Adopt farmer-centric, community based models while shifting subsidies from chemical to organic fertilizers: ASHA tells Pawar

Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture (ASHA) congratulated Mr Sharad Pawar, Union Agriculture Minister for his statement in the Parliament on shifting subsidies from chemical to organic fertilizers. The Alliance also urged the minister to adopt farmer-centric, community-based models while shifting subsidies from chemical to organic. ASHA, an alliance which stands for food, farmers and freedom, has always demanded a shift in subsidies to promote eco-friendly farming systems.

The Government support systems created as part of Green revolution were external-input-based and industry-driven. The system promoted indiscriminate use of chemicals destroying natural resource base, in addition to pushing farmers into a debt trap leading to agrarian crisis and serious implications on human health.

The subsidy on chemical fertilizers has grown by leaps and bounds in the last decade. From Rs 13,800 crores in 2000-01, it has grown to Rs.67,198 crores in 2011-12 (revised estimate for the year as per the Union Budget 2012-13), with a peak of Rs 96,606 crores in 2008-09, corresponding to the fluctuations in fossil fuel prices. This mindless investment has led to the indiscriminate use, and deterioration of soil health. The new Nutrient Based Subsidy (NBS) system brought in as part of a fertilizer subsidy reforms in 2010 failed miserably in addressing the soil health crisis. NBS indirectly promoted overuse of nitrogenous fertilizers, further worsening the crisis. On the other hand, farmers received hardly any support for adding organic matter in the soil which is vital in maintaining soil health.

“ASHA believes that it is good that the Government became is developing sensitivity to these issues and is planning to take steps in the right direction. In the recent past, Prime Minister, Finance Minister and Planning Commission all have emphasized the need for investments in ecological fertilization, and now the Agriculture Minister has also expressed his commitment. We hope these statements don’t end as rhetoric as it has happened in the past when it comes to support for ecological farming/ fertilization. First step forward is to ensure a basic change in approach and we welcome this”, said an ASHA statement.

ASHA demands:

– Creation of Grassroots institutions to mobilize communities to kick start an ecological farming revolution in the country

– Shift 50% of the subsidies for chemical fertilizers to organic manures to start with. The amount may be utilized in supporting communities, incentivizing farmers, developing decentralized production systems and regeneration of commons

– Set targets during the 12th Five Year Plan period to systematically replace chemical fertilizers with organic manures in contiguous farm lands

– Provide research support for ecological fertilization and promote traditional wisdom and support farmer innovations

– Investing upon and developing cattle wealth in the villages

– Discourage the burning of crop residues particularly in some parts of the country where the issue has reached serious proportions

– Take up all seed breeding research in organic conditions


Kavitha Kuruganti
National Convenor, Alliance for Sustainable & Holistic Agriculture (ASHA)
A-124/6, First Floor, Katwaria Sarai, New Delhi 110 016
Phone: +91-9393001550; email: kavitha.kuruganti@gmail.com

Notes to the editor:

· ASHA (Alliance for Sustainable & Holistic Agriculture), is an informal network of hundreds of organizations, farmers and individuals across twenty states of India. ASHA’s road map submitted to the government, specifically the Planning Commission for a large scale shift to ecological farming (under Kisan Swaraj Neeti) is available at https://kisanswaraj.in

· Mr. Sharad Pawar’s statement on shifting of subsidies as reported in the media can be accessed at: http://www.thehindubusinessline.com/industry-and-economy/agri-biz/article3421520.ece

· “We must also recognize the risks of an excessive reliance on hydrocarbon inputs in increasing agricultural production and we should explore more systematically, organic alternatives…” — Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh on July 16, 2011 (ICAR foundation day) http://pmindia.nic.in/speech-details.php?nodeid=1042

· “There has been deterioration in soil health due to removal of crop residues and indiscriminate use of chemical fertilizers, aided by distorted prices. To address these issues, the Government proposes to promote organic farming methods, combining modern technology with traditional farming practices like green manuring, …” – Mr. Pranab Mukherjee, Union Finance Minister, Budget speech (2011-12)

· “The way forward is to rejuvenate soil and restore soil health through addition of soilorganic matter in bulk quantities…” – Approach Paper prepared by the Planning Commission for the 12th Five Year Plan (approved by National Development Council in October 2011 and available at Planning Commission website, http://planningcommission.nic.in/ )


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