“HYBRID RICE IN ODISHA: WHAT’S IN IT FOR SMALLHOLDERS?”
Criticising the Union Government’s “one-size-fits-all” approach to Green Revolution in Eastern India, which emphasizes the promotion of wheat and rice, and that too (proprietary) hybrid rice, a Fact Finding Team of ASHA (Alliance for Sustainable & Holistic Agriculture) asked for the budgets for this to be recast immediately, to support sustainable agriculture initiatives based on agro-diversity and farming systems approaches. Terming the promotion of proprietary hybrid rice in these states as a terrible wastage of precious public funds, ASHA questioned the scientific or other basis on which hybrid rice promotion is taking place in BGREI. “It is apparent that the Government of India, with its centralized planning and guidelines is not taking into account local situations and vulnerabilities when it prescribes a particular approach to Green Revolution in Eastern India. It is also apparent that no lessons have been drawn from the failures of, and crises created by, the earlier Green Revolution”, said the Fact Finding Report.
The Fact Finding Report points out to the special conditions and vulnerabilities of rice growers in states like Odisha – rainfed conditions, smallholdings, increasing use of chemical inputs and thereby, costs of cultivation, inadequate procurement and marketing support, high levels of tenancy and the state’s vulnerability to natural disasters and said that hybrid rice promotion in the state of Odisha cannot be done prescriptively without looking into these special conditions.
The Fact Finding Team, after interacting with ‘beneficiaries’ of the government program on promoting hybrid rice and other cultivators, reported that claims about increased productivity with hybrid rice are not turning out to be true on the ground. It is only in the case of big farmers who have resources and are able to take up timely management with optimal inputs that yields could be higher. Further, yields alone cannot be the basis of promoting hybrid rice and a more holistic assessment of promoting this technology is needed. For instance, marketing drawbacks with hybrid rice, seed prices being higher, the fact farmers do not prefer consuming hybrid rice and so on. The fact that smallholders cannot bear the increased riskiness that hybrid rice poses should also be looked into given that a vast majority of farmers here are in fact smallholders.
The Fact Finding report, based on its rapid appraisal in the field, notes that it is clear that hybrid rice holds no solutions for a vast majority of Odisha’s farmers – not in terms of farm economics, not in terms of environmental sustainability and not even in terms of productivity improvements. The report emphasizes the importance of on-farm diversity that will minimize risks for smallholders of Odisha, especially in the face of increased climate variations. ASHA urges the Government of India to stop wasting precious resources on tried-and-failed models of Green Revolution (on worse terms now with proprietary hybrid rice) and focus support on climate-resilient, resource-conserving, farmer-controlled, economically-viable farming.
The report also notes that the state-level SLSC meeting took note of some issues related to hybrid rice in the past (8th SLSC meeting on 3/6/2011). It is recorded that it was suggested that impact assessment should be done taking into account the adoption of hybrid varieties by the farmers at their own cost in the area where the demonstrations were conducted earlier and subsequently discontinued. ASHA’s information from seed dealers indicates an adoption of just 1% in districts like Bhawanipatna. Therefore, the obvious question is: why and on what basis is the Government of India promoting schemes to expand proprietary hybrid rice markets, for whose benefit? The Fact Finding Report also has a Note from Dr Debal Deb, Centre for Inter-Disciplinary Studies on performance of folk rice varieties vis-à-vis HYVs in Kharif 2011.
(Press Release put out on February 17th 2012).
Report can be downloaded here.
For more information, contact:
Debjeet Sarangi, Living Farms: 09938582616
Kavitha Kuruganti, ASHA: 09393001550
Ps: For more information from official sources on “Bringing Green Revolution to Eastern India” initiative by Government of India, visit: http://bgrei-rkvy.nic.in/