Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Upendra has worms

I decided to put a small film together yesterday. We finally arrived in Mumbai and I think my body and mind need a rest. We lay in a cool room in Bentley's hotel, windows open and the drone of the city's traffic and chaos.

I met Upendra when I first started to think of the Source project. I stayed with Bubun who helps run WASCA a small orginisation based in Keonjhar, the north of Orissa, one of the richest areas of this impoverished state. That really shameless mining magnet Mittal is based there pulling millions of tons of sponge Iron out of the ground and giving nothing back. The truck mafia have a hold on the mineral transportation and from 6pm to 9am there is one massive 20 Km traffic jam of dirty lorries waiting to bring coal or take iron around the town. The region of Keonjhar is one of the most beautifully serene places...as long as you move a few kilometers out of the main town.Most of the community are landless subsistence farmers and live on what they are able to grow. A patch-work of small paddy fields and mud houses, all polished with deep red and black local clays, chickens, sheep and children scatter the road.

About two years ago I was working on a small project with Concern India and had been in Keonjhar for a week. While sitting on the back of a bike and visiting villages in the early morning, I noticed whole families out in the dry paddy, on their knees with hammers breaking what looked like rocks. I went out to have a look and realised that these were not rocks but pieces of soil, the size of small boulders, dead and baked in the sun. Before being able to plough the paddy, the family needed to spend days in the hot sun smashing the dead soil.

This is what had happened to Upendra, he was told by the government, the companies and many others that if he spent his money on agricultural chemicals he would make more money. He tried it and it worked.. for five years his yield increased, the more he spent, the more he used and the more he seemed to make. Little did Upendra know that the reason for this was the combined efforts of the natural richness of the soil and the chemical fertilizers' boosting effects. While this was happening nothing was being put back into the soil. The chemicals were killing his soil, the worms and other organisms... all the life of the soil. Soon there was nothing left and his yield went down, now he had nothing but the hybrid seed and chemicals to produce his crop and year after year he began to pay more and more to the companies while, now knowingly destroying his soil.

If we are to create a sustainable future we need to begin to come to terms with where our sources of information come from, who funds our research, drives our policy and controls our media. 

This is a two minute film on Umendra, a man who has joined the dots and now realises that everything was not as it should have been. There are some amazing people and organisations out there, doing work that truly empowers the farmers of India but they are few. As funding from some of the giant donors begins to dry up or becomes conditional, linked to foreign policy we are seeing a dramatic decline in genuine interventions.

India is now pushing through a totally non democratic second green revolution, in the driving seat are EU and US foreign policy mixed with a bit of Bill and Melinda Gates and their corporate partners at Monsanto.
For more information on  the Indian agriculture crisis please go to www.devinder-sharma.blogspot.com

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