There is no reason why India should face hunger and malnutrition, and why our farmers should commit suicide. India is blessed with the most fertile soils in the world. Our climate is so generous we can, in places, grow four crops in a year, compared to only one in most of the industrialised West. We have the richest biodiversity in the world, both because of diverse climates and because of the brilliance of our farmers as breeders. They have given us 200,000 varieties of rice, 1,500 varieties of wheat, 1,500 varieties of mangoes and bananas.
Sir Albert Howard, who was sent to India in 1905 to introduce chemicals in farming, saw how fertile the soils were with no pests in the fields. He decided to make the Indian peasants his professors and wrote An Agricultural Testament, which spread organic farming worldwide on the basis of India's ecological farming, today recognised as agroecology-ecology as applied to agriculture.
In spite of our rich agricultural heritage, today India faces a triple emergency related to our food and agricultural system, a manmade emergency.
First, the poor and vulnerable are dying for lack of food. Even as India gets richer, we have emerged as the capital of hunger and malnutrition. According to the National Family Health Survey, 42.5 per cent of children aged under five were underweight. This is more than double the average of 21 per cent for Africa which until recently was the face of hunger.
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