Thursday, May 19, 2011

India and Organic Farming

This is a post in 3 parts.

My point is that we in India seem to recognize the value of our old practices and traditions only when it is blessed by westerners.   Far better that we record our old practices and traditions while they are still extant, and then go through them looking for value, than to lose them altogether, except for fragments recorded by Westerners, because we consider them to be superstition, unscientific, etc., etc.

An illustration of this point follows:

1. For context, I'm reproducing part of one of my posts from January 2009:

Fruitless Fall : The Collapse of the Honey Bee and the Coming Agricultural Crisis

Rowan Jacobsen examines the recently emerged phenomenon of Colony Collapse Disorder - the mysterious death of honey bee hives, almost all over the world. Science has unable to pin it on any one cause; so there may be a systemic problem and a combination of stresses on honey bees may have crossed a threshold. This is a scientific whodunit narrated in a very engaging style. I'm ordering my own copy as I return this to the library. I strongly recommend it, five stars out of five.

2. I point you to an excerpt of Rowan Jacobsen's book that I had posted previously, about Kirk Webster, a beekeeper in Vermont.   It is not necessary to read this to understand the third point, except that Webster's bees do not suffer from colony collapse disorder.

3. Another excerpt from the book:

Central to Webster's worldview was the work of Sir Albert Howard, the father of the organic farming movement.  Howard, Britain's imperial economic botanist in India in the early 1900s, studied the farming practices of India's peasants and wrote two books based on his observations: An Agricultural Testament and The Soil and Health.   He was knighted for his work in 1935.


PS: Now in the years to come,  we will take organic farming as a western innovation, and seek to transplant it back to India, when it arose from traditional knowledge in India in the first place.  How much better to instead study, validate or invalidate our practices and then educate the farmer accordingly.  Why is imported knowledge given a place of privilege?  The same argument holds for Ayurveda.   The problem is that most of  past knowledge is in a million mouldering manuscripts that won't last a generation, or in the heads of people whose children scorn their knowledge, and so it won't last a generation either.