(Dr. krishan Bir Chaudhary)
I said in my various farmers meetings and interaction with media during my Tamil Nadu farmers yatra ( which starts from Kanyakumari on 21st January and completed in Chennai on 26th January 2012) that the National Policy for Farmers, formulated in 2007, should be implemented. The farmers supported me, so did the scientific community.
This document defines a farmer as a person actively engaged in the economic and/or livelihood activity of growing crops and producing other primary agricultural commodities and will include all agricultural operational holders, cultivators, agricultural labourers, sharecroppers, tenants, poultry and livestock rearers, fishers, beekeepers, gardeners, pastoralists, non-corporate planters and planting labourers, as well as persons engaged in various farming related occupations such as sericulture, vermi-culture, and agro-forestry. The term will also include tribal families / persons engaged in shifting cultivation and in the collection, use and sale of minor and non-timber forest produce.
Special categories of farmers include three: tribal, pastoralists and others like urban farmers. For the first time we see urban farmers mentioned as a special category among plantation and Island farmers. This is a step forward towards food and nutrition security of fast urbanizing India. Since 377 million people now live in its cities and towns, which is more than India’s population in 1951, urban farming needs a boost at policy and technological level.
People must learn to grow food. Nearly every urban household grows some plants, mainly Tulsi, some flowers, or other decorative plants. Even in slums, people grow plants. If Cuba could produce 60% of its urban food requirements in its cities and towns, why can’t we achieve at least 50%? Locally grown foods will be cheaper and more nutritious and a system can be created whereby the food reaches the kitchen without expending scarce fossil fuel energy.
We also need to feed the 93 million slum dwellers, many of whom are denied basic entitlements to food because many are migrants. The number of slum dwellers will rise to 110 million by 2017, a huge problem for urban food security. And this will grow faster as agrarian crisis in rural areas worsens. At the moment the rural poor are starving from low cash income; the urban poor are also starving from low cash income.
The urban poor can be networked into the self-sufficient food systems on vacant lands, even the roof tops of their huts. They can grow sweet gourd [lauki, sitaphal], bitter gourd [karela] and feed themselves; the surplus can be sold to neighbours. We will have to look into our urban planning processes. The next decade will see a closer coupling of rural and urban farming systems, issues of health and nutrition and closer inter-dependence of the rural and urban intellectual and scientific capital, resources and skills.
Therefore, the government should implement the National Policy for Farmers, it was placed in Parliament in November 2007, includes the following goal—“to introduce measures which can help to attract and retain youth in farming and processing of farm products for higher value addition, by making farming intellectually stimulating and economically rewarding.”
This would pave the way for food and nutrition security of fast urbanizing India and also create a mechanism of transfer of intellectual capital to the urban poor and the rural farming communities. We need a symbiotic rural-urban system to ensure food and nutrition security and the National Policy can be tweaked to achieve that.
(Editorial : Kisan Ki Awaaz Magazine)