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Modi government launches three web portals for farmers

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New Delhi,(IANS): Three web portals: Participatory Guarantee System, India, Soil Health Management System and Fertilizer Quality Control System, were launched on Wednesday by Agriculture minister Radha Mohan Singh for the benefit of farmers.

Participatory Guarantee System (PGS) portal “www.pgsindia-ncof.gov.in” has been launched to promote domestic organic market growth and enable small and marginal farmers to have easy access to organic certification, a decentralized organic farming certification system,” the agriculture minister said while launching the portal.

The portal has been developed for registration, approval, documentation, record of inspection, and certification for farmers.

Farmers will browse through databases of organic producers to get information about the area under PGS certification with due traceability.

Since it is a group certification program, individual farmers are given certificate as members of a group.

Soil Health Management System (SHMC) will provide assistance to state governments to issue “soil health cards” and also develop a database to improve service delivery.

“It provides improved and targeted guidelines to manage deficiencies and scientific expertise in diagnostic and management of nutrient deficiencies,” he said.

Soil Health Card portal (www.soilhealth.dac.gov.in) has been developed for registration of soil samples, test results of soil samples, and generation of soil health cards along with recommendation of fertilizers.

The SHC promotes uniform adoptions of codes. The system has a sample tracking feature and will provide alerts to farmers about sample registration,” Singh said while launching the portal for SHMC.

The scheme has been approved for implementation during the 12th plan with an outlay of Rs.568.54 crore. For 2015-16 fiscal, Rs.96.46 crore have been allocated.

The scheme will be implemented on 50:50 sharing basis between the central and state governments, the minister added.

Similarly, Fertilizer Quality Control System (FQCS) is aimed to ensure availability of quality fertilizers to farmers.

Launching the portal “www.fqcs.dac.gov.in“, the minister said, “It has been developed for sample collection, testing and generation of analysis reports. The FQCS will help in online tracking of the sample status.”

“In the first phase, the system will be implemented in central coding office and its three regional fertilizer control laboratories (RFCLs). Subsequently, the system will be extended to all state quality control laboratories. ”

“At present, there are 78 notified fertilizer quality control laboratories in the country,” Radha Mohan Singh said.

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This Bamboo Entrepreneur from Philippines Aims at Tackling Poverty and Climate Change

Philippines Bamboo Entrepreneur Digs In on Poverty and Climate Threats

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Bamboo
Bambuhay, a company in Philippines has sold nearly 400,000 reuseable bamboo straws. Lifetime Stock

Mark Sultan Gersava grew up in poverty, one of 12 children of a slash-and-burn subsistence farmer in the Philippines province of Sultan Kudarat.

Today he is the “chief executive farmer” of a company aimed at tackling that same poverty, and combating climate change at the same time.

His firm Bambuhay helps farmers shift from slash-and-burn agriculture – which accounts for about a third of deforestation in the Philippines – to growing bamboo, now in demand as an alternative material to throw-away plastic.

The company, now in its second year of operation, makes popular bamboo straws, toothbrushes, tumblers, and bamboo-based charcoal briquettes, to replace those made from wood.

So far Bambuhay has sold nearly 400,000 reuseable bamboo straws, Gersava said.

In late October, wearing a bamboo salakót, a traditional farmers hat, he told delegates to the One Young World conference of youth leaders in London what drove him to launch his company.

“In the span of one year, I experienced two super typhoons (and) the hottest measured temperature in Philippines history,” Gersava said.

Bamboo forest
A bamboo forest is pictured behind Suntory Holdings’ Yamazaki Distillery in Shimamoto town, Osaka prefecture, near Kyoto. VOA

“This was the first time I had faced the direct consequences of climate change,” he said.

Less Poverty, Fewer Emissions

Gersava settled on bamboo – a fast-growing plant that absorbs large amounts of climate-changing carbon dioxide and can help prevent soil erosion – as a way of taking action on both climate change and poverty.

The Philippines climate, he said, is perfect for growing the giant grass and has helped poor farmers “become agri-preneurs.”

The effort has helped cut extreme poverty for thousands of farmers so far, he says.

“Bamboo is a symbol of poverty in the Philippines. If you live in a bamboo house, you’re very poor – that’s basically how it was before,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“But bamboo now has gained a lot of good attention since I started the company,” he said.

Bambuhay has partnered with the Philippines government and farmers to replant 540 hectares (1,340 acres) of deforested land through the company’s Bamboo AgroForestry Program, Gersava said.

Just how versatile bamboo fibre can be was evident in the entrepreneur’s own attire at the conference, including a sleek bamboo wallet and his cone-shaped hat, a golden salakót.

Such hats are usually made from reeds, but his was produced by farmers from bamboo – a gift in gratitude for his help in pulling them out of poverty, he said.

“When I wear this hat, I feel connected to the farmers. They are the one who are left behind,” Gersava said.

“They are the most important people that we that we need to protect. … We need to value these people more.”

Bamboo Business

Plastic bamboo
Bamboo straws stored in a jar on a table at the Copacabana restaurant on Yoff Virage beach in Dakar. VOA

Last year, Gersava sold his condominium, quit his job and with no formal business training and just $2,000 in start-up funds launched Bambuhay, his social enterprise.

“It’s very hard to start a business in the Philippines,” he said.

“There’s no support from the government, you have very limited funding. … I started with only one person.”

Now Gersava employs 17 full-time staff. He says as CEO his aim is not to become rich but to ensure much of what the company earns passes to its farmers.

Still, in addition to helping farmers, he’s been able to help pay college fees for his two nieces and support his siblings and parents, he said.

He says his work is far from done. By 2030, he aims for his company to have helped establish 1 billion bamboo plants and to have lifted 100,000 farmers out of poverty, especially in extremely poor areas such as his hometown and the province of Sulu.

Growing up in an impoverished family in Sultan Kudarat, he said, has given him a deep understanding of who pays the highest price as climate change impacts, from floods and droughts to heatwaves and storms, intensify.

“The wealthy CEOs and politicians are not the ones suffering the most from the consequences of climate change. It is the rural villager,” he said.

“It is the struggling farmers who are suffering from severe water shortages and droughts that will be the worst hit by food insecurity,” he predicted.

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To battle both poverty and climate change, “we cannot continue with business as usual,” he said.

“We must continue to innovate, to protest and to hold government and companies’ feet to the fire,” he said in a speech at the conference. (VOA)