Interventions: Food Sovereignty and Sustainable Agriculture

National Consultation on National Mission for Sustainable Agriculture

11th March, 2013, New Delhi
Agriculture and climate change is increasingly becoming an area of academic and general interest. Much of it is because agriculture is source of 14% of global GHG emission. In India, the figure for emission from agriculture and its allied activities amounts to nearly 17 %. Considering adverse impacts of climate change on the socio- economic development of the country, the government proposed the National Action Plan on Climate change in 2008. The National Mission for Sustainable Agriculture (NMSA) is one of the eight missions under NAPCC introduced to address risks associated with the impacts of climate change on Agriculture and to make appropriate adaptation and mitigation strategies for ensuring food security, equitable access to food resources, enhancing livelihood opportunities and contributing to economic stability at the national level. However, NMSA does not bring new insights and commitments to support adaptation. After more than three years of its being approved, it is once again in the discussion as it has been declared to launch the NMSA during the 12th Five Year Plan (Planning Commission, 2011).
Concerns over these directions in agricultural policies and budgetary allocation in agriculture were expressed by farmers, experts and policy makers in a daylong consultation on National Mission for Sustainable Agriculture organized by a collective of organizations including ASHA, Beyond Copenhagen, Bharat Jan Vigyan Jathha (Delhi), Centre for Community Economics and Development Consultants Society (Raj), Humanity (Jharkhand), Kisan Seva Sangh (Rajasthan), South Asia Dialogue on Ecological Democracy (Delhi), UDI (Uttarakhand) in collaboration with Oxfam India on 11th March, 2013, at Delhi. 


Context and background:
In the inaugural session, Ajay Jha (PAIRVI) laid down the main concerns related to the National Mission for Sustainable Agriculture. He said that the NMSA, which is designed to increase resilience of agriculture through adaptation has very little to support adaptation. It is extremely technology centric, mitigation focused, promotes BT as one shoe fits all solution, and promotes conversion of C3 crops into C4 crops, which is scientifically tedious. Besides, a large amount of money will be spent on technology promotion, and R&D, (95% all together) leaving only 5% for capacity building. The Mission is focused on PPP in agriculture, which will only increase dominance of agri business companies on seeds, agricultural products and practices, agri research and markets. The focus on BT will increase monocropping severely affecting the diversity of crops and food. He also emphasized the direction of agriculture in the coming 12th Plan and said that 12th Plan will encourage small farmers to quit agriculture, without creating any alternative livelihood opportunity for them. He added that policy is geared to transform farmers into Farmer Producers Organizations, and farmers who fail to understand these nuances, will have to exit. He informed that a whole set of changes including those in tenancy and land lease Acts, APMC Act, modernization of mandis and market connectivity are being planned to facilitate taking agriculture from primary to secondary sector, which needs to be watched cautiously.
The first session chaired Dr. P.K. Aggarwal, Regional Programme Leader, South Asia ( IWMI) was opened with the farmers’ perspective of climate change and their aspirations. Mrs. Kamla Devi, a farmer from rajasthan, emphasized the need to promote indigenous seed and organic manure while Mr. Vijay Jardhari, farmer from Uttarakhand, expressed disappointment over seeds passing from the hand of the farmers to the multinationals. He also added that agro ecological approaches in farming is being converted in monoculturization of seeds and crops. 
Vanita Suneja, Economic Justice – Lead Specialist, Oxfam India, gave the opening remarks of the first session of the consultation which was being chaired by. She raised concern for the 60 % of the population engaged in agriculture, particularly the 80 % of them who are small and marginal farmers. She also added that women farmers coping capacity is reduced due to their lack of ownership over land. As per her some concerns to be addressed in agriculture in climate projection for timely intervention, budgetary allocation in sync with long term planning and enhancing adaptation capacity of the farmers. 
Prof Arun Kumar from JNU talked about sustainability and its timeframe. According to him, sustainability planning needs to be done to meet long-term future needs and not immediate ones. He expressed concern over the present government policy of growth at any rate. A 9 percent growth rate and the policy of ‘more is better’ is being achieved ignoring its environmental impact. Adding to it, he said that the macro economic framework of the current government is based on marketisation. It looks outward and addresses only supply side rather than increasing greater demand by increased investment in agriculture and social sector. The boost given to the floriculture and pisciculture industry due to its increasing export potential is an apt example.  
Dr Rajeshwari Raina (NISTADS) conveyed the need to achieve genuine food security based on environment security. The very shift from ‘equal right to emit’ to ‘equitable access to sustainable development’ expresses the need for a shared vision for long-term cooperative action. She said that NMSA does not look into farm ecology and well-being of the farmers, and is driven by the same “maximization of the produce” that has been the approach since the green revolution. She added that there is insufficient allocation on capacity building in the NMSA (5%) and the focus is on technology, products and practices (60%), which implies that majority of the allocation will go to mechanization and biotechnology. She emphasized that decentralized planning based on local needs and priorities, knowledge and responses, can only improve agricultural planning, practices and are best suited to tackle climate change impacts.
Prof Surjit Singh also emphasized the importance of decentralize planning and highlighted instances of water, agriculture, forest, policies being made in isolation from one another. He said that while budget this year has increased allocation to increase storage capacity, however, none of the farmers, know about micronutrient farming that govt is promoting without giving them enough information and capacity. He said that food management, and post harvest systems need to be improved substantially to ensure food security.
Aditi Kapoor talked about agriculture in State Action Plans of climate change, and lamented inadequate focus on agri and water sectors in these plans. She also added that none of these plans are gender sensitive and does not acknowledge the crisis that women farmers face in time sof climate change. Dr. Raghunandan (All India Peoples Science Forum) said that existing vulnerabilities in agriculture are also not being addressed, leave alone the future vulnerabilities due to climate change impacts. He added that institutional changes to minimize risk are much more desperately required as technical changes. Mr. H.S. Sur (former Consultant, Planning Commission) enjoined the people to exercise their right to participate in the planning process and not leave it on the government entirely. He also shared his insights on how technological approach on green revolution has ruined agriculture in Punjab.
Dr. Aggarwal, the chair of the session, concluded with the thought that climate change is no more just  a science-based issue but an economic and, therefore, political one. The solution to it lies at individual, organizational, and decentralized level. Researchers and stakeholders, therefore, need to support the government and give it correct information and views.
The second session included policymakers and was chaired by Shri,Vijay Pratap. Prof. SK Saidul Haque, MP (CPM) talked about the need for diversification of seed and pattern of crop production. He talked of first making agriculture sustainable and then work on its sustainability in terms of climate change.  
Dr. Ajay Kumar, MP (JVM) stressed on the need to address the basic problems in agriculture first, including getting rid of APMC Act and to address water scarcity through local solutions and ensuring local water security. He added that health of traditional water bodies must have a priority over big dams and micro irrigation projects.
Farmers’ leader from Bhartiya Kisan Union, Shri Yudhveer Singh said diffusion of technology from lab to land has not taken place and benefits of scientific research are yet to reach farmers. Criticizing certain multinational agricultural biotechnology corporation from abroad, he also expressed the need to handle the situation intelligently and indigenously. Dr. Sunilam Mishra, former MLA, conveyed the need to contradict the existing overemphasis of the NMSA on genetically modified crops. Atul Kumar Anjaan, Secretary, CPI, said that agriculture should have a separate budget like railways. At the same time, he drew attention to budgetary allocation under NMSA where large chunk of the budgetary amount is going to companies selling agricultural technologies rather than to the farmers. He said that National Farmers Commission recommendations are yet to be implemented.
  1. Centrality of Agro-ecological approaches and small farmers: The current framework of NMSA is highly techno centric. It fails to address farm ecology and well being of small farmers. To sustain food production centrality agro ecological approaches and concerns of small farmers must be ensured. 
  2. Seed and crop diversity: The NMSA must promote the seed and crop diversity as they are the best adaptation strategy. 
  3. Invest in capacity building of farmers: There is very little provision for capacity building of farmers to understand and to respond to climate change. Majority of the current expenses allocation on extension is going to salaries of the employees only. Best practices of agricultural adaptation through farmer to farmer exchanges, farm field schools etc should be provided sufficient resources. 
  4. Rationalizing the allocation in the NMSA: In the current form majority of the allocation in the NMSA will be going to input dealers and technology providers. Ways and means must be evolved to redirect the investment towards infrastructure development, post harvest mechanism, and timely provision of inputs to farmers.
  5. Emphasis on maintenance of traditional water bodies; Micro irrigation cannot prevent droughts of the kinds we are facing, it underlines the need to maintain traditional water bodies in good health. Traditional water bodies should also receive equal emphasis. 
  6. Decentralized planning: Planning in agriculture should emulate the spirit of decentralized planning in RKVY and Planning Commission guidelines. Block level should be made highest level of planning to be merged as CDAP.
  7. Emphasis on rainfed areas: The working group on NRM and rainfed agriculture strongly recommended restructuring NRAA as Ranfed Farming Agency that should be looked into not merely as a possibility but a necessity.
  8. Common Property Resources: agriculture and livestock has an intricate connection with Common property resources and pastures. Pastures also enhance adaptive capacity of farmers depending on livestock. Small farmers access to common property resources must be ensured and their encroachment reversed as far as possible.
  9. Weather based insurance must be expanded: The NAIS and WBCIS have extremely limited reach, they must be expanded to cover more vulnerabilities caused due to weather and livestock.
  10. Organic farmers, Bio fertilizers, nutrient and Non pesticidal management should be provided appropriate incentives: Organic farmers, and farmers producing biofertilers and natural nutrient should be provided incentive. Organic farming must be defined. In many states chemical fertilizers and pesticides are promoted in the name of organic farming. 
  11. Precautionary principle to be adopted for GM: India is bound by precautionary principle as a signatory to the CBD, therefore in accordance with the Parliamentary Committee report and report by the Committee appointed by the Supreme Court, it should first create appropriate regulatory framework.

Related Documents:

Food Sovereignty and Sustainable Agriculture

Climate change poses insurmountable challenges to food and agriculture. PAIRVI works to promote food sovereignty which entails sustainable food production through natural and agro ecological approaches, fair price and dignity to the farmers, and fair trade policies. PAIRVI works with farmers to enhance their resilience and income and represents their concerns at sub regional/regional and global fora. It also looks into the interrelations of policies and programmes on energy, agriculture and water. PAIRVI also works to secure land tenure for farmers and women farmers and to resist land grabs and corporate control over agriculture and agricultural inputs.