To feed the growing Indian population in early 1960’s, there was urgent need to increase productivity of food grains, for which besides introduction of new high yielding varieties, external input like chemical fertilizers, insecticides, and pesticides were used indiscriminately. This package of practice gave birth to the so-called “GREEN REVOLUTION”. Of course as a result of this green revolution, India could increase the production manifold i.e. against a food grain production of 50.82 million Tons during 1950-51, we are able to brought our production to 315.6 million tonnes during 2021-22 and it is estimated to be 330.5 million tonnes during 2022-23. To achieve this production level, India consumed a big amount of fertilizers which is evident from the fact that against a consumption of 3.05 Lakh MT of NPK during 1959-60, the consumption increased to 63.94 million MT during 2021-2022. Similarly as per the data of FAO, India utilized around 58160 tonnes of pesticide in 2018.
Due to increase in use of external input, not only the cost of production has gone high but also it has generated adverse impact on soil, plant and animal health. Not only this, resistance to pesticides is now known in over 504 insect and mite pests in comparison to only 7 insect pests in 1954. Increased use of chemicals also enhanced the demand of water for irrigation resulting lowering of underground water table. The underground water has also got polluted due to leaching of salts. The visible adverse impact could be seen on soil health as the soil-organisms are almost lost, human and animal health has also got adversely affected due to intake of food grains, vegetables, fruits treated with insecticides and pesticides. The contaminated/polluted underground water has also caused many anomalies.
The major questions and criticism of current agriculture practices are
1. It damages soil structure.
2. It damages environment.
3. It creates potential health hazards in food.
4. That it has brought about a reduction in food quality
5. That it is an energy intensive system.
6. That it involves intensive animal production system, which are ethically unacceptable.
7. That it is economically costly and increasingly so to the farmers.
So environmental pollution including problems associated with system ecology and public health safety as a result of increase use of artificial chemicals, sustainable management of natural resources and bio diversity conservation are some of the issues that need to be addressed immediately.
In the hilly areas of India, Uttarakhand in particular, the agriculture by default is organic in nature for reasons, that due to mountainous topography most of the agriculture is rain-fed so not only the use of chemical fertilizers is negligible but also use of insecticides and pesticides. Animal husbandry and agriculture is the main source of livelihood. Cow dung is the main input used as manure but due to lack of technical knowledge, the cow dung used is not fully decomposed and hence they do not get full benefit of it in improving soil texture, water holding capacity etc. Not only per unit productivity of agricultural crops is low but also milk yield, as local breed of cows/buffalos are reared, which are fed on wild grass/fodder that is not rich in nutrition. In the hilly areas there is need to replace the traditional genetic material of agricultural crops with new high yielding ones, need to improve the local breed of cow/buffalo/sheep/goat, need to demonstrate various methodologies of compost making, need to demonstrate various water harvesting, soil moisture conservation techniques, need to provide various income generation activities. The agricultural produce of hilly areas though is organic in nature but for want of proper knowledge about organic standards, certification procedure, documentation of production process and market linkages, they are not able to market their produce as organic. There are cluster of villages, where sizeable spices are grown for generations but the producers neither are able to get befitting prices for their produce nor could they establish any food-processing unit for value addition. It is not that the farmers are not aware about the facts, but they have to concur many a problems like lack of finances, increased cost of transportation due to lack of rural roads, hilly topography also adds to drudgery, most of the youths have migrated to the plan areas in search of jobs, thus the entire pressure of agriculture, rearing children and cattle is being shouldered by women. In the hilly areas there is tremendous family pressure on housewife, the daily routine is so heavy that rarely she gets time to relax. Her daily routine starts with getting up early in the morning, entering to Gowshala (Cattle shed) to take out cowdung and to milk cows/buffalo, going to fetch drinking water from a far off distance, cooking breakfast for her family, going to forest to collect fodder for milch animals, preparing children for school, going to field to perform cultural operations like weeding, sowing etc., cooking lunch for family, going to forest to collect fire wood, washing utensils, going to Gowshala to milk cows/buffalo, preparing dinner for family etc. She has also to hand grind wheat and thrash paddy for family meal at least once a week. Not only this, during sowing season she has to carry either on her back or head 30-40 kg load of cowdung to her fields, which are far away from her house that too not in one cluster. Most of the cowdung taken to fields is not fully decomposed, so it further adds to her drudgery as the weight could have been reduced to 25-30% by fully decomposing it. Though Govt. has made some efforts to address these burning issues but Govt. has its limitations like scarcity of extension workers, and even if sufficient staff is available but they are reluctant to visit those villages not on road head. To address the above issues, Foundation for Organic & Rural Development (FORD) was conceived.