Rural Sustainability is a Prerequisite for Urban Sustainability

“Rural Sustainability is a Prerequisite for Urban Sustainability,” Dr Rajendra Singh 

Dr Rajendra Singh
Dr Rajendra Singh

Dr. Rajendra Singh -the Water Man of India needs no introduction. Honoured with the Stockholm Prize in 2015, for reviving the ancient dam technology in the Alwar district of Rajasthan in the 1980s to bring water to 1200 parched villages, Dr. Rajendra Singh has dedicated his entire life to water conservation. Relying on traditional knowledge, local material and the science of common sense, he leveraged community help to rejuvenate nine rivers and restore groundwater levels in Rajasthan.

The Ramon Magsaysay award winner in Hyderabad for a conference, spoke to Sujata C for Daana on the topic of urban-rural linkages, rural reform, permaculture and threats to agriculture.  The conversation got off with a few comments on negotiating the long, winding concrete vines of flyovers, metro lines and the chaotic Hyderabad traffic leading to the obvious question of urban sustainability. Here is the edited interview:

On urban sustainability:

“When the villagers are forced to migrate to cities due to helplessness and hopelessness then cities cannot be healthy. Cities depend on agriculture for their food. Their food comes from the villages. If our rural areas are not healthy, the city can’t be healthy. If the rural areas are not sustainable the Indian city can’t be sustainable. If we want our villages to be self reliant, we have to make them sustainable, the water in the village, the soil, the seeds, the hard work of the farmers, everything is included in this. Without the sustainability of our villages, urban sustainability is not possible.

The way our cities are growing with metros, high-rise buildings and heavy traffic, it is not at all sustainable. The basic necessities of a city come from villages and the cost of transporting to the cities these add to the burden of public health. And the pollution that we create in the process, these put a question mark on the way our cities are growing. The public health of the cities is linked to rural health. To correct all these we have to take the route of sustainable development.

On the link between rural reform and permaculture

The meaning of permaculture is to give respect and love for everything that exists in nature. Our love and respect for agriculture will come when we stop using chemical fertilisers, herbicides to cultivate our food. The name permaculture itself means giving respect to nature as it is while growing our food. The viability of permaculture depends on the fact that there is no contract farming done in our country. It should be a contract farming free country. The biggest threat to permaculture comes from contract farming. The trend of corporate farming will not allow permaculture to grow. They will use any term for their farming – chemical free farming, natural farming, zero budget farming, they will come up with a thousand names, but in reality they will be doing business. This will be very dangerous for our agriculture.

Agriculture is the foundation of Indian life. It is not a business. It is our cultural heritage, our ‘sanskriti’, it is not our business. Agriculture is the bridge between nature and the needs of human lives. Contract farming and corporate farming is going to break this bridge, because the stakeholders will only be interested in profits. They will not be interested in the culture that envelops agriculture. There will be no love for agriculture in contract farming. Those involved will want to grow stuff that brings in more money.

On the culture of agriculture:

It is my belief that if we are talking about agriculture, we have to examine its foundational principle. We have to examine our soil, our ‘bhoo sanskriti,’ its diversity and its potential to grow food that is good for us, good for the soil and the earth. When my soil health, my water health and the health of my land is good, then I will be good. To keep this chain of good health active, permaculture is the entry point, he concludes.

Viewed in the context of the farmers’ march, the intuitive advice from Dr. Rajendra Singh can tackle present day farmers’ woes and will continue to remain relevant in the times to come.

Daana supports the cause of sustainable development by supporting small and marginal farmers who grow food without pesticides. 

 

Women Power and the Seeds of Optimism

Women Power and the Seeds of Optimism

A woman is like a tea bag. Put her in hot water and you will see how strong she is. We have all heard this one at some point. Time and again women have shown that they are adept at managing home, hearth and work with equal ease.

This year Nari Shakti Puraskar was given to 38 women. Notable among these are the All India Millet Sisters Network, Deepika Kundaji, Vanastree and Sabarmati Tiki. All of them are working in rural areas, with women in agriculture, promoting neglected grains and traditional seeds.

The Hyderabad based All India Millet Sisters Network (AIMS) is the first of its kind women millet farmers in the country that is dedicated to the cause of the neglected coarse grain. Millets are a traditional crop in the country and this network has brought together women farmers who are cultivating and conserving millets. It was set up eight years ago with 100 women. Today, it is a network of 5000 women across the country.

The  story of Anjamma is an interesting one. She is a poor farmer from Telengana. She preserves seeds in a traditional way without using any chemicals. She stores seeds for next season in a cane basket,  using easily available ash and neem leaves and seals them with cow dung and mud. Despite a drought spell and zero rainfall she reaped eight quintals millet and six quintals of toor dal  from her bio diverse farm. Her work in keeping alive a traditional knowledge system in the preservation of seeds was recognised by Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers Rights Authority, India (PPVFRA).

There are many stories like this one and they are getting noticed by none other than the Minister for Women and Child Welfare, Maneka Gandhi who is an environmentalist herself and rooting for women farmers. Read about the rest here in her own words.

Sujata C

Daana salutes all the women engaged in farming and seed preservation.

 

How to Beat the Exam Blues

How to Beat the Exam Blues

Happiness they say is your last exam paper! March is the month for exams for most students in India. Nearly one and a half crore students are appearing for board exams in India this year after a gap of seven years. It is a highly stressful time. Revisions, portion, tears, meltdowns, night outs, burn outs – conversations revolve words like these in most homes. Parents are busy helping their children stay motivated and confident.

We all know that what you eat can affect your mood, alter stress levels and promote calmness. We tend to go on food binges under pressure and students are no different. Under the influence of examination stress there will be significant increase in food intake, and a tendency for high fat and sugary snacks. This can be counter-productive as unhealthy meals can add to stress levels.

March is the month when the temperatures begin to rise in our country. This is good for bacterial growth and so the chances of getting an infection are very high. It is also the time when measles and chicken pox are rampant. To begin with give only fresh, homemade food to your children. Avoid all food from outside to safeguard them from any stomach bug. Water should be fresh and filtered.  Don’t make any fried food items as these tend to make the stomach heavy. Avoid food that will give a sore throat and goes without saying, no carbonated drinks and ice cream please.

When children are studying food gets digested faster and they tend to feel hungry often. Give smaller meals more frequently rather than three large meals. Make whole grains and pulses a part of every meal.  Add plenty of greens to meals and snacks. (How does palak dosa sound?)

Add a fistful of nuts, plenty of fruits and fruit juices to the diet to provide extra energy and keep them active. Tea and coffee can be had in moderation. A glass of milk in the morning and at bedtime will be good. This will give good sleep at night. This is as far as physical health is concerned.

To make sure that children are mentally composed and not having panic attacks due to exam fears, help them maintain a proper study routine. Give tips on how to revise and write the exam. Keep them off television, Internet and social media as far as possible as they can take the mind away from studies. For rest and relaxation they can play board games or any light sport. Music is also a great stress buster. Yoga helps improve concentration, apart from helping relax the muscles.

If your child is going for tuitions or combined studies along with friends, make sure he/she is not coming under peer pressure as it can be detrimental to his performance or hit his self confidence. Research has shown that 30% students going for board exams get into substance abuse (cigarettes, alcohol and even drugs) due to the stress.

Keep the house well ventilated. Put your essential oil burner to good use now. Lavender, rose, ylang ylang and vetiver oils give out wonderfully soothing aromas to calm the mind. Most important, be there for your child as a friend and guide. This is the time they need you the most to help them do their best.

Sujata C

Daana brings you wholesome, organic cereals and pulses at the click of a button. Place your order here.

Government Forecasts Record Food Grain Output in the Crop Year of 2018

Government Forecasts Record Food Grain Output in the Crop Year of 2018

Crop production forecasts are commonly understood as an important tool in preparing the food balance sheets of the country. They also give a fair idea regarding food production shortfalls.

So when the Agriculture Ministry, Government of India forecasts a record food grain output in this crop year ending in June 2018, in view of the good rainfall received in the country, the clouds of food price inflation and temporary food insecurity recede. Rice production is pegged at 1.2% higher than last year at 110.11 million tonnes. How accurate will this forecast be? Only time will tell.

By the way, India ranks 66 in the Global Food Security Index of 2012, despite PDS.

Read the full story here:

 

 

Gujiyas for Holi

Gujiyas for Holi

Gujiya is a gujarati sweet dish that is synonymous with Holi and Diwali. It is like a sweet samosa. It keeps well, and hence can be made a couple of days ahead of time. We present to you a healthier version of the dish, without stepping too far from tradition. Enjoy, and wish you a very happy and colourful holi.

Ingredients:

  • 1-1/2 cup dry fruits(almond,cashew,walnut)
  • 1 cup desiccated coconut
  • ⅓ cup jaggery
  • ⅓ cup dates
  • ½ tbsp poppy seeds
  • 1 tbsp sooji or semolina
  • 1 tsp elaichi or cardamom
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 2 cup atta
  • ¼ cup sooji or semolina
  • A pinch of salt
  • 2 tbsp oil
  • Warm water for kneading
  • 1 tbsp aata with 1 tbsp water, for sealing
  • Oil for frying

Instructions:

  1. Dry roast the dry fruits in a pan for 5-7 minutes.Keep it aside and let it cool.
  2. Grind them into a coarse mixture.
  3. Heat oil in a pan.
  4. Add the shredded coconut.
  5. Saute for 5 minutes on low flame and add the roughly chopped dates, jaggery and dry fruits. (Add some cashewnut paste to this if you want a deep rich taste)
  6. Add semolina with 2 tbsp water.
  7. Cook this mixture for 5 minutes on low flame and allow it to cool.
  8. Knead the dough with flour, 2 tbsp oil ,semolina, water and salt.
  9. Add extra flour as needed to keep from sticking to hands and board.
  10. Place the dough in a greased vessel.
  11. Cover with a cloth/plastic wrap for 15 minutes.
  12. Take a small portion and roll it into small round ball. Roll it out and lay it on the inside of a gujiya mould (Grease the mould to make sure that the rolled dough doesn’t stick to it)
  13. Add filling in the rolled pastry.
  14. Seal the edges with flour and water mix.
  15. Brush the gujiya with oil and bake for 10 minutes@160 degree Centigrade.
  16. Heat oil in a small & deep kadai.
  17. Once the oil is hot, add half-baked gujiya to it.
  18. Cook on low flame for 10 minutes or until golden brown. (or skip #15-17 and deep fry the traditional way)