Technologies of modern agriculture and the biodiverse ecosystems

Photo credit: Food Tank

The Living Soils Save Lives program trains farmers to value and cultivate life in the soil in order to offset the negative environmental and social impacts of modern agriculture. (The Hummingbird Project)

Soil Building in India’s ‘Suicide Belt’

The tragic phenomenon of farmer suicides in India is symptomatic of the damage that unchecked agricultural development has wrought, according to Delhi-based environmentalist Dr. Vandana Shiva. As explained in Shiva’s The Violence of the Green Revolution, technologies of modern agriculture, such as synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, and mechanized tillage, have destroyed the biodiverse ecosystems that, in the past, guaranteed the security of a farmer’s livelihood.

Marilyn McHugh and Chris Kennedy, agricultural advocates and Shiva’s social-work collaborators, share her view: the husband-and-wife team considers the growing incidence of farmer suicides in India as the complex outcome of the unsustainable methods of modern agriculture. McHugh and Kennedy argue that there are strong connections between the soil’s compromised ability to function in modern farming systems and the larger issues plaguing Indian farmers. Accordingly, the health of the soil is a major factor in addressing the issues that lead farmers to commit suicide.

After seeing the devastated soils—and communities—in rural India’s “suicide belt” in 2010, McHugh and Kennedy created a nonprofit soil-restoration organization, The Hummingbird Project, and soon after founded the Living Soils Save Lives project. “We call the program ‘Living Soils Save Lives’ because living soils provide an alternative to the unsustainable cycle of debt and loans to purchase fertilizers, seeds and pesticides that has led to such dire outcomes for so many farmers,” explained Kennedy.

Read the full article: Food Tank

Author: Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.

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