August Newsletter

August Newsletter: Daana Farmers Network

Nilgiri Mountains, India

When you are heads down doing the work you love, time flies in a jiffy. It felt like it was last week that I wrote the July newsletter !!

We did a fair bit of process revamping at the Daana office in July. For a good 2 weeks we looked at every product, every process and worked hard at getting better with our cleaning, packing, stock taking, and delivery. We re-did the way we laid things out, shuffled responsibilities around, and consolidated a bunch of tasks. The team is under double load when I’m around, as they have to get their regular work done, and work on fixing issues and address improvements as well 🙂

The month of July was also spent visiting farmers and partners. A fair bit of travel ensued. The first one was to Mysore, to meet Anand and Priya. They have been supplying us with cold-pressed organic oils. I spent the whole day with them, and their little girl Chavi accompanied me everywhere. We spent a fair bit of time discussing our mutual challenges around logistics, the truck strike, and how we can streamline things better. Anand also took me to meet Vasanthkumar, and Ravi, two of the farmers who supply coconuts from their farm, from which our cold pressed coconut oil is extracted. I got to see Anand’s rotary press unit, that crushes the coconuts to extract oil.

Vasanthkumar, at his coconut farm in Mysore.

A separate trip report on Mysore will follow subsequently.

I then went and visited the folks at Keystone foundation, Aadhimalai Procured co-op, and our coffee farmers in the Nilgiris. You can find out all about how the region, and the coffee here: Nilgiri Trip Report

With Krishna and Jestin, in the Nilgiris.

And, in case you missed our original article on coffee, here it is: Coffee, the Elixir of Life.

At the end of each newsletter, we try to bring attention to some interesting event happening in the country. Do tune in, to Madras Day celebrations. Aug 22, 1639 is celebrated as Madras day. It was that day that the land for Fort St. George was acquired by the British from the Nayak of the Vijayanagara empire, Damerla Venkatadri. The month long events are an entirely volunteer driven effort showcasing the city’s rich history and culture.

Have a great month, hope you enjoyed the articles.

– Sujatha

July Newsletter

 

Greetings from Daana !!

We apologise for not having been able to bring you a newsletter in June (you will soon know why). We hope with the searing summer behind us, and with kids beginning school, a new academic year and routine has begun. My older son and a niece have both begun internships, another niece graduated from college this summer and is entering the workforce. It is indeed bittersweet to see our children get to the next set of milestones in life.

At Daana, it was a very busy May and June (the team can vouch for that more than me 🙂 ). All of that has culminated in us adding more amazing products to our catalogue. Not 1, not 2, but 4 new products. Two healthy oils, and two staple beverages. All Organic and Single Origin.

We will be posting individual posts on each of them in the days to come, so do check our website, or like our facebook page, so you will get updates on your news feed.

You can also order them from below:


Organic Cold Pressed Coconut Oil: Coconuts from Usha and Ravi’s farm in Krishnarajanagara, Karnataka. Oil extracted using the cold pressed method at Anand’s mill in Mysore, Karnataka.

1 Litre
Rs.399
Add to Cart
399 1859 Organic Coconut Oil Cold Pressed 1 Litre
 
500 ml
Rs.239
Add to Cart
239 1860 Organic Coconut Oil Cold Pressed 500 ml


Organic Cold Pressed Mustard Oil: Mustard seeds from Annaveerappa’s farm in Korwar, Karnataka. Oil extracted using the cold pressed method at the Oil Collective in Bengaluru.

1 Litre
Rs.299
Add to Cart
299 1861 Organic Mustard Oil 1 Litre


Organic Ground Coffee: From Selvaraj’s farm in Samaigudal, in the Nilgiri bio-reserve in Tamil Nadu. Roasted and ground to perfection at Uday and Sujatha’s roasting unit in Secunderabad.

250 gms
Rs.260
Add to Cart
260 1857 Organic Filter Coffee 250 gms


Organic Tea: From Ramakrishnan’s single-estate, high mountain (2,000m/6,800ft) tea farm located in the Nilgiri Mountains of Tamil Nadu. The tea is a dark, intensely aromatic, and flavourful variety.

250 gms
Rs.199
Add to Cart
199 1858 Organic Tea 250 gms


Other things to look forward to, this July:

I present to you two very crowded, intense and energetic celebrations this month. Watch them on TV, if you cannot visit.

Jagannath Rath Yatra: Head to Puri to witness the Rath Yatra (Chariot Procession) that carries idols of Lord Jagannatha, Lord Balabhadra and Goddess Subhadra. This year it is on the 14th of July.

Champakulam Moolam Boat Race: Kerala’s oldest boat race is on the 28th of July. Read more about the history of this race and how it commemorates the installation of the idol of lord Krishna at the temple of Ambalappuzha.


Do try out our products, visit our weekly posts on the website, or keep in touch with us via facebook/whatsapp. We look forward to hearing from you.

– Sujatha

 

 

Beerakaaya Pappu: Ridgegourd with Lentils

Beerakaya Pappu: Dakhani daily

The people of Telangana and Andhra are similar and different in many ways. Like the British and Americans, they are two people divided by a common language 🙂

One of the things they both excel at is the amazing array of “pappu” they whip up. Pappu means dal in Telugu. I present a recipe for the “Beerakaya pappu”, ridge-gourd with lentils. It is an absolute massage to the soul. Typically spooned on top of  rice, can be had with roti, or if you’re like me, I simply pour it into a bowl and eat it (call it a soup if you are really compelled to call it something).

Here is a OPOS (One Pot One Shot) method I used to make it yesterday (I have added Instant Pot directions alongside as well):

Ingredients:

  • Half cup finely chopped onions
  • One cup coarsely chopped tomatoes
  • A few cloves of garlic (no need to chop them)
  • One cup of chopped ridge gourd (scrape the outer skin. if you like the rough texture of it, keep it, the skin is perfectly edible and yummy. Slit open the ridge gourd, remove the goop and seeds)
  • 1 cup dal (I mixed Toor Dal, Moong Dal and Urad Dal)
  • 2-3 green chillies slit length wise (you can vary this based on the type of chilli and based on your spice tolerance)
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 2 tbsp safflower oil or groundnut oil (remember to only use cold pressed oil)
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • Salt to taste
  • Slice of lemon, some chopped curry leaves and coriander leaves (cilantro) for garnish

Method:

  • In a small pressure cooker (you can use the Instant Pot too) pour the oil, when it warms up, add the cumin seeds and the onions and sauté just until the onions turn translucent. (this is because they will cook further with the rest of the ingredients)
  • Add the rest of the ingredients (dal, tomato, ridge gourd, salt,  turmeric, chillies and garlic)
  • Add one cup of water (this may seem on the lower side, but the tomatoes and ridge gourd will let out water while cooking)
  • Close the pressure cooker and let it cook for 3 whistles (in the Instant Pot, pressure cook on medium for 6-7 min). Turn it off and let it sit until the pressure fully subsides. This extra soaking in the steam lets the ingredients cook in their own juices.
  • Open up, give everything a little bit of a stir, scoop into a bowl, garnish with a slice of lemon and chopped curry leaves and coriander leaves, and serve.

I have been experimenting with various oils of late. If you want a Telangana twist to it, use Safflower Oil (also called Kusuma Noone). For the Andhra tinge, use Groundnut Oil (also called Palli Noone). These oils really bring out the regional flavours.

This dish is as soulful as it is versatile. You can substitute the ridge gourd with any soft squash of your choice (you will need to vary the size of the pieces based on their softness), you can also substitute with any green of your choice. My mom makes a heavenly version of this with spinach. My other favourite version is with Gangavaila koora (purslane leaves) which grows like a weed in Hyderabad.

– Sujatha

Veg Dal Roll

Vegetable Dal Roll

It is school reopening time and most mothers are busy wondering which new nutritious snack would be a good choice to add to their lunch box menu. To get children to eat all veggies and healthy food is a huge challenge. One way is to get all the nutrition into a roll with some yummy sauce/chutney. Let us try this one which has 3 types of dals and loads of veggies.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup Toor Dal
  • 1/2 cup Moong Dal
  • 2 tsps  Chana Dal
  • 1/2 cup Cauliflower florets
  • 1/2 cup capsicum finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup carrots finely chopped
  • 1/4  cup tomatoes finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup onions finely chopped
  • few pitted olives
  • 1 tbsp Sunflower oil
  • Italian Seasoning (Basil,Oregano,Chilli flakes)
  • Grated cheese
  • Salt to taste
  • Wheat Flour for the rotis

Method

Boil the dals together with enough water to cook them. Once cooked, drain the extra water and keep it aside. Make a dough out of the wheat flour, knead it well and let it sit for 15 mins. Meanwhile we can prepare the filling. Boil carrots and cauliflower separately. Saute all the other vegetables in sunflower oil. Once they are cooked, add the cooked dal, carrots and cauliflower and mix. Add the seasoning along with required salt and let the vegetables cook  till the filling is thick. Now our filling is ready.

Roll the dough into lemon sized balls and make rotis out of them. Take each roti, place the filling along the centre, add grated cheese on top and roll the sides onto each other to close the roll. You can use a little water to close the roll so that it does not open. You can cut the roll into three pieces, so it is easier to eat.

You can pack this as lunch for your kids along with their favourite sauce!

Cheers!!

-Bhuvana

 

 

 

Summer is here: May Newsletter

Greetings from Daana!

May is here…. here are some ideas to embrace the searing temperatures, and stuff to look forward to.

First off, we have edited and compiled our interview with Dr. Sultan Ismail from March. He explains in a simple conversational manner the entire agrarian crisis: what it means to us a consumer, and how it affects our rural economy. Its worth every second of the 25 min video.

Enjoy the ever favourite Aam Panna as it hails summer. Follow Bhuvana’s recipe and let us know what you think. Additionally, post your own version of this national drink !!
While we wait for the mangoes to land, here is an article that talks about the history of mangoes in India. A very worthwhile obsession that dates back 4000 years.
While carbide mangoes have been on the decline, the market has responded to our mango craze with newer ripening techniques, not all of them good. The only way to get great mangoes is to wait for the right time. As they say… Intezaar ka phal meetha hota hai 🙂 Watch as Arifa explains how to spot the artificially ripened fruit versus the natural ones.

With rising temperatures comes rising use of fans, refrigerators and a/c. Of these the A/Cs are the biggest electricity guzzlers. Here are some simple tips to use your A/Cs efficiently, and save money on those power bills.

  1. If you live in a region that has dry hot air in summer, the use of an evaporative cooler is a much more efficient option. Make sure to install it against an external window, and to have a sunshade above the cooler so the sun’s rays do not fall on it directly and heat it up.
  2. If you live in a region that has hot moist air (such as the coastal area with high humidity). turn the a/c on, to no cooler than 27C and turn on a ceiling fan. Movement of cool air against our skin is much more important for comfort, than standing air which could be at a lower temperature.

Watch this video by the green architect Ashok Lall on how to minimise dependency on A/Cs, and how to reduce the use of A/Cs, without giving up on comfort and cooling.

Summer vacations: Here are interesting summer destinations to visit. Remember, any cool weather place in India is bound to be crowded, so don’t be surprised. Try to find real “off the beaten path” locations, they will offer a much better experience.
There are other things you can do, right in your own city, to enjoy the summer holidays. Arrange early morning walking, bicycling tours, late evening concerts, lots of board games with the kids in the neighbourhood, and the best of all, a nice afternoon siesta !!
Here is a morning bicycling city tour of Delhi, offered every weekend in Delhi, starting 6 am 🙂

Keep watching our blog section for articles every week. We cover a wide array of topics on sustainability, including organic farming, women’s empowerment, market news, government policy, and more. We also have simple and fun recipes for food every week. Do check them out in our recipes section. Make sure your grocery list for this month is healthy and wholesome. Place your orders here.

Warm regards,
Daana Team

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. 

 

Why are the farmers marching? Part 2- Soil

Why were farmers marching? Part 2- Soil

Did you wonder why the farmers’ feet bled so much during their march to the Assembly building in Mumbai?

I did too.  The one word explanation is – Soil. The soil in our farms is teeming with chemicals and it is bleeding the farmers’ feet…. it will get to us as well.

A longer explanation took a better part of my day with Dr. Sultan Ismail who is a rock-star soil scientist of India. An expert who can still breakdown the complex challenges of farming into kidsplaining. I took the liberty of recording some of that conversation with him and in this post, is a gist of what he had to say. (We will carry his interview in a separate post)


The Farmer is the Indian

If you thought that farming is what gets us food…. that’s just a very small part of the story. Farming is what we do as a nation. It is India’s largest economic activity. It is our national occupation.

A bit of a digression is necessary here. 40% of rural India subsists on agriculture, even now. It was 50% earlier. That’s a substantial chunk. If that many people voted for any party in India, the party would get 2/3rd majority, change the constitution to declare themselves as the rulers for eternity. I am being frivolous. The point is that farming is what we as a nation do. It is often a fact lost to most of us who try to ‘solve the problem’ of farming. Farming is, above all, the only sustained employment this country has seen. Successive governments have almost succeeded in discouraging farming folks to give up farming, sell the farms and move to the city to work as labour. Once they are dispossessed of land, they rapidly descend into even greater precarity in the cities. Homeless, landless, jobless. Next time you are entering your office, stop for a moment and ask the security guard where he came from. I bet you five Facebook likes that he gave up his farm to manage your gate security. With that picture in mind, let’s get back to the question of Soil.


The Soil does it

There is nothing simple about “Soil”. Soil is not just pulverised rock. It teems with life. Each place has a different soil. It changes within yards from soft black clay to being red hard. At times it is just a few inches deep under a sheet rock and at other places it can be as deep as a kilometre. Though we walk on it almost everyday, our understanding of soil as a system is even weaker than our understanding of the galaxies and the stars. Within the first few inches of soil, there are complex and interconnected systems of regeneration, production, consumption and outrageous magic.

If you still can, on your next walk, get down on all fours and examine the soil. Use your fingers to scrape it around. Notice the small insects that scurry away. There is a thin layer at the very top that moves when you scrape it. That’s “top soil”. This is where all life happens.

Not on TV, not in hospitals, not in the battlefields. Within those two inches, Dr. Ismail said, is where more life happens than at all other places combined. There is no way to measure life, but you get the picture. There are microbes, there are insects, there are worms. There are things in-between. They all eat up each other, digest each other, help each other. The cycle of life is just two inches deep here. Get up now, dust your knees.

Into this soil, if you dropped a seed, the soil rallies around and nudges the seed to sprout, push the leaf up, pull the root down. Earthworms have already riddled the soil with holes to make it soft for the sprout to find space, microbes have fixed nitrogen for the sprout to consume, bacteria have mulched the previous generation of plants into food for the new sprout. As the little sprouting pushes itself above the soil, things are getting more interesting under it. One longish root is digging deep into the soil to firmly affix the future plant, the sideways roots are reaching out horizontally to absorb moisture and nutrients. At times, a senior plant’s roots touch those of the young ones, and a bit of elderly help is offered by transferring nutrients between the roots. The soil, it would seem was almost waiting for the seed. On the other hand, if a rodent died, it would be gorged by microbes and composted into becoming one with soil. In reality, soil is just a name for a complex system of millions of different organisms that live there.

The farmer needed the soil. A healthy, rich, happy soil to grow on.


Swaminathan Cometh

In 1961 something happened. We had a famine that shook the young nation to the core. Nehru and his team, swore: Never again. We will never run out of food again, they pledged. Just then, Ford foundation, Rockfeller foundation and the rest suggested that we must adopt the best thing since sliced bread – scientific agriculture. It will produce more wheat and even more sliced bread. It looked too good to be true. With modern science at the farmer’s side, we would be able to keep soil healthy, new breeds of crops would grow faster, with greater yield. Dr. Swaminathan was the hero of that moment. The man of science to help the farmer in distress. Get the picture?

The only way, asserted the Green Revolution, is to get aggressive with soil and the plants.  To increase the yield per acre, you have to make soil “better”, crops “more resilient” and aggressively kill “pests” and “weeds”. This method consisted of injecting “nutrients” into the soil, and force feed plants by flooding fields with water.

To keep weeds and pests away, they introduced a range of chemicals that will wipe out every living thing on the farm. It is like providing your army with gas masks and releasing nerve gas in the city – staple theme of almost every superhero movie. Well, the analogy isn’t very far from the truth. Many of the chemicals were actually chemical weapons used in Vietnam and Korea.


Living in an ICU

Here is an analogy. To be a productive individual, you need to be happy and healthy. How do you do it? You exercise, get clean air, eat in moderation, have a healthy work/life balance and be nice to everybody around. Now, instead, I give you a deal : why bother with all that? Chuck your home life and start living in a Hospital’s ICU. For food, we will feed you a steady diet of vitamins, proteins, carbs and micronutrients, for happiness there will be Prozac. We will inject you continuously with the best antibiotics money can buy, so that no bacteria will ever bother afflicting you. Air is completely filtered and clean, you get to wear a new scrub everyday and someone will give you a sponge bath while you sleep every night with intravenous sedatives.  Deal?

Deal. The Punjab farmers took it. That was the laboratory. The results were mind blowing. The productivity jumped up many times over. India’s days of starvation were over. The grainy film documentaries, the mandatory viewing before a masala movie showed flowing fields with wheat and paddy, set to the fast jhala of Pandit Ravishankar’s sitar. Food?  Done.


The Dying

As the Green revolution spread itself all over the country : from Punjab to Maharashtra to Andhra Pradesh, there was celebration in the air, and problems on the ground. Farmers started to notice that the chemicals that were meant to kill bad things also killed the good things. Killer chemicals don’t distinguish. Termites, microbes were all dead. Soil collapsed. The earth became rock hard. Tractors were brought in to till the hard soil. The tractors killed the earthworms. The plants that took in the fertilizers needed inordinate amounts of water but the water didn’t seep into the hardened earth. So, more water to quench the thirst. Dams had to be built. Water had to be diverted, forests collapsed. To fix one thing, another thing was broken. That broke yet another thing, so on and on it went. The cascading effect was dramatic and catastrophic. The farmer needed money to buy more medicines, I meant the fertilizers and pesticides to keep going. Each year, they needed more of the same. The cycle of debt set in. Chemicals seeped into the soil.

Now, you know why their feet were bleeding. Doesnt stop at the feet. Cancer is rampant among Punjabi farmers. Children are born with gene injuries. Last year Rs.500 crores were paid as compensation to Kerala farmers for suffering from the ill-effects of Endosulfan. The stuff that goes into Indian soil is not even touched by anyone outside India. In many countries, if you were caught with it, you’d be booked for possessing chemical weapons.


Then, what will we eat?

Is there any better way than this? If we do not produce more, how will we eat and what should we eat? Let’s look at the second question first. Over the last century, Indian taste buds have been hugely affected by ads and marketing: Basmati Rice, Sharbati Wheat, etc. These are very water intensive crops that have low yield per acre. So, there will be enough to eat if we begin to relish more millets, and dals in our diet. If we eat more seasonal fruits, if we start discovering the Indian foods from before the 70s. I am not being a luddite, just being practical.

The other question ‘Is there a better way’ is an interesting question that has an interesting answer. In short… YES. There is a better way. To begin with, it was a myth that the chemical way of farming gave magnitude of a larger yield. It is now thoroughly debunked. Over a long term of ten years, a farm will produce not more than 25% more than what it would produce naturally. That is just volume-wise. On the other hand, if you look at the cost of production, naturally grown food wins hands down. Everything from pests to weeds at soil health can be taken care of without needing intensive money and aggressive technology.

It must begin with first, respecting farming traditions: there is an evolving knowledge base that is a result of slow weeding out of bad ideas and assimilation of the good practices through experience, and multiple growing cycles.

In other words, farming is as scientific a pursuit as it gets. So, respect traditional ways. They are not based on mumbo-jumbo of superstition. Don’t assume that a limited test tube hypothesis is automatically superior to what a farmer knows, just because she wears tattered clothes and doesn’t speak English. Seek inspiration from Albert Howard who ironically was hailed in the west as the “father” of modern organic farming, for having learnt and disseminated traditional farming practices of India.

Second, we must disseminate these ideas of natural farming in new ways and make them contemporary. This is the sort of work that people like Masanobu Fukuoka, Bill Mollison have discovered, curated, documented and spread. It is a tough challenge to promote a self sustaining method of feeding the world in the face of some of the most aggressive propaganda by the world’s most aggressive companies. The natural farming community needs all of us to stand by them in solidarity.

We will talk about the ways and means to get back to natural farming in cost-effective and sustainable manner in future posts. This one was just about what I learnt from Dr. Ismail Sultan. Narsanna was not wrong when he called him “Soil-tan” of natural farming. Here is a great TED talk by him. Have a great weekend.

– Farhan

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.

 

Why are the farmers marching? Part 1- Water

Why are the farmers marching? Part 1- Water

Here is a simple question: If farmers produce food and food is a basic necessity, why are they not getting a fair price for their produce?

Therein lies a conundrum. Those who produce the most basic things needed for our lives: food, shelter and clothing are the ones that have the worst lives in our country. Sure, we can be ashamed, we can beat ourselves up, or we can, as CM Fadnavis did, form a six man committee to ‘study the problem’.  Let’s first understand the extent of the challenges in the a few posts and then bring the possible solutions to these in the following posts. Bear with me when I take no pleasure to say ‘it is complicated’.

It is complicated

If you plan to get onto the farmers’ case saying they cannot be bailed out all the time, I would suggest you get off this blog and read about tax holidays, land and money that our government and financial institutions have poured into the hands of beacons of capitalism. Start from the techies and proceed towards the diamantaires. We will keep those rants and woes for another place and time.

A farmer needs water and seeds to begin with. Push the seed into the soil,  water it and watch it grow. In six months, harvest it and sell it at the market. Go home and have a great holi. Life looks simple from the outside. But we have already dropped too many words. Water, Seeds, Soil, Market. That’s what a farmer needs to grow. We’ll just talk about water in this post.

Water – The demand

There is no water. We are running out of it. Each of us needs 100 litres of water a day.  That is 125 billion litres of water a day for 1.2 billion people in India. To give you  an idea of what that is, a litre is held in a cube of 10 cms to a side.  A billion litres will need a tank that is about five kilometers high, five kilometers wide and five kilometers long.  125 billion litres is just one day’s water. That’s bheja fry for sure.

You protest and say, I barely drink a litre and bathe in another 10 litres, that makes it 11 litres. Did you forget to tinkle after you sprinkle? Each toilet flush releases 20 litres of water, go and calculate. Then add the water that your dishes take to get washed, your laundry, cooking, gardening, car wash.. I suppose you get the picture. Probably, even the 100 litre figure is quite conservative for us, the urban middle class. And remember: electricity needs water, every material we use on a daily basis needs water as a basic commodity in its manufacturing.

What’s worse is that we haven’t yet counted water required for farming and for industry. So, here goes : 1 Kg of rice can and usually does take 1200 litres of water to produce. Meat requires even higher amounts of water.  It would be mind boggling to imagine the shape of a water tank that is needed to grow all the rice that the country needs.

Even worse. Our current ways of chemically dependent farming need far far more water than organic farming needs.

In a nutshell, we are more mouths to feed than before, we are eating more water intensive foods than before and we are growing them in ways that need more water than before. It is a perfect storm.

Water – the Supply

Have you heard of water farmers? No, silly, not the ones who grow food with the help of water. Water farmers are folks who decided that as water is the most precious input into farming, it makes sense to just sell their water off. Tankers come in, fill up water from their bore-wells and head to the cities to fill up the sump tanks of apartments and bungalows. Water is becoming more expensive than grains.

How has that come to pass? We can all hazard a guess. My guess is that many of us are willing to pay the price for more water. We are the most water consuming society that ever lived.. and we live in times of the greatest water scarcity ever.

So, when we need so much water, given that rains are erratic and they are bound to get even more erratic in the future, the only way to get more water is to draw it out from the earth. Dig a well, drain the water out. The well goes dry, dig deeper, keep going. The deeper you go, the older the water. Typically the water in the bore-wells of Hyderabad is 6000 years old. It took 6000 years for that water to accumulate. What happens when we dry them out? Guess!

So, what is happening now?

Urban lakes that served urban water needs have been reclaimed. Cities are drawing water from rivers and irrigation reservoirs.

As water table sinks lower and lower, farmers need more electricity to draw water from their wells because the wells have gotten deeper. The local ponds have dried up. All this while, we want more of rice and meat and other water heavy foods on our tables because we can afford it.

What’s the solution?

Yes there are solutions, they are hard. Water is just one challenge as I had written above: soil, seeds and market are the other challenges. If we take a good long view of these four together, solutions emerge. Many are already working on these solutions, we will explore these in the next few posts.

– Farhan

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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

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