Draft INTRO for Roti calendar
Sai itna dijiye, ja main kutum samay
main bhi bhukha na rahun, sadhu na bhukha jaye
Give me enough so that my family is fed,
So that I don’t go hungry and neither does the mendicant
Kabir, 15th century mystic and poet
I n d i a is famous for its amazing variety of food, range of crops and myriad preparations. Perhaps more precious is the Indian cultural perspective of food not as a commodity but a life-giver for all to share, indeed as a form of the divine: annam parabrahma svarupam. To feed an unexpected guest is an honour.
The farmer, regarded as annadata or giver of food, is not simply someone who makes a living out of cultivation, just as a scientist is a symbol of learning, of technical advancement, not just someone who works for pay in a laboratory.
Why then do we have in India a massive crisis where millions of farmers face debt and distress, thousands commit suicide, and half the country goes to sleep hungry? How does the other half see this? Should people’s right over land, water, seeds, knowledge and power be passed on to a few entities, turning skilled farmers into unskilled construction workers?
To raise awareness and build solidarity for the struggling farmers, AID volunteers around the world held candlelight vigils on October 2, the birthday of Mahatma Gandhi. Journalists like Shree Padre, Jaideep Hardikar, P. Sainath and AID Saathis Dayamani Barla and Nityanand Jayaraman have worked to bring issues of land, water, hunger, and debt to the public, and to policy-makers. AID volunteers pledge to learn more about the crisis and its reasons, and to support possible solutions.
Organizations that promote farmers’ livelihoods and food security have raised key issues and questions. What government policies, support systems, and subsidies have increased farmers’ dependence on chemical fertilizers, pesticides and seeds from the market? Why have people lost traditional practices of saving seeds and low-input farming? While green revolution had promised food sovereignty, it has not only pauperized the farmers, but also left soil depleted and crops more vulnerable, requiring more and more expensive inputs.
To break this vicious cycle, AID supports groups that promote low-input sustainable agriculture. In Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, West Bengal, and Uttarakhand, our partners are reclaiming wastelands, regenerating soil, and protecting crops without pesticides. In Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, landless Dalit farmers are securing land rights, composting their own biomass, and planting seeds for tomorrow. As concerned citizens, we also demand farmer-friendly government policies.
And then there are choices that are personal but could be just as significant. Who grows, harvests, packs, transports and markets the food we eat daily? What do they earn? What do they eat? Do they have homes? How far does our food travel? How much fuel is used in transport and cooling? Are we fooled by the cosmetics that give it a “fresh” look at journey’s end? Which do we prefer – glossy fruits uniformly arranged on climate-controlled shelves or oddly shaped, unevenly colored fruits on a farmer’s cart?
These questions highlight our power as consumers to tilt the market away from vegetables steeped in pesticides and legumes coated with metanil yellow, towards organically grown vegetables, low-input grains, fairly traded to give the farmer a take-home wage rather than mounting debt. Can we exercise this power? What if our common humanity depends on it? Wishing you peace and joy in 2009, we welcome you to join AID. Let us make a difference together.