Farmers gathered at a rice field in a north-central Assam village on Sunday to say no to chemical fertilizers toward ensuring food security.
Dakchaki village in Darrang district has been one of the heaviest users of fertilizers in Assam. The farmers' anti-fertilizer demonstration, organized under Greenpeace India's 'Living Soils' campaign, is seen as a step toward checking the trend.
"Agriculture cannot be sustained without a vibrant soil ecosystem. If the soils are dead, all our efforts to produce food will go waste. We as farmers should take steps to save our soils from harmful impacts of chemicals," said farmer Uttam Deka.
"Assam should learn from the soil degradation crisis now being faced by the states that adopted chemical intensive agricultural practices in the 1960s. We should not wait for problems to appear here, and should promote eco-friendly farming practices at the earliest," said Bhairab Deka, secretary of a local rural NGO.
Living Soils, a nationwide campaign launched in this Assam capital on August 3, calls for a change in government policies to save soils from the harmful impact of chemical fertilizers. This campaign assumes significance with New Delhi acknowledging the agrarian crisis due to soil degradation and initiating a reform in its fertilizer subsidy policy.
"Every year, India spends Rs 50,000 crore on chemical fertilizer subsidies, and this is a major driver that catalyzes intensive chemical fertilizer usage. Intensive chemical fertilizer usage coupled with complete neglect of organic fertilization practices destroys soil ecosystem, which is home to several organisms," said Gopikrishna SR of Greenpeace India.
"The new Nutrient Based Subsidy policy that was brought in by the government to correct this problem continues to support only chemical fertilizers, and hence fails in its own cause," he added.