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PM talks about khadi and farmers in Mann Ki Baat

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New Delhi: Khadi can provide employment to crores of people in the country and at least 50 percent of the country’s farmers should be included in the crop insurance scheme launched by the government over the next two years, PM Narendra Modisaid on Sunday in his first “Mann Ki Baat” address of 2016.

“Khadi has the power to provide employment to crores of people. It has now become a symbol and a centre of interest of the nation’s youth,” Modi said.

“Sardar Patel said India’s independence is in Khadi, India’s civilization represents Khadi, farmers’ welfare is in Khadi,” he added.

“If the entire nation observes silence every January 30 at 11 am, you can imagine the energy that a single moment will generate. It should be made a practice,” Modi said.

 In his monthly radio address Mann Ki Baat, the Prime Minister expressed concern over the fact that only 20 to 25 percent farmers have so far been covered under the crop insurance schemes. Modi also appealed to people to observe two minutes silence on the 30th of January each year to pay tributes to the martyrs of the nation.

“We have been talking about crop insurance for years, but not more than 20-25 percent farmers have been able to benefit from it. Can we pledge that in the next one to two years, at least, 50 percent of the farmers will be brought under insurance? I need your help in this,” Modi said.

The ‘Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana’ (Prime Minister’s Crop Insurance Scheme), approved by the union cabinet recently, gives insurance cover against crop loss due to natural calamities and has lower premium rates.

“A lot is said about farmers in our country… I will not get into those debates, but the biggest problem faced by a farmer is when he loses his hard work to a natural calamity,” the Prime Minister said.

“There is only one way to give them protection, that is crop insurance. In 2016, we have given a big gift to the farmers Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana,” he said.

He urged the listeners to take the message to the farmers. (IANS)

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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)