Instead of GM's junk farming 'solutions', note the remarkable results achieved in item 2.
1.Cambodia targets organic market
2.Farming solutions: Pesticide Free Village
1.Cambodia targets organic market
By Guy De Launey
BBC News, Phnom Penh
Srey Naren is a convert to organic agriculture Cambodia has one of the least diversified economies in the world.
Garment production brings in 80% of its foreign earnings, and most of the rest comes from tourism.
With the future of the garment sector uncertain, Cambodia is looking for other sources of income - and one of the areas under consideration is organic farming.
The government says it hopes the country could become the "green farm of Asia", and export its produce to Europe and the United States.
The biggest and longest-established organic project is in Kompong Thom, along the road from Phnom Penh to Cambodia's tourist centre, Siem Reap.
These are the paddies that have produced Cambodia's first crop of certified organic produce.
Both the advisers and the certification are provided by the German government's aid agency GTZ, but the fields belong to the local people who have always worked the land.
2.Farming solutions: Pesticide Free Village
Symptoms of acute toxic poisoning in farm workers and ill effects due to long term pesticide exposures are a common phenomenon in India, with abnormalities in new born babies found in many villages. Chemical pesticides including Monocrotophos and Methyl Parathion, which are categorized as extremely hazardous by the W.H.O, are sold to farmers without restriction.
In an effort to deal with this problem, farmers in the Penta Srirampuram village in Andhra Pradesh have, over the last 3 years, successfully eliminated pesticides from their paddy fields. This is the story about how these farmers learnt how to cultivate without the use of toxic chemicals, controlling ‘problem’ pests by releasing specific beneficial insects onto their crops.
Andhra Pradesh State was once the largest pesticide consumer in India. Farmers have historically sprayed chemicals on their crops at higher concentrations than advised. Generally 250-500 ml of a chemical will be mixed in just 40-50 litres of water and sprayed, rather than using the recommended 200 litres of spray fluid per acre of crop.
Farmers often don't wear any protective clothing while spraying, mixing chemicals in water with their bare hands. Children bathe and swim in tanks and ponds that had previously been used to wash discarded pesticide bottles, and chemical residues from fields are leached into human habitats through drainage channels and field run-off.
However, farmers in Andhra Pradesh are increasingly recognizing that reliance on high risk pesticides has affected the environment and damaged the ecological balance and local biodiversity that they rely on.
Penta Srirampuram is a village with a population of 2,867 situated in the Gantyada Mandal district in Andhra Pradesh. Nearly 90% of the villagers depend on agriculture and 60% are classified as illiterate. The sown area is 1,152 acres in which paddy is the major crop. Sugarcane and banana crops are also cultivated on about 50 acres.
Until 2001 farmers in the village used to apply only nitrogenous ('N') fertilizer Urea in heavy quantities, and as a result pests and disease were also high. Every year, farmers from the village would spray a high concentration of pesticides 2 to 3 times per season. Nearly 1000ml to 2000ml of harmful chemicals were applied per acre. It is estimated that 1000 to 2000 litres of chemical pesticides such as Monocrotophos, chlorpyrephos, and Endosulfan were applied every year on local crops. This required an outlay of Rs.1500-1700/- per acre per year on the control of pests and diseases in local paddy fields.
Generally farmers regulate their own pesticide sprayings by following the actions of their neighbours. They will often not even observe whether a pest problem is severe or not. This situation can leads to the development of resistance in pests and even to pest resurgence, caused by the elimination of predators and parasites from the agro eco system. Farmers of Penta Sriranpuram were taught that excessive application of 'N' fertilizers also makes the crop vulnerable to pest attack.
During this period of change, some farmers in the village prepared to introduce spraying against 'leaf folder' which was then in its initial stage. Seeing this opportunity, the Agricultural Officer asked that these farmers postpone their spraying for a week, citing the chance of the development of predators. The Agricultural Officer was right, and within a week these farmers had come to realize that spraying with pesticide was not necessary. At the same time, Trichogramma egg parasitic cards were placed in the paddy fields, releasing between 100,000 -200,000 parasites into the paddy agro ecosystem. This has shown an impressive reduction in the populations of yellow stem borer and leaf roller pests.
Specific alleys were formed to observe the crop closely, aimed at the reduction off the Brown plant hopper. Regular field visits until the end of grain filling stage were organized to observe pest and predator populations. During Agro eco system analysis farmers observed that the population of beneficial insect defenders increased in their fields. They found that Dragon flies had been attracted to their fields in large numbers. It was also noticed that flocks of birds migrated to the fields freely and destroyed the larvae.
Mobilizing for change
These farmers have not been provided with any incentives or subsidies. However ongoing education by the Department of Agriculture on the latest agricultural technology has made the villagers aware of the ill effects of indiscriminate use of pesticides. After participating in community activities in the village to gain confidence and an understanding of the problems, the field level agricultural extension worker moved his home into the village.
Awareness camps on a broad package of practices were organized. Regular farmers meetings and field visits were conducted throughout the season and a 'Farmer's Field School' was well attended during the paddy-growing season of 2004.
The average yield of paddy crop had been 4500kgs per hectare up to 2001. From the winter crop of 2002 onwards, the farmers, on the advice of their Agricultural Officer, completely avoided pesticide sprayings on paddy crops. The results were a bumper yield an extra 1000 to 1100 kgs per hectare and lower input costs.
Local farmers are pleased that they have had good yields without spending a single rupee on pesticides. Many now recognise that they can grow crops with out using chemical pesticides.
The low incidence of pests and higher yields are due to the:
*Application of more organic manure and growing green manure crops which have improved the quality of soil.
*Early sowings during the second week of June 2004 and timely transplantation, (earlier than neighboring villages). Farmers have observed that pests are generally more prevalent in late sown areas.
*Optimum nitrogenous fertilizers: The farmers reduced the application of 'Urea' and increased that of 'Potash'. The 'N' fertilizers were applied in 3 split doses @25 kgs per acre, which helped with low pest and disease development.
*Timely and regular pruning of field bunds helped reduce disease.
*No pesticide application: Though a slight incidence of yellow stem borer was observed, farmers were prevented from using pesticides. This played a major role in the development of a sufficient number of parasites such as Trichogramma and predators such as dragon flies, damsel flies, spiders, carabid beetles, ladybird beetles and Xanthopimpla sp. Avoiding hazardous pesticides has improved the condition of the fields and birds now flock freely to them to feed on caterpillars and insects.
The Agricultural Officer who worked tirelessly to promote this change is G.V.Vijaya Kumar. He was initially inspired by the Toxic Trail television documentary produced by the United Nations' F.A.O. As a result of the changes at Penta Srirampuram village, other farmers from near-by villages have either reduced, or completely stopped spraying toxic pesticides. One result has been that the only pesticide dealer in their area, from the nearby village of Bonangi, has closed this part of his business.
Continuous education on plant protection and an awareness of the impact of hazardous chemical pesticides is essential in the battle to protect farming communities across India, as is the popularizing of alternative methods of pest control.
G.V.Vijaya Kumar, M.Sc. (Ag )
Mandal Agricultural Officer