Small Farmers, Food Security and Drastic Climate Change
Joan P Mencher
(Lehman Col. & CUNY Grad CTR.)
Paper short abstract:
Using new management techniques, few artificial inputs but incorporating weeds into plant roots, less water than traditional methods and releasing less CO2/ Methane into the atmosphere, I discuss how this affects small/medium size farmers and their social relations.
Paper long abstract:
Based on work in South India, I discuss SRI/SCI, a set of new management techniques that started first with rice in Madagascar and has spread to more than 42 countries world-wide. Rice intensification systems are spreading in Asia through farmer-to-farmer contact, NGOs and state programs. Farmers are obtaining significantly greater yields with less seed, less water, and fewer costly inputs. While much is known about it agronomicallyB though it is still a work in progressBanthropological work, and even anecdotal data, on its effects on small farming communities hardly exists. More information is needed about the socio-political implications of SRI/SCI. These methods are challenging present world records in yields and lessening social inequality in fundamental ways, while they also release less CO2/ methane into the atmosphere. In India, many women=s self-help groups and even individual women are involved in its propagation. This paper looks at some of these impacts, primarily (but not exclusively) in South India. It was initially rejected by the scientific establishment, though that is now changing. The choice between using SRI-SCI vs. establishment industrial inputs raises questions about which will survive in the 21st century. Clearly, it is not in the interest of the MNCs to encourage SRI/SCI, which uses traditional seeds and little or no external inputs. Can these approaches, along with other water saving methods, turn the tide against hunger and poverty and climate degradation - all currently being exacerbated by industrial agriculture?
Averting a global environmental collapse: the role of anthropology and local knowledge (WCAA panel)