Ahmedabad/Dahod, October 5, 2010: Mounting an attack on the state government of Gujarat, Kisan Swaraj Yatra, joined by hundreds of tribal women farmers today, demanded that the Chief Minister Narendra Modi should step in and scrap the tribal welfare department’s joint project with Monsanto in the tribal districts of the state called “Project Sunshine”. The visits of the four teams of the Kisan Swaraj Yatra to villages in Panchmahal and Dahod districts and the interaction with the tribal farmers clearly shows that this project is only leading farmers down an unsustainable path and providing ready markets for an MNC like Monsanto, known for its anti-farmer activities. Meanwhile, hundreds of women and men tribal farmers who assembled at Bara village in Devgarh Baria tehsil of Dahod, felt that it is important to be cautious about such projects. “They are just tempting people by combining it with subsidized fertilizers and seeds in the first year and ultimately leading us towards disaster”, said Madhuben Nayak of Adivasi Mahila Organic farmers cooperative in the Adivasi Mahila Khedut Swaraj Sammelan.
This project was initiated three years ago by the Tribal Welfare department and has a 40-crore rupees budget and reportedly covers 1.4 lakh farmers in three districts, 11 talukas of three districts of Gujarat.
Field visits before and after the Kisan Swaraj Yatra reveal that farmers do not prefer consuming the hybrid maize being supplied in the Project Sunshine (“Peela/Laal makka”), their animals don’t either and while the yields are about 20-25% higher (in some places, farmers reported 1.5 times more yield), the inputs are higher in terms of irrigation water and chemical fertilizers. Farmers report that the roti turns very hard much sooner in the case of hybrid maize, which they are unable to digest well, compared to the native maize. There are villages where farmers are accepting the project package but are not actually sowing the seed as they believe that it is not good for them or their lands ultimately. Some farmers reported germination failure this year in a lot of seeds supplied in the project this year but it was unclear who should be held accountable for this.
The Kisan Swaraj members submitted a memorandum in the name of the Chief Minister asking for an immediate scrapping of the project. The main reasons cited were the following:
- Monsanto is known for its monopolistic tendencies and its anti-farmer operations, in its quest for markets. This will violate the rights of farmers over their seed resources and will pose a serious question on the food and livelihood security of the poor tribal farmers. This is a matter of seed sovereignty of the community.
- The cultivation of hybrid seeds with the new package of cultivation is affecting soil fertility in the region with the increased use of chemical fertilizers being given as a part of Project Sunshine. Further, this is resulting in greater water extraction for hybrid maize cultivation. This will mean erosion of the very productive resources of these poor farmers which will jeopardize their livelihoods.
- Farmers have reported that traditional maize varieties are losing their native characteristics when neighbors grow hybrid maize and this is a matter of concern for many farmers met.
- The quality of food from hybrid maize is not preferred by the farmers and this will have its own impact on the nutrition security.
- In the era of climate change, risky technologies like this will only endanger the livelihoods of poor farmers and increase their vulnerability to biotic and abiotic stress.
Kisan Swaraj Yatra declares that it is completely unacceptable that the government is providing ready markets for corporations like Monsanto using taxpayers’ funds and urges all citizens to come forward to fight this.
The Kisan Swaraj Yatra reached Bara village, after covering more than 30 villages and meeting thousands of farmers over the past three days, after it set off on October 2nd from Gandhi Ashram in Sabarmati. The Yatra will now enter Madhya Pradesh for a one-week programme, on its way to Rajghat over a period of 70 days.
For more information, contact:
Sejal Dand, Anandi: 094-267-03587
Kapil Shah, Jatan: 094-270-54132
Kavitha Kuruganti, Kheti Virasat Mission: 09393001550