriculture.

* Regions reap their rewards

North East India
Growth: 30.92 lakh ha out of the net cultivated area of 43 lakh ha in the region have never seen the use of chemical fertilisers.

Almost 89% of farmland is categorised as organic in Mizoram, which passed an Organic Act in 2004. Whereas Meghalaya, a major strawberry producer, eyes a turnout of 500 MT from the current 250 MT a year.

Popular organic crops: Much of the area in the region is taken up by paddy, vegetables and fruits such as grapes.

The more prosperous farmers are into cultivation of medicinal plants, rose and anthurium, primarily for export.

“Mizoram has become the largest anthurium flower producer in India, owing to almost 98% of women anthurium growers,” said Samuel Rosanglura of Mizoram’s horticulture department.

Challenges: Most state governments promote vermi-compost and manure in the region since bio-fertilisers and bio-pesticides are difficult to access. (By Rahul Karmakar)

North India
Growth: In UP, organic certification has gone up 36 fold in the last six years. The area under organic cultivation rose from 3,034 to 111,644 ha.

However, most of the organic farming  is under a corporate-farmer contract. In Haryana, with hardly any takers till 2008, organic crops today are produced in more than 10,000 ha.

However, Punajb farmers have shown little interest. Of the total 4046 lakh ha of land under cultivation, only a minuscule portion 2104 ha is under organic farming.

Popular organic crops: Nearly 40,000 farmers in UP are growing organic wheat, rice, pulses, maize, and numerous herbs like Tulsi, Ashwagandh, Aloe Vera.

Haryana grows mostly vegetables like tomato, beans, or fruits like summer-squash, melons and mangoes.

“Although I sell the produce in Delhi, most of it goes to retail chains”, says Kanwal Chauhan, a farmer in Sonepat.

Challenges: Punjab State Farmers’ Commission consultant Dr PS Rangi feels that organic farming cannot feed the entire country. “One can grow vegetables or some wheat for personal use, but it can’t be grown on a large scale.” (By Pankaj Jaiswal, Rajesh Moudgil and Gurpreet Nibber)

South India
Growth: In Kerala, at least 40 % of the farming is organic and the state is set to become the second fully organic state after Sikkim in 2016.

From 7,000 ha in 2007, the state has spread organic cultivation to 16,000 ha. In Andhra Pradesh another 11,500 ha would be added to the current 4273.54 ha this year.

In Karnataka, under the organic programmes of the state, an area of 1,18,676 ha has seen organic farming benefiting around one lakh farmers, said R Anuradha, agriculture department.

Popular organic crops: More than grains and pulses in Kerala organic farming is prevalent in cash crops, rice and vegetables.

In Andhra’s smaller towns and villages, people are slowly shifting to organically grown rice, ragi and other millets.

In Karnataka, crops like pepper, vanilla, coffee, nutmeg — which are not available in other parts of India — are a popular choice.

Challenges: In large tracts of the state’s tribal belt like Karnataka and AP, the farmers have engaged in slash/burn farming for generations and do not use any pesticide or fertilizer.

There have been no efforts to take this into account. (By Ramesh Babu, Ashok Das and Naveen Ammembala)

West India

Growth: Gujarat has seen substantial growth in organic farming. It currently utilises around 42,000 ha under organic farming.

Maharashtra has been a front runner in organic farming with around 6.5 lakh ha under it, a huge rise from 18,786 ha in 2005-06.

In Rajasthan, there has been a ten-fold increase. From around 22,000 ha in 2005-06, the state has taken a leap to 2,17,712 ha.

Popular organic crops: Gujarat grows organic wheat, pulses and fruits like mango, chikoo and papaya. While cotton, turmeric, ginger are some crops grown in Rajasthan.

In Maharashtra, cotton, cereals, fruits dominate the organic farming scene. The state has initiated  a pilot project to grow grapes that will produce organic wine.

Challenges: “Tribals who hardly use chemical fertilisers are left out of organic benefits,” says Kapil Shah of Jatan Trust that promotes organic farming. (By Mahesh Langa)

Retrieved from – http://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/newdelhi/a-burgeoning-organic-market-beckons-to-india-s-rural-farmers/article1-1051468.aspx

Earth Day 2014: Nurturing cities of the future

MOTHER Earth is a motif that commonly appears on the mythologies of different cultures around the world. It depicts Earth as a goddess embodying fertility and motherhood, such as Gaia in Greek mythology and Terra in Roman tradition.

In Southeast Asia, particularly in Myanmar, Cambodia Thailand and Laos, the Earth goddess is known as Phra Mae Thorani. She is depicted as a young woman with water flowing from her hair. In Indonesia they have Dewi Sri, who is the goddess of rice and fertility. Dewi Sri, is considered as Mother Earth in Javanese culture. She encompasses birth and life and controls rice, the staple food of the Indonesians.

In today’s culture, the term Mother Earth is still used to personify nature. The term embodies the nurturing character of the planet. It is the common expression for the Earth that reflects “the interdependence that exists among human beings, other living species and the planet.”

In 1972 the United Nations organized the first UN Conference on the Human Environment to respond to the emergencies posed by global warming and the damage human activities are causing the Earth. It started the global awareness of man’s “interdependence” with Earth. In 2009 the United Nations General Assembly declared every 22nd of April as International Mother Earth Day. It aims to promote a view of the Earth as the place that sustains all living things.

‘Green cities’

TODAY more than half of the world’s population lives in cities. As the urban population grows and the effects of climate change worsen, the need to create sustainable communities is more important than ever.

The theme for this year’s celebration is “Green Cities.” The International Mother Earth Day 2014 focused on “green cities, mobilizing millions of people to create a sustainable, healthy environment by greening communities worldwide.”

Having launched last year, the Green Cities Campaign aims to help cities and communities around the world accelerate their transition to a cleaner, healthier and more economically viable future. An initiative of the Earth Day Network, the campaign focuses on three key elements—buildings, energy and transportation.

Three key elements

BUILDING account for nearly one- third of the world’s greenhouse-gas emissions. To build “green buildings,” building design should improve energy and water efficiency, reduce waste and pollution, use sustainable buildings materials and move toward renewable-energy sources. Cities need to update ordinances, switch to performance-based building codes, and improve financing options.

Another key element of the Green Cities campaign is energy. The current world’s energy infrastructure pumps greenhouse gases into the air and contribute to climate change. Green cities should use cheap, clean and efficient energy by constructing more solar panels and wind turbines throughout communities. Education and policy advocacy should start now to make this energy future a reality.

The urban lifestyle prompts more people to rely on cars for transportation. This makes transportation as the fastest-growing source of greenhouse-gas emissions. The campaign pushes all the sectors to increase public transportation options, invest in alternative transportation, and improve walkability and bikability of cities.

Cities of the future

FOR the Green Cities campaign, right investments should be made in energy, transportation and green buildings for the cities of the future to be different from the cities of today. The future communities will be cleaner and more sustainable, and the quality of life will be better.

The future cities will have more energy-independent homes and buildings. Solar panels will become vital part in the construction of houses. Buildings will be equipped with comprehensive water-management systems for efficient water use. Cities will be connected by solar-powered public-transportation options that are convenient and eco-friendly. Solar energy from space will be harnessed to provide clean and efficient electricity.

Urban biodiversity

“THE cities of the future should be a haven of rich biodiversity,” according to lawyer Roberto V. Oliva, the executive director of the Asean Centre for Biodiversity. “Ecosystems provide food, raw materials, water and medicinal resources; regulate the quality of air, water and soil, and control flood and disease; and enrich the physical, social, aesthetic and spiritual life of urban dwellers. This makes biological diversity a vital component for cities to function properly,” Oliva said.

“We should start building the cities of the future by making urban-planning guidelines to be more ecological and sustainable. It should also integrate the tools in monitoring and evaluating biodiversity in the cities,” Oliva added. He also encouraged city governments to adopt strategies that aimed to empower and to be implemented by the public and the business sector. This can be community-driven initiatives like community farms, aquaponics or urban gardening for additional food resource. Or can be business sector-supported projects, such as adopting a public park or acquiring idle lands for park development.

In building our cities of the future, all our development initiatives should carry the nurturing tradition of Mother Earth.

Retrieved from – http://businessmirror.com.ph/index.php/en/features/biodiversity/31123-earth-day-2014-nurturing-cities-of-the-future