Sharing Earth’s Harvest – Creating Abundance or Scarcity

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An Ecological History of Food and Farming in India vol.2

Dr. Vandana Shiva, Radha Holla Bhar

RFSTE /Navdanya Delhi 2001

“Agriculture has been our economic mainstay, the primary livelihood for 75% of our people, the basis of our food security, ground of our culture and our environment.  Today, this economy and culture is under assault – our farmers are being pushed into committing suicides and selling kidneys due to indebtedness, our biodiversity and water resources are disappearing, chemical poisons have polluted our ecosystems and our bodies.

A critical factor in deepening the agricultural crisis is the focus on trade.  Trade in agriculture is not new to India.  However, the present trade-driven agricultural policies hide the exploitation of nature and people behind figures of pseudo-productivity and pseudo-surpluses.  When surpluses are extracted without leaving enough food for the soil and for farm families, ecological decay and hunger and malnutrition are the result.  Trade grows, while people starve and soils die.

The jugglery with figures which hides exploitation of nature and people might take on new and sophisticated forms, but its earlier versions existed in how the British fixed agricultural revenues.  As Dharampal has shown, before British rule, of the 1000 units of produce, 600 stayed in the village, 300 were taken out, and 100 went to central authorities.  The British started to extract 700 from the village, leaving Indian villages impoverished and Indian peasants hungry.  The Great Bengal famine of 1942 that killed over 200,000 people was a direct result of trade-driven agriculture.

As the crisis in food and farming intensifies in the present era of corporatisation of agriculture, it is vital to take a long-term view to sustainability and draw lessons from our past to avoid catastrophes in the future.”