More than a thousand farmers from all over the country thronged the protest space at Jantar Mantar, Delhi on Monday as the Jai Kisan rally finally arrived here.
Jai Kisan Andolan, which is a part of Yogendra Yadav’s and Prashant Bhushan’s Swaraj Abhiyan, saw farmers from various states including, Telangana, Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar etc gather at Jantar Mantar to let the government know of their anger.
“The essence of Jai Kisan Andolan is to fight for the rights of the farmers. We will not let the farmers’ homes be destroyed,” former AAP member and the founding member of Swaraj Abhiyan, Yogendra Yadav summed up the totality of the moment from the stage. The number of farmers present and hundreds of pots filled with soil as a token of support from those absent did give an authority to Yadav’s words.
The Jai Kisan rally which kicked off on August 1 from Barnala, Punjab with more than five thousand farmers, travelled through Punjab, Haryana and eastern Uttar Pradesh before entering Delhi through Gurgaon, after facing a minor debacle with the police on the border.
Farmers with as diverse problems as better irrigation facilities to compensation for crop failure due to heavy rain found a common platform through the Jai Kisan Movement to raise their voice.
“There have been more than 1,100 farmer deaths in Telangana over the last year but the government is refusing to acknowledge that. We want the government to accept the problem and do something about it,” said Navin from Telangana.
“We want the government to provide muavza (compensation) to those who have suffered due to the heavy rains,” demanded excited Gurmeet Singh from Haryana.
“Bhumi adhiveshan nahi hona chahiye (There shouldn’t be land acquisition)” said a confused farmer from Rajasthan.
“Indian political set up is not looking into the rights, justice and dignity of the farmers. Swaraj Movement will consolidate all agrarian agitation, all problems of the farmers. The nation cannot progress unless the farmers progress. Without them, the idea of India as a superpower is a joke,” said Pankaj Pushkar, AAP MLA from Timarpur and a supporter of Swaraj Abhiyan.
While each section of farmers hailing from different states had different sets of problems, an undercurrent of suspicion and frustration with the present government ran though everyone’s grievances.
Although the involvement of Yogendra Yadav and Prashant Bhushan can be deemed a political joomla given their history, the farmers who swarmed to the national capital with anger in one eye and hope in the other are clear signs that the Modi government has much to worry about.
Farmers reap surprising benefits from having areas that are biodiverse with many plant and animal species nearby, according to new research. A study finds that having diverse natural areas near agriculture helps farmers financially during droughts, and the more diverse the areas are, the better. Policies that preserve biodiversity near farms may ease economic pressure in places with severe droughts, the authors say.
“If you plant the same sort of crops next to a natural area that is very high in biodiversity versus one that’s very low in biodiversity, [the positive effect] spills over into the agricultural products,” said Frederik Noack, a professor of food and resource economics at the University of British Columbia who led the study.
Some of that spillover can be tied to the increased diversity of insects in places that host many different species of plants, experts say. Pollinators that help plants reproduce, like bees and moths, and spiders that prey on agricultural pests like aphids and beetles are especially important.
Noack hoped to learn if having biodiverse areas close to farms could help crops be more resistant to drought and if that impact would be big enough to be seen in farmers’ incomes.
Big data from small farms
The researchers used data from 7,556 households in 304 villages in Asia, Africa and Latin America, where farmers derive their incomes from traditional agriculture as well as forest products like lumber and firewood.
Noack and his research team looked for a connection between the level of natural biodiversity in this case, the number of plant species in the area and how strongly drought affected the incomes of local farmers.
The researchers had expected that greater local biodiversity would benefit farmers, and it did. Farmers in areas with half the biodiversity lost twice as much income when droughts hit during the growing season.
Noack said that initially they thought the effect was just correlated with crop diversity. “Maybe you plant more different crops in areas with higher natural biodiversity because maybe there are just more crops available in those areas and that’s actually what’s driving the effect.”
But that’s not what they found. Even when they accounted for the effect of greater crop diversity, the farmers’ incomes seemed to be stabilized just by being close to diverse natural areas that can host many types of pollinators.
Having access to forests was also an income stabilizer. Because forests are the result of many years of growth rather than just a single season, income from forest products is less susceptible to drought and can offset agricultural losses, the researchers found.
Bruno Basso, an ecosystems scientist at Michigan State University who was not involved in the research, commented in an email that the researchers had been able to show that “biodiversity and forest conservation play a critical role in adapting and mitigating the negative effects of increased climate variability.” Noack hopes that this study can become part of the larger debate about conservation of natural areas.
“Should we just have protected area far away in areas that we don’t use or shall we try to integrate that into normal land use?” said Noack. “This study actually says maybe we should at least have some level of biodiversity conservation in the agricultural landscape because of this positive spillover.” Basso agreed. “New global and local policy should specifically target conserving and enhancing biodiversity,” he said. (VOA)