What is the “Living Soils Project” about?
The Living Soils Campaign was launched in the year 2010 by Greenpeace India to highlight the detrimental impact on soils from the continued use of chemical fertilizers and also to initiate reforms in the Indian government’s fertiliser subsidy policy.
In 2013, Greenpeace initiated work in Bihar, a frontline Eastern Indian state which was in the government’s push for a second Green Revolution with the launch of its report “Fertilisers, Fuel and Food: win- win options for Bihar” which articulated the need for the state to shun chemical fertilisers to ensure livelihoods and health, and to sustain the ecology and future farming.
Work was also initiated by Greenpeace India on building an ecological model in the village of Kedia in Jamui District of the state to showcase the viability of ecological farming and to pave the way for eventual replication and scale up of the model by various state governments starting with the state of Bihar.
Greenpeace India has facilitated the process of the shift in Kedia from chemical to ecological farming alongside knowledge co-creation. A unique aspect of this model has been the funding, which has been covered either by the villagers and through existing progressive government schemes - which when combined have the potential to create the eco-system for the shift. The concept of collective labour or Shramdaan has also played a key role in the shift in the village.
The outcome has been that as of March, 2016, the use of chemical pesticides has been completely stopped and chemical fertilizer use has dropped by 42% and 100% farmers are now using non-pesticide management solutions.
Bihar Living Soils Village model not only provides solution to the soil health but it is helping partner farmers in minimising the overall farm-input costs and mitigating the impacts of climate change. It also helps in collectivisation of farmers and knowledge co-creation.
Another important component of the model is creating market linkages between farmers and consumers which will help farmers get a good price for their produce, and enable consumers to get access to safe, ecologically produced food.
Where is Kedia?
Kedia is the Living Soils Model Village, located in Barhat Block of Jamui District in Bihar
Why Bihar, and why Kedia?
The rationale behind implementing this specific project is creating an eco-agriculture model in the eastern part of the country because the Central government is trying to replicate Green Revolution in the region with a huge financial allocation.This may lead to the acceleration of the Green Revolution technologies which have caused huge damage to the soil, ground water, public health and environment in general. Greenpeace India is implementing this project in Bihar to showcase a comprehensive, holistic and sustainable model of farming for farmers and consumers in the most ecological way.
Kedia is located in a rain fed agricultural zone and represents over 60% of the cultivated area of India. A huge majority of the landholding in the village belongs to small and marginal farmers which further represents over 80% of the farmers of the country. Kedia homes a fair number of cattle which is crucial for any ecological farming model. Kedia Farmers have been among the pioneers since the beginning of our interventions.
The Bihar Government has been a pioneer in considering the issues of soil health and agricultural sustainability by adopting a Agri-roadmap in 2007 itself. Greenpeace India chose to work in Bihar considering the abovementioned reasons.
How many families are there in the village?
In total, there are 99 farmer families in the village.
What is the crop production level? Has it increased/decreased?
Those who utilised all or most of the proposed ecological fertilizer and pest management solutions report better yields. None of the farmers have reported significant decline in the productivity.
What are the measures taken for pest control management in agriculture?
There are several non-pesticide management solutions being practised including home-made concoctions such as Amrit Pani, Neemastra, Agni Astra, Brahmastra, cattle and human urine, light traps, mixed cropping, planting flowering plants and trees, installing ‘T’s in the fields to provide space for birds to sit and weed out the pests etc.
What is the downside of chemical agriculture?
The cost: 6 decades after the Green Revolution in India, farming communities are devastated with extremely high incidence of farmer impoverishment from high input costs, stagnant or declining yield and rising debt. They are also at extreme health risks due to chronic exposure to agrochemicals.
The risk: All of us are at risk if the current agricultural paradigm is continued in our country. Food safety, food sovereignty, food prices, poor soil health, health implications for farmers, climate change- all these issues could cumulatively and individually wreck the well-being of the nation and they need to be addressed now.
How will it help me?
Sustainable agriculture provides healthy food for consumers while protecting the biodiversity. Supporting farmers and ecological agriculture today is eventually going to benefit the larger consumer group.
Are there similar models implemented in the past or is this first of its kind.
There have been many such models running in the country by the civil society groups. The uniqueness of BLS model is that it brings all the three key stakeholders, the farmers, the government and the civil society together to identify the challenges of shifting from chemical to ecological agriculture and finding the solutions.
All the components of the model have been constructed by the farmers using the money falling under several government schemes therefore its replicability or up scaling is easier without any further investments from the promoter civil society group.
How different is Ecological Farming from organic farming?
Ecological Farming ensures healthy farming and healthy food for today and tomorrow, by protecting soil, water and climate, promoting biodiversity, and not contaminating the environment with chemical inputs or genetic engineering.
Ecological Agriculture(EcoAg) lays equal emphasis on the welfare of the soil, farmer and consumer and gives a much wider definition of the food system. The Kedia model creates the infrastructure to produce several eco-fertilisers and pest management solutions using locally available biomass based resources. It also provides solutions to biomass crisis, cooking fuel crisis and rural sanitation. It further strengthens the process of knowledge co-creation among the key stakeholders. The model is primarily based on making the agro-ecology more complex hence more resilient by conserving and enhancing bio-diversities in the region.
On the other hand, Organic Farming can be considered as an element of EcoAg which relates to how farming is done, where the key emphasis is laid on replacing the agro-chemicals with organic manures and pesticides. Eco-Ag expands the definition to include the social and financial aspects also.
What are the prospects of the model getting implemented in other metros?
This model could be replicated anywhere in the country with minimal modifications as it is based on locally available resources, designed to be implemented by the government which is the largest implementation machinery and hence will provide us with safe and healthier food.
How many biogas plants, vermicompost pits and ecosan toilets have been installed so far and what are the benefits of the same?
As of now, 56 families have the vermicomposting units. In total, there are 282 vermi-beds in the village. The government scheme will be utilised by an addition of 41 families.
11 farmer families are using biogas as a safe and pollution-free cooking solution. 50 families will install biogas plants this year by utilising the government subsidy and a small support from Greenpeace India. One unit of 2 cubic metre biogas plant provides cooking fuel for a family of up to 5 members. It provides smokeless cooking fuel and minimises the methane production which occurs during the decomposition or composting of biomass. The residue or the slurry can be directly used as eco-fertiliser or could be used for preparing vermi-composts in a reduced time-frame. The only disadvantage of biogas is that it needs people who are ready to deal with smelly cattle dung.
One family so far has installed and is using the ecosan toilet. The target is to influence the government to construct ecosan toilets for all of the remaining families under Swachchh Bharat Abhiyan. Popular feedback from the village is that toilets are a basic necessity and ecosan toilets will benefit the farmers in multiple ways-
What is Amrit Pani? How is it made?
It is a locally prepared plant health booster and plant protection concoction, made of cattle dung, cattle urine, besan, jaggery, leaves of Neem and Aak (CALOTROPIS PROCERA).
What is a vermibed?
Vermi-bed is a pit which is used to produce compost using components like cattle dung, cattle urine, soil, and earthworms.
What is biomass-based ecological fertilisation?
Biomass based Ecological fertilisation is the use of ecologically produced fertilsers using biomass or cattle dung and crop residue.
How does the eco san toilet work?
Ecological sanitation is a waterless dry flush toilet system, which converts human excreta into rich manure the inexpensive and odourless way.
Organic farming products are very costly in the market. How does the cost factor work with Ecological Farming?
A very high premium on organic food is the reason for high prices. This premium is not transferred to the growers. The low market access of individual farmers is another reason for it.
In most cases, organic growers buy organic fertilisers and pesticides which are very costly. In ecological agriculture all such requirements are satisfied by locally produced fertilisation and pest management solutions thereby dramatically reducing the production costs
The Bihar Living Soils model, will help link the farmers to the consumers and minimise the intermediary costs. This will bring organic products to the market at a much cheaper costs.
Use of chemicals is dangerous; but won’t it ensure food security for the larger population?
It’s a myth that agro-chemicals can ensure sustainable food security. Due to excessive use of agro-chemicals the soil degrades faster, the surface and underground water become toxic, agro-biodiversity is under threat and the rising input costs are pushing farmers away from their traditional livelihood. In such a scenario, food security is under severe crisis.
Ecological farming is the only way to rejuvenate the ecological aspects/requirements of farming along with the empowerment of farmers including knowledge co-creation and collectivisation of farmers through cooperatives.
What impact is ecological agriculture going to have on India’s economy?
A one-time investment on creating infrastructures for eco-ag will aid the government to significantly save on fertiliser subsidies of INR 70000 crores to 100000 crores per year.
Ecological-agriculture will reduce the dependence on imported chemicals hence the burden on the country’s exchequer will dramatically reduce.
Lesser exposure to dangerous agro-chemicals will translate for improved health of the growers and consumers alike and will reduce health costs. Also, an enhanced agro-biodiversity will make agriculture more climate-resilient
What is an eco-Frost, and what are its uses?
The Eco frost is a Solar Powered Cold Storage system that will help Kedia farmers reduce product wastage and get fair prices at the market.
More details here on website http://ecozensolutions.com/innovation/micro-cold-storage
Ecofrost Technologies Private Limited have designed a pioneering and innovative micro Cold Storage- a solar powered cold storage system Ecofrost, works at zero running cost as a solution to the wastage of agricultural produce in India. The product is developed at the Science and Technology entrepreneurship Park (STEP) of IIT-Kharagpur. By mechanical engineering students Vivek Pandey, Prateek Singhal and, Devendra Gupta. The micro cold storage system has been tested and proved in a farmland in Karnataka. The product primarily designed for the rural segment serves their needs ideally, As it does not depend on grid electricity and after a 2-year break-even, leads to over 40% increase in their profits. There is no running costs for this unit and it works on sustainable technology throughout the year. Currently, about 40% of farm produce gets wasted due to lack of storage space. The chiller has a capacity of over 5 tonnes.
Will the Eco-Frost release CFC?
The Eco-Frost is CFC free
Can milk be stored in the eco-frost or it is only for grains and vegetables?
It will be primarily used for storing potato seeds during the summer and seasonal vegetables during the winter and autumn seasons. Milk cannot be stored in the system as it needs temperatures below 0 degree C, whereas the eco-chiller has the capacity of bringing the temperature down to a maximum of 4 degree C.
What are the parameters to improve sustainable farming?
Is the present socio-economy also given equal importance while implementing this project?
Almost all partner farmers belong to small and marginal farmers. Women are being encouraged to participate in the decision-making processes during the collective meetings. We’re observing more and more participation from men and women alike.
Can the same concept work in any region/ state/ city?
Yes. The USP of this model is its replicability in any rural landscape of the country because it is based on the locally available resources and government finances. With apt contextualisation the model could be implemented in urban areas as well. In Patna, the zoo authority is converting almost all the animal excreta and biomass residue into eco-fertilisers.
What can people learn from Kedia?
Apart from learning about the ecological ways of farming and understanding the importance of converting biomass residue into high quality eco-fertilisers, people can begin to convert their own wet waste into compost and ensure it returns to the soil.
What is the framework of the Kedia model?
Greenpeace India is an independent organisation connected to a network of other Greenpeace offices in over 55 countries. We share the name, vision and our belief in non-violence, personal action, bearing witness, global solutions and financial independence.
Greenpeace India campaigns to protect India’s forests, for clean air and water, to promote solar power, to prevent the dangerous impacts of climate change and nuclear power, for safe food and ecological farming and to protect freedom of speech.