Sabara Srikhetra

Panchabati, Podagada

Dongar Chasa (Organic Agriculture) at :
Learning from past to move into future.
[ A concept paper on ‘Panchabati’ ]
In our koraput plateau (also worldover) the diversity is loosing rapidly, both in nature and culture, including agriculture. But, all is not lost yet in Koraput Dongar.  The highland communities(Tribals) of Koraput plateau are still nurturing diversity, as they realise that their age old system practised in Dongar (hilly land) fields are the only reliable option. The IAASTD, where about 4000 scientists from world-over exercised for about six years  on the agriculture, environment, public health scenario of the world and finally proclaimed clearly that: 
“neither the Green Revolution” nor the GMOs (Genetically Modified Organism) can guarantee food security for world population.”
2. IAASTD: ‘International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science & Technology for Development’ was initiated in August, 2002 and endorsed as a multithematic, multi–spatial, multi–temporal intergovernmental process with a multi stakeholder Bureau co-sponsored by the FAO, GEF, UNDP, UNEP, UNESCO, World Bank & WHO with the objectives – 
(i) reduction of hunger & poverty
(ii) improvement of rural livelihood and human health  -and- 
(iii) equitable, socially, environmentally & economically sustainable development 
3. The paradigm of agriculture i.e ‘Green Revolution’ has its roots in the 2nd world war. The industries that had grown for making explosives and chemicals to be used in the war, remodeled as the ‘agro-chemical industry’ when the wars ended. Factories that manufactured explosives started making synthetic fertilisers and gradually the use of war chemicals as pesticides and herbicides began.
4. The chemical push changed the paradigm of agriculture. Instead of working with ecological processes and taking the wellbeing and health of the entire agro-ecosystem with its diverse species into account, agriculture was reduced to an external input system adapted to chemicals. The gross domestic product fails to measure the real economy, the health of nature and society, similarly, the category of “yield” fails to measure real costs and real output of farming systems.
5. A scientifically and ecologically robust paradigm of agriculture is emerging in the form of agro-ecology and organic farming that rejuvenates the natural capital (soil, biodiversity and water) on which sustainable food security depends. Chemical agriculture treats soil as inert and an empty container for chemical fertilisers. The new paradigm recognises the soil as living where billions of soil organisms create soil fertility. Chemical agriculture destroys biodiversity. Ecological agriculture conserves and rejuvenates biodiversity. Chemical agriculture depletes and pollutes water. Organic farming conserves water by increasing the water-holding capacity of soils through recycling organic matter.
II.   Ground realities :
(a) As said in the beginning, we have been losing diversity, as a result, soils which were repositories of wide range of micro flora and macro fauna, got impoverished and destroyed with the advent of mechanisation. Trees and shrubs in between crop fields were cleared to enable free movement of tractors and power tillers. Imported plants and animal genetic materials,  were expended through loans and subsidies. Exotic short cycle pulpwood species were promoted by the government,initially for planting on degraded land, gradually extended to farmland, wetland and forests. Sometime even replacing multi utility natural forests. Diversity, at the level of genes, species and ecosystem has, therefore, threatened by mainstream development projects. Whatever exists today is not because of, but in spite of development planners. A national biodiversity action plan is formulated but remains stillborn. 
(b) Diversifying cropping system is a goal of the agricultural department but the real message is: ‘stop growing less profitable food crops, grow flowers, fruits, spices for sale to retail chains or supermarkets in city or even better to export houses.’  This diversification has nothing to do with achieving self sufficiency, reducing pollution or erosion of soil and of livelihoods. Much of the diversity is lost (or has been handed over to multinational corporations, who use it to breed new hybrids and claim patent rights); whatever remains is in the hand of small and marginal farmers, especially those who live in too dry, too wet or too remote areas and who mainly grow food for themselves. 
(c) Community based institutional mechanism for the highland tribals have not been utilised scientifically though certain provisions were made in the Plan documents. Further, the formal banking systems for the tillage communities for Koraput Populace are very week.
(d) Recent incidences of Violence (we denote as ‘terrorism’) in several parts of our region seem to indicate, that the planners romance of masses with the economic trickle down theory is over. The tribals of Koraput Plateau are no more hopeful that if the growth takes place, they will also get a share. It is true that growth generates resources, which may potentially help the economically poor tribals if properly designed. But, the ground realities are different.
(e) The demand for education, willingness to try new things, conserving resources, working hard to till the land, as we find in the slogans of Chasi Mulia Sangha of Narayanpatna tribals are trying to assert their will in favour of an entrepreneurial future. 
(f) They did not ever demand freebies as we analyse the demands of Chasi Mulia Sangha . But what is the package that the state designs for them? More roads, more subsidies, more infrastructure which makes the exploitation of their resources faster, cheaper and expedient. They don’t get polytechnics, hospitals with doctors, educational choices through posting of the best teachers (and not the ones on punishment posting and who come drunk to class), design centre for their crafts, value addition mobile labs for biodiversity based product development, fab labs to embed electronic chips full of local music, in local terracotta products, museums of their heritage, improvement in  old smelting furnaces to extract low carbon steel from iron ore, and one can go on. Why would not any of this be part of the package for Koraput and such other seventy to hundred districts?
(g) It is true that there has been tremendous neglect in tribal regions as well as other conflict prone regions. But then to assume that all people in these regions empathize with extremists is a travesty of truth. Many people we met feel hard pressed between police and the Maoists or other insurgents. Though some tribals genuinely feel that if Maoists were not there, they would not get proper wages in employment programs, and nor would they get proper price for their forest produce. Some also believe that Maoists help them stave off the repression from police.
(h) Undoubtedly, almost in every place, one can sense the neglect of administration on one hand and the excesses of police on the other. Police  is just not trained to develop congenial relations with local communities. They can’t discriminate among those who are helpless and thus may be supporting extremist out of fear and those who genuinely want to disturb peace. Excesses against innocent tribals after every conflict have become routine. More alienation takes place through such indiscriminate use of state power than anything else. Police does not do any thing to rein in liquor traders who are seen as part of the problem by local women. Is it not surprising that executives of mining companies and other contractors seldom suffer in the local conflicts between naxalites and the state. One wonders why?
(i) Essentially the design of the development process has to be based on local knowledge, resources, culture and age old institutions. Unfortunately when any one who shows signs of leadership, is arrested or made to go underground, then obviously very spineless conformist and compliant people will be left to collaborate with the state. Will they inspire confidence among communities and will they be able to resist vested interests and not fall prey to mechanizations of local corrupt agents in delivery system? This is at the root of nation building process, without space for dissent, the democracy has never  delivered volition to masses.
III.   Tasks ahead :
(i) Challenge for us is to let articulate leadership in all conflict prone regions to have the space for sharing their vision about local futures. They may make mistakes but then they are the people we have and we can not replace them by rudderless people who are too deeply seeped in structures of exploitation for long.
(ii) We are now facing two types of typical challenges in our Koraput plateau: -
(a) Losing natural diversity of our agro-ecosystem with its diverse species due to chemical fertilizer push and introduction of hybrid seeds, exotic short cycle pulpwood species  –and–
(b) Instead of engaging the real tribal leaders, who are due to obvious reasons are arrested or made to go underground, the administration engaging spinless, conformist and compliant so called tribal leaders to collaborate with the state and become local corrupt agents.
(iii) ‘PANCHABATI’ is being designed to address the above challenges to promote diversified integrated farming practices as a demonstrative eco-agro-farm for which ecological techniques will be combined with social engineering techniques engaging the real tribal leaders (not the spinless so-called leaders) and backed up by reliable information collected through the real leaders for training/advisory services, along with tieing up with credit, insurance, processing, marketing support. We intend to ensure farmers organizations, civil society organizations concerned with food and livelihood security need and also the government agencies for their co-operation and collaboration to achieve the goal.
(iv) At the PANCHABATI we may have to combine the principles and techniques, technologies of traditional agricultural practices of the tribal populace of Koraput Plateau with modern knowledge and techniques of soil and water conservation, use of biological fertilizes and botanical pest control agents, biogas with the raising indigenous trees, shrubs, live fences etc to make the ‘PANCHABATI’ a centre of participatory collaboration in knowledge generation, technology development and innovation with value-added science-based technology development for which the scientists of CSIR-IMMT (Institute of Minerals & Materials Technology) at Bhubaneswar has volunteered to co-operate with our endeavor. We are also now getting sympathetic attitude from the local line departments of the government.
(v) It is an ambitious intent of Sri Jagannath Mandir, Sabara Srikhetra, Koraput. Sabara Srikhetra which is not only an alter of worship, but engaged itself; since about forty years; for the wellbeing of the populace of Koraput region and propogating ‘Jagannath Consciousness’ which does not remain confined within the limits of a traditional religious, theological order, a cult or even a philosophical system and it has its origin from tribal culture. Jagannath Consciousness  has no antagonism towards any religion, caste or creed. Jagannath Consciousness has wonderful capacity to provide nourishment and happiness at all level of human existence – rich or poor, king or beggar, wise or foolish, learned or ignorant, sinner or virtuous, female or male, well-bread or ill-bread, foreigner or a native. To taste & test the flavour of Jagannath Consciousness one have to visit Sri Jagannath Mandir of Sabara Srikhetra at Koraput and stay for some period.