Archive for the ‘India’ Category

Feb26

Agricultural Population Growth Marginal as Nonagricultural Population Soars

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The global agricultural population—defined as individuals dependent on agriculture, hunting, fishing, and forestry for their livelihood—accounted for over 37 percent of the world’s total population in 2011, the most recent year for which data are available. This is a decrease of 12 percent from 1980, when the world’s agricultural and nonagricultural populations were roughly the same size. Although the agricultural population shrunk as a share of total population between 1980 and 2011, it grew numerically from 2.2 billion to 2.6 billion people during this period.

The world’s agricultural population grew from 2.2 billion to 2.6 billion people between 1980 and 2011. (Photo Credit: UNDP)

Between 1980 and 2011, the nonagricultural population grew by a staggering 94 percent, from 2.2 billion to 4.4 billion people—a rate approximately five times greater than that of agricultural population growth. In both cases growth was driven by the massive increase in the world’s total population, which more than doubled between 1961 and 2011, from 3.1 billion to 7 billion people.

It should be noted that the distinction between these population groups is not the same as the rural-urban divide. Rural populations are not exclusively agricultural, nor are urban populations exclusively nonagricultural. The rural population of Africa in 2011 was 622.8 million, for instance, while the agricultural population was 520.3 million.

Although the agricultural population grew worldwide between 1980 and 2011, growth was restricted to Africa, Asia, and Oceania. During this period, this population group declined in North, Central, and South America, in the Caribbean, and in Europe.

In 2011, Africa and Asia accounted for about 95 percent of the world’s agricultural population. In contrast, the agricultural population in the Americas accounted for a little less than 4 percent. Especially in the United States, this is the result of the development and use of new and innovative technologies as well as the increased use of farm machinery, chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and irrigation systems that require less manual labor.

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Mar22

The Looming Threat of Water Scarcity

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By Supriya Kumar

Some 1.2 billion people—almost a fifth of the world—live in areas of physical water scarcity, while another 1.6 billion face what can be called economic water shortage. The situation is only expected to worsen as population growth, climate change, investment and management shortfalls, and inefficient use of existing resources restrict the amount of water available to people. It is estimated that by 2025, 1.8 billion people will live in countries or regions with absolute water scarcity, with almost half of the world living in conditions of water stress.

Global water scarcity map. (Photo credit: International Water Management Institute)

Water scarcity has several definitions. Physical scarcity occurs when there is not enough water to meet demand; its symptoms include severe environmental degradation, declining groundwater, and unequal water distribution. Economic water scarcity occurs when there is a lack of investment and proper management to meet the demand of people who do not have the financial means to use existing water sources; the symptoms in this case normally include poor infrastructure.Large parts of Africa suffer from economic water scarcity.

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Jan22

An Interview with Ela R. Bhatt, Founder of the Self Employed Women’s Association in India

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In September 2012, Nourishing the Planet’s Carol Dreibelbis spoke with Ela R. Bhatt, founder of the Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) in India. SEWA is a national trade union that helps women working in informal sectors, like agriculture or childcare, gain the same rights, securities, and self-reliance as those who are formally employed. Ms. Bhatt, a Gandhian practitioner of non-violence and self-reliance, has dedicated her life to improving the lives of India’s poorest and most oppressed women workers.

Ela R. Bhatt (Photo credit: Mihir Bhatt)

In addition to founding SEWA, Ms. Bhatt is the founder of India’s first women’s bank, the Cooperative Bank of SEWA, and one of the founders of Women’s World Banking, a global microfinance organization that works to economically empower women. She served in the Indian Parliament from 1986 to 1989, and is a member of The Elders, an independent group of global leaders who work together for peace and human rights, among many other roles.

You gave a speech to the United Nations Development Programme in 2011 on your “100 Mile Principle”; since then, you completed field testing on the Principle. Can you explain what it is? 

The 100 Mile Principle urges us to meet life’s basic needs with goods and services that are produced no more than 100 miles from where we live. This includes food, shelter, clothing, primary education, primary health care, and primary banking.

The 100 Mile Principle ties decentralization, locality, size, and scale to livelihood, suggesting that the materials, energy, and knowledge that one needs to live should come from areas around us. Seed, soil, and water are forms of knowledge that need to be retained locally. Security stems from local innovations, not distant imports. Essentially, the link between humans and nature has to be restored; the link between production and consumption has to be recovered.

The Principle also focuses on the ideas of community and citizenship. I think citizenship has two levels: it is both membership in your community and membership in your nation-state. The social space defined by national citizenship is inadequate, and the nation-state alone can be alienating and coercive without membership in a community. Take food as an example: food has to be grown locally and made locally. When food is exported, the producers have no access to the fruits of their labor.

A community is autonomous when it controls food, clothing, and shelter. Communities lose control when they go beyond the local. When food is exported, when technology is centralized, when shelter depends on some remote housing policy, we lose our freedom as a community. So the 100 Mile Principle guarantees that citizens retain control, inventiveness, and diversity.

Why did you choose a distance of 100 miles?

One simple reason is that you can travel 100 miles and return home by dinner time. But 100 miles does not need to be taken literally—it represents the distance that can provide essential goods and services for a district or state. It could be 200 miles in a desert or hilly region, 50 miles in a dense, produce-rich location, or 10 miles near a town. The distance may also vary for different goods and services: food may come from within a 10-mile radius, but specialized healthcare may require 100 miles or more.

The distance of 100 miles is a starting point for thinking in local terms. Whenever we have used the term “100 miles,” people from all walks of life—students, rural women, economists, academics—have understood the focus on local goods and services.

How did you field test the 100 Mile Principle, and what were some of the most important results?

The field study involved over 100 households in 10 rural villages from Surendranagar and Anand/Kheda districts in Gujarat, a state in Western India. We spoke with households about how they meet their basic needs and how far they would need to travel for primary education, health care, and banking.

The study revealed that rural populations have some amount of control over their food through a combination of growing their own, bartering, community and caste practices, and the Public Distribution System. A great deal of local food production and consumption is already occurring. In the case of clothing, though, most prefer cheaper, easier-to-maintain synthetics and ready-made garments from outside of 100 miles. The study showed that many desire “city-type” homes: this could be achieved with use of local material and local manpower, meeting the 100 Mile Principle and maintaining freedom of choice.

Primary education is available in all of the villages, but there is limited capacity for technical or skill-related education. Very few of the villages have a local trained doctor, meaning residents must travel to the nearest town for health care. Home herbal remedies are still used but are now less favored than medicinal tablets from the village grocer.

How can the 100 Mile Principle help communities deal with some of the most pressing issues they face, such as food security?

Food security cannot be guaranteed by foreign imports. Instead, we encourage local seed banks, owned and run by small and marginal farmers. Local, small-scale warehousing would largely overcome the problem of food scarcity, as well as rampant waste of edible food products due to lack of storage. The possibility of setting up smaller grain storage units owned by and managed by a group of small-scale farmers needs to be explored. There should also be local tool banks so that farmers can borrow these when required.

We also suggest that every primary school at the rural level develop an agricultural training center. Here, young people can learn improved farming techniques, farm-related IT skills, food processing, and on-farm processing. Prompt actions should also be taken to release the mortgaged land of small and marginal farmers. Land is their only source of livelihood.

Many small and marginal farmers can grow enough food for their own needs as well as some surplus to sell. But, for a number of reasons—including increasing cultivation of cash crops instead of food crops, animal pest management problems, and the rapid sale of land for industry—the situation is changing.

To combat hunger and to achieve food security for all, we have to protect ways of life and livelihoods of the farming communities. This is the fundamental policy point. Growing food grains should be a viable and profitable occupation for the farming community. But, broadly speaking, the producer currently gets about 60-70 percent of the price paid in the market, and the balance goes to the middleman or the enterprise that sells the products. Therefore, middlemen should be removed where possible. It is also important to bring down the input costs, including the costs of irrigation, seeds, and fertilizers.

As the founder of the Self Employed Women’s Association, you work to organize women for full employment and self-reliance. What role does the 100 Mile Principle play in women’s success?

After field testing the 100 Mile Principle, I am convinced more than ever that without the active participation of women farmers, hunger cannot be reduced. When the 100 Mile Principle is put into action, productive work opportunities and income will increase, the health of women and girls will increase, infant and maternal mortality will decrease, and housing will improve. In addition, there will be a decline in compulsive migration of youth from villages to cities, increasing local assets. Local farmers will take active interest in crop planning and learning new agricultural skills. Farmers, artisans, and village officials will strengthen their community.

What criticisms has the 100 Mile Principle faced?

We have received a variety of criticisms. Some people consider the Principle to be too theoretical, or irrelevant to urban areas. Others feel that it is inhibiting progress in this era of globalization. And others have suggested that it goes against the ideas of freedom of choice and the power of market forces—particularly competitive advantage.

Despite this criticism, we know through SEWA experience that ideas can be translated into a measurable influence on the lives of people. At the same time, I want to make clear that the Principle is a guide or a philosophy rather than something to be forced on anyone.

What are your plans to continue refining and spreading the 100 Mile Principle?

At some point I would like to carry out fieldwork in other parts of India to gain more data on the Principle. In the meantime, my major aim is to propagate this idea, especially among young people and urban consumers. Some of the findings also have implications for public policy, especially measures that help small-scale farmers and family farms.

There are some policies and government schemes already in place for health care and nutrition, but there is a large communication gap that prevents these policies from being as effective as possible. Control and implementation of these schemes need to be in the hands of local people who are aware of the realities on the ground. I am in the process of putting the field study results in the form of a book.

Now it’s your turn: How important do you think it is to keep basic goods and services on a local scale? Please let us know in the comments below. 

Carol Dreibelbis is a former research intern with the Worldwatch Institute’s Food and Agriculture Program.

Jan17

Urban Agriculture Helps Combat Hunger in India’s Slums

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By Catherine Ward

In 2010, nearly 830 million people around the world lived in slums, up from 777 million in the year 2000, according to the United Nations.

Back street of an Indian slum. (Photo credit: http://shabanaadam.wordpress.com/)

The New York Times describes Dharavi, Asia’s largest slum, as a “cliché of Indian misery,” with approximately 1 million slum dwellers living on 8 percent of the land in the western city of Mumbai. Although Dharavi lacks sufficient infrastructure to provide sewerage, water, electricity, or housing for residents, this dense community in the heart of India’s financial capital has a thriving informal economy with an annual economic output of up to US$1 billion.

Writing in Foreign Policy, Charles Kenny of the Center for Global Development observes that “slum dwellers may be at the bottom of the urban heap, but most are better off than their rural counterparts.” Urban centers, both in India and around the world, offer economic opportunities that rural areas do not. For this reason, some migrants voluntarily move to slums in hopes of learning new skills, setting up businesses, and sending their children to school.

India has a massive population of 1.2 billion, second only to China, and is home to an estimated 93 million slum dwellers. According to WaterAid, the country’s slum population has doubled in the past two decades. Slum communities can be hotspots for hunger, with an estimated 36 percent of slum children in Mumbai malnourished, reports the website Urb.im.

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Jan08

Reforming Energy Subsidies Could Curb India’s Water Stress

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By Alyssa Casey

Water scarcity is a global problem, as demonstrated by the recent droughts across the U.S. Midwest and the Horn of Africa. And it is projected to become increasingly widespread in the coming years: the 2030 Water Resources Group estimates that by 2030, one-third of the world’s population will live in regions where demand for water exceeds supply by more than 50 percent.

Energy subsidies in India perpetuate inefficient water use in agriculture. (Photo Credit: Kolli Nageswara Rao)

The rapidly growing and urbanizing global population will need more natural resources, especially water, to feed and sustain itself in the coming years. The effects of climate change will only exacerbate water scarcity. A rise in sea levels will increase the salinity of already-limited freshwater resources. Changing weather patterns will further polarize rainfall levels around the world: according to climate experts, many wet regions will see more rain and increasing flood risk, while many dry regions will experience less rainfall, increasing the frequency of drought.

India’s water woes

Although water scarcity is a global concern, some countries, such as India, are more affected than others. Home to 1.2 billion people, India struggles to feed 17 percent of the world’s population with just 4 percent of the world’s freshwater resources. More than 85 percent of India’s villages and over half of its cities rely on groundwater for agriculture, domestic use, and industry, but overuse has resulted in sinking water tables. Despite relative scarcity, India is the largest freshwater user in the world.

Water levels of India’s dams are falling to record lows. According to an analysis by NASA hydrologists, India’s water tables are declining at a rate of 0.3 meters per year, and between 2002 and 2008 more than 108.37 cubic kilometers of groundwater disappeared—double the capacity of India’s largest surface water reservoir. Decreasing levels of dams and rivers could lead to political conflict within the country, as well as conflict with neighboring countries, such as Bangladesh and Pakistan.

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Sep14

Mobile Technology Helps Farmers save Time, Water, and Electricity

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By Sarah Alvarez

Managing irrigation pumps and water systems is a difficult and costly task for many farmers in developing countries. The amount of time and energy farmers spend watering their crops often compromises time that could otherwise be used for family and community obligations. It also compromises their safety at night, when they are most vulnerable to animal predators. A new innovation from the India based company, Ossian Agro Automation, called Nano Ganesh seeks to transform the way farmers manage their water systems by giving them the freedom to turn pumps on and off, from any location, with their mobile phone.

 

Nano Ganesh aims to assist farmers in managing water pump systems, similar to this one (Photo credit: Neil Palmer)

Santosh Ostwal, Co-Founder of Nano Ganesh, created mobile based technology that gives farmers the flexibility to remotely switch water pumps on and off from any distance using cell phones or landlines. Ostwal, an electrical engineer by trade, had a personal connection to the plight of farmers. After observing the hardships his 82 year old grandfather faced in tending his farm and monitoring the availability of electricity to operate water pumps, he began to construct a remote control that farmers could use within two kilometers of the farm. He later modified the remote control by expanding its range to 10 kilometers. In 2008 Ostwal altered the technology so that it could function over an unlimited range granting farmers the flexibility to start and stop the flow of water from anywhere there is a mobile connection.

Nano Ganesh also allows farmers to check the availability of electricity to the pump and verify the on and off status of its operation. Both of these features offer cost-saving benefits to farmers who otherwise may not be able to shut their pumps off before their fields have become overly saturated. This is important for two reasons. One is that over-watering can lead to soil erosion and nutrient depletion. The second reason is that the inability to remotely shut-off water pumps leads to unintentional water and electricity waste. With the help of Nano Ganesh farmers will be able to conserve water and electricity more effectively. This will minimize the environmental and financial costs of farming. In fact, the product description suggests that farmers can recover the cost of the technology in just 11 days from the water and electricity savings it will produce.

So far, Nano Ganesh has assisted 10,000 farmers in India and is now being used in Australia and Egypt. The innovation received international recognition from the Global Mobile Awards in 2010 and Nokia’s Calling All Innovators Contest in 2009. Nano Ganesh has also received acknowledgement from several institutions in India including the Mahratta Chamber of Commerce, Industries and Agriculture.

Sarah Alvarez is a research intern with the Nourishing the Planet Project.

To purchase State of the World 2011: Innovations that Nourish the Planet please click HERE.

 

Sep11

Celebrating 25 Amazing Women

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Throughout September, the Worldwatch Institute is celebrating the crucial role that women and youth play in ushering in the just and environmentally sustainable future that we’re working hard to bring about. Even in the 21st century, women own less than 15 percent of the world’s land, earn 17 percent less than men on average, and comprise two-thirds of the world’s 776 million illiterate adults. Today, Nourishing the Planet features 25 amazing women from all over the globe who have been ongoing sources of inspiration, to NtP and others.

If you haven’t already, please vote for Worldwatch as part of the Chase Giving Challenge on Facebook. Click here to cast your vote today! Also please connect with Nourishing the Planet’s Facebook page where you will find infographics, quotes, articles, and news that can’t be found anywhere else.

1.       Rebecca Adamson
Rebecca Adamson, a Cherokee, has worked directly with grassroots tribal communities, and nationally as an advocate of local tribal issues since 1970. She started First Nations Development Institute in 1980 and First Peoples Worldwide in 1997. Adamson’s work established a new field of culturally appropriate, value-driven development which created: the first reservation-based microenterprise loan fund in the United States; the first tribal investment model; a national movement for reservation land reform; and legislation that established new standards of accountability regarding federal trust responsibility for Native Americans. Adamson is active in many nonprofits and serves on the board of directors of numerous organizations, including the Josephine Bay Paul and C. Michael Paul FoundationThe Bridgespan Group, and First Voice International.

2.       Lorena Aguilar
Lorena Aguilar—Global Senior Gender Adviser at the International Union for the Conservation of Nature—is an international advisor for numerous organizations, governments, and academic institutions on topics related to gender, water, environmental health, and community participation, with over twenty-five years of experience in the field of international development. She is actively committed to incorporating gender perspectives into the use and conservation of natural resources in Latin America, and has both created and participated in some of the most influential gender networks in the world. Aguilar has authored over seventy publications, and has been the keynote speaker at numerous high-level international conferences.

3.       Helen Browning
Helen Browning is chief executive of the Soil Association, the United Kingdom’s leading nonprofit working for healthy, humane, and sustainable food, farming, and land use. In addition to running the Soil Association, Browning operates a 1,350 acre organic farm in Wiltshire, and runs the village pub. Helen is also chair of the Food Ethics Council, and has been a valuable member of numerous organizations working to improve the British food and agriculture system, including the Curry Commission on the Future of Farming and Food, the Agriculture and Environment Biotechnology Commission, and the Meat and Livestock Commission. (more…)

Jul11

Indian Food Policy: A Plentiful Harvest while Millions Starve

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By Keshia Pendigrast

According to a recent New York Times article, agriculture policy in India is shaped by two central goals: to achieve higher, more stable prices for farmers than they would normally achieve in an open market, and to distribute food to the poor at lower prices than is available from private stores. India ranks second in the world in agricultural output, and the sector employs 52 percent of the labor force. Yet one-fifth of its people are malnourished, double the rate of countries like Vietnam and China.

Sacks of rice that have suffered decay and weather damage. (Photo credit: New York Times)

India’s technical innovations and generous wheat subsidies have lead to massive success in the production of rice and wheat. According to a Reuters article, in 2011 Indian Food Minister K.V. Thomas said that wheat and rice exports would only cease after they had reached 2 million tons. August 2011 brought Indian wheat stocks over 35.87 million tons, substantially higher than its target of 17.1 million tons, set for the July-September quarter. Government warehouses were overwhelmed with over 25 million tons of rice.

But according to a World Bank study, only 41.4 percent of food stocks in warehouses reached Indian homes.

“It’s painful to watch,” said Gurdeep Singh, a farmer near Ranwan India, in an interview for the New York Times. Singh recently sold his wheat harvest to the government. “The government is big and powerful. It should be able to put up a shed to store this crop.”

“The reason we are facing this problem is our refusal to distribute the grain that we buy from farmers, to the people who need it,” said Biraj Patnaik, principal adviser to the Supreme Court on the right to food, in an interview for the New York times. “The only place that this grain deserves to be is in the stomachs of the people who are hungry.”

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May09

Three Inspiring People Who Have Met with Nourishing the Planet Among Reuters 10 Food Trailblazers

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By Alison Blackmore

Reuters AlertNet recently identified 10 individuals who are changing the food system at the grassroots. Based on nominations from leading NGOs and research institutes involved in nutrition and agriculture, including Nourishing the Planet, Reuters paid tribute to innovators worldwide who are finding ways to boost production without sacrificing food security for generations to come.

Women at work at the Self-Employed Women's Association (SEWA). (Photo credit: Bernard Pollack)

Nourishing the Planet is thrilled to give special congratulations to three recipients who we have met with on the ground: Edward Mukiibi, co-founder of Developing Innovations in School Cultivation (DISC) in Uganda, Reema Nanavaty, Director of Economic and Rural Development at the Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) in India, and Davinder Lamba, co-founder of the Mazingira Institute in Kenya. Their work is inspiring farmers, youth, and policymakers to create a more environmentally sustainable food system.

As the world looks to find ways to feed a population predicted to grow to 9 billion by 2050, it will be people like Mukiibi, Nanavaty, and Lamba who are finding ways to raise yields, improve nutrition, increase incomes, and protect the environment. From inspiring youth to become farmers, to giving poor women farmers a voice through organizing, to promoting urban farming—these  food trailblazers are finding the best solutions for their communities and creating new models for a sustainable food system.

To read more about Edward Mukiibi, Reema Nanavaty, and Davinder Lamba see Mazingira Institute and NEFSALF: Training a New Breed of Farmers, Looking Inside the Gates to Feed the City from Within: An Interview with Diana Lee-Smith, Nourishing the Planet Spends a Day with SEWA, Women farmers key to end food insecurity, Youth Deserve Gold Medals for Sustainability, How to Keep Kids “Down on the Farm”, Conversations With Farmers: Discussing the School Garden with a DISC Project Student, and Cultivating a Passion for Agriculture.

To purchase State of the World 2011: Innovations that Nourish the Planet please click HERE. And to watch the one minute book trailer, click HERE.

Mar16

Could a Rural Indian Community be a Model for Europe for Better Water and Drought Management?

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By Jerome Bossuet

Jerome Bossuet is a Marketing Communication and Multi-media Specialist with the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT). Bossuet is a specialist in international agriculture development and development communications with 15 years experience in Europe, Asia, and Africa. He is interested in agricultural innovations to help smallholder farmers in the South. Click here to read more articles in his blog “Innovation contre la faim (Innovation against hunger).

Photo credit: ICRISAT

When water experts meet at the 6th World Water Forum in Marseille, France, should Europe look at rural India for sustainable water management solutions ? The example of Kothapally, a rural community in Andhra Pradesh in semi-arid Central India shows that old recipes of collective natural resources management has a future.

The world is thirsty, not only in the Sahel, but also in Europe. When the U.K. Environment Agency has already warned about water shortages because of the driest biannual rainfall period since rainfall has been recorded (1884), should Europe start preparing itself to adapt to recurrent droughts?

If we look at populations in the South who face drought almost every alternate year, we may find inspiration among rural communities using effective solutions to adapt to water scarcity.

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