In the first part of our series for World Food Day celebrations, we aim to dig and delve deeper into the thought ‘your food is as good as your soil’, and unearth some nourishing extracts of knowledge and awareness.
The black and green scarecrow, as everyone knows, stands still with a bird on his hat and straw everywhere. At first glance, you may not think much of him, but do not mistake his sadness for stolidity. Through infinite seasons he has seen infinite possibilities of harmonization between the farmer, the soil and the livestock be reduced to dirt by the ploughs of our pride.
And although his head does not think and his arms don’t move, if you were to walk up to him and say ‘Did you know, you are what you eat?, he would probably laugh and say ‘Well, in that case, you are chapatis, rice, dals and vegetables along with Dichloro Diphenyl Trichloroethane (DDT), Benzene Hexachloride (BHC), malathion and endosulfan.
Now that is something that’s hard to digest, quite literally.
It’s extremely unfortunate yet not surprising that our agriculture continues to be a big gamble, and the money earmarked for agriculture development gets systematically siphoned off. Administrative decentralisation, with its lofty ideals notwithstanding, has helped only breed corruption in villages, and so the farmers are left with meagre resources which push them towards antediluvian agrarian practices such as spraying widely used toxic pesticides.
The result? We Indians are consuming food laced with some of the highest amounts of toxic pesticide residues in the world – almost 40 times more than the average westerner. Moreover, the situation in our agricultural hotbeds is even worse. Five decades after the Green Revolution, Punjab’s soil is deeply poisoned with a variety of pesticides – insecticides, fungicides, weedicides, herbicides etc. that not only does the state have the highest cancer rate in the country, but also operates a train popularly known as the ‘Cancer Train’, which transports 100 cancer-affected people (mostly farmers) to Bikaner for treatment everyday.
And there are more reasons why the Sixth mass extinction event in our planet’s history is already underway. The archaic practice of plowing and tilling the soil continues to this day, which — According to the United Nations — will lead to the destruction of the world’s remaining topsoil within 60 years.
In other words, unless we find a way to save our soils, we have 60 harvests left.
Perhaps that explains the sadness of the scarecrow. As a passive yet objective viewer, he is the figurative embodiment of a terrifying prophecy that awaits us unless we take care of our soil. Yes, we too might become scarecrows, but there is one difference: unlike him, we won’t have any harvests to protect.
At Akshayakalpa, it is our goal to bring back a smile to Mother Earth, her children, and maybe even the scarecrow! As a team, we were completely awestruck by the fact that in every handful of healthy soil, there are more organisms than the number of people who’ve ever lived on planet Earth! Therefore, we realize the importance of our planet’s soil, and the immense role it plays in sequestering greenhouse gases, replenishing our freshwater supplies, and feeding the world.
Accordingly, we practice closed-loop soil management systems. Our farms do not require external elements to sustain. The cow dung is used to produce methane gas, which is then used to generate electricity for day to day activities at the farm. Slurry from the biogas goes back to the soil as manure.
On the upcoming event for World Food Day, it is our hope that we as a collective not only accept the gifts of Mother Earth with a sense of ethicality, sustainability and gratitude, but emulate her teachings of empathy and compassion.