Tuesday, January 12, 2016

“Food-reliance” (Bhakshya Swaraj)

Since we are a people condemned to consume all that is available in the market with a pinch of fear of death in it, bio-farming and bio-living are becoming increasingly relevant in our times. However, the farmers who have to seek a solution for this jeopardy are facing severe health, financial and agricultural crises. It is an era in which we need to pay greater attention in helping out the farmers who are day-to-day becoming helpless in meeting their basic needs to become self-reliant. As we know food, clothing, and shelter are the three basic human needs. Among these needs need for food is primary in comparison with the need for clothing and shelter.
Now there is a growing hijacking of the corporates in the field of agriculture.  Multi-national companies and the corportates today pretend as the saviours of the farmers by providing them with seeds, manures, pesticides, insecticides and “technical assistance and knowledge” in agriculture. The poor farmers do not understand the strategic undercurrents that make them slave workers at their own farming field.
Once the farmers attain self-reliance in all the areas of farming, such as seed production, manuring , irrigation, pest and insect control, cropping and marketing, uncertainties in food availability can be removed in places where such farmers live. We cannot trivialize it calling food security or secure food. This is actually “Food-reliance” (Bhakshya Swaraj), a social and political food production act in which people take complete control over what they eat. This is not just a beautiful ideal or philosophy; it includes an action-plan to concretize what is preached.
The fundamental of Bhakshya Swaraj is the motto that “all those who eat have a duty to produce food.” This motto is oriented towards keeping the third party food market away from the farmers. It is in the food market the farmers are cheated, betrayed and victimized. We need to bring back village market system, barter system of food exchange and local food hubs.
The second motto of Bhakshya Swaraj is “food at hand, health in return.” Once we are able to produce poison-free organic food for ourselves at home we can keep away the food market that sells us poisoned food. That way we can also get rid of the “health market” that exploits us every day in the form of all sophisticated treatments.
If we can adopt the above mentioned two mottos that will naturally accelerate our growth towards a complete Bhakshya Swaraj. In our own surroundings dozen kinds of leafy vegetables are available even without human farming. We only need to identify and gather them. They are poison free, effort free and rich in nutrition.
Another important milestone in building a Bhakshya Swaraj is to reduce the amount of grains in our food habit, instead include more of root vegetables and bulbs. Grains, root vegetables and bulbs equally provide starch nutrition for human body. If that be the case we must calculate the human energy spend, the water used, the area of farming land occupied and the production quantity of roots and bulbs in comparison to grains. Vegetable roots and edible bulbs need only less of human energy, less of irrigation, less area of cultivation, and less care against pests and insects. However, interestingly their production is ten times more than the production of grains from a certain square feet of land.
Another important aspect of Bhakshya Swaraj is to give importance to the cultivation of local food items. Going after exotic vegetables, grains and fruits people spend much of their energy, time and money just for fancy sake which may not bring about lasting effects in cultivation. We need to depend more on those food items that naturally grow in our climatic conditions. If not for fancy and fashion why we go after European winter fruits like straw berry, apple, plum, peach and Malaysian exotic fruits like mangostine, rambuttan, pulasan etc.! Fruits that are adaptive to our climatic situation is more tastier and rich in nutrition than exotic ones. We can simply grow tropical fruits like papaya, jackfruit, bell fruit, mango, pineapple etc. in plenty.
When we speak of organic cultivation there is a growing misunderstanding that it is a vegetarian culture of farming that stand totally against fish, egg and meat. That is not true. What Bhakshya Swaraj envisions is home grown fish, egg and meat. Today non-vegetable food items are completely under the control of competitive market where a genuine farmer has no say. And it is the non-vegetarian food items that are most poisoned ones in the market. Why can’t we think of organic fish, egg and meat?
All that have been said are not completely new things. We have doubts only about the practicality of what have been said. But you must know all that I have said is on the basis of my own personal experience and experiments with cultivation. Therefore, I would strongly be affirmative on not to doubt its practicality. IT IS PRACTICAL. By profession I am an advocate. Including 3 children there are 7 family members in my house. We produce more than 70% of all that we consume in our domestic farm. Besides, last year I sold 3 tons of organic food items worth Rs/- 50,000 at market. We use just 30 cents of land for the production of food items. We cultivate all kinds of tropical vegetables, yam, colocasia, tapioca, turmeric, ginger, papaya, banana, pepper, coffee etc. Other than that we grow hens for egg, fish, quail birds (kadakkozhi), guinea pigs etc. We have a fish pond in 1 cent of land, a polyhouse to grow vegetables in 2.5 cents of land, and 16 colonies of bees. We produce organic manure (wormy compost and Jeevamrutham) for the plants. All these works are done by my family members without employing any labourer from outside. If this is possible for me an advocate, it is simply POSSIBLE for thousands and thousands of farmers of our land.
What we need to first tell the farmers is to produce what is needed for your family to be “food-sufficient”, and then produce to sell in the market. Instead of selling what is produced and buying from market to consume, all must learn to consume what is produced at home and produce what is consumable. That would mean changing some of our learned habits of eating.
Once people become self-reliant in food naturally they would find ways and means to be self-reliant in clothing and shelter. Changing food culture is the beginning of a new culture which will mature as political and ecological sustainability. Therefore, we shall not limit our reflection about organic farming at the level of consuming poisonless organic food.  It is the first step in developing a society in actual freedom, suitability, integrity and responsibility.
(Wirtten by Adv. Binoy Joseph Manganam, translated by Jijo Kurian)

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