Web of Life

Biodiversity through Organic Farming – A Sustainable Way

Biodiversity through Organic Farming – A Sustainable Way 
-K.Amina Bibi

The world in which we live today is the result of selection, rejection and modification of lives over a period of time.  As a result, we are able to see display of colours, sizes and characters around us.  All these contribute their part towards evolution and sustainability. Today sustainability is lost due to the self-centered (so called) Development Programmes.  

Government sanctions construction of mountain roads at the cost of Elephant paths and water sources.  Construction of dams is done at the cost of hundreds of villages and livelihoods of thousands.  In near future human race would be erased from Earth if the Biodiversity is not conserved to maintain its own pace.

Biodiversity: The wide array of creatures microbes, insects, animals, plants and every creature exist and co-exist on Earth is known as Biodiversity.  It forms the Web of Life.  Biodiversity is very important to each component of the Web of Life. The balance of the lives results in the beauty of Life and Sustainability of natural resources.  Web of Life is unique to each ecosystem. 

India is naturally blessed with a tropical, sub-tropical and temperate ecosystem and hence many latitudinal gradients (there is an increase in biodiversity from the poles to the tropics) and hot spots (a region with a high level of endemic species that has experienced great habitat loss).  India is one of the twelve mega diversity nations of the world owing to its rich flora and fauna. Ten different bio-geographical regions and 25 biotic provinces are seen here with varieties of lands and species.

Growing population and its demands exploit natural resources.  Over exploitation of nature and natural resources to ensure the survival of human to meet the need of food, fuel, shelter, medicines, comfort, entertainment and luxury causes a great IMBALANCE in the web of life. Biodiversity is disturbed.
Habitat destruction: 
To feed the increasing human population lives and habitats of many plant and animals are destroyed.  Agriculture, irrigation, construction of dams, mining, fishing and many more have contributed largely to the habitat destruction.  It also facilitates the proliferation of few varieties where numerous varieties existed over years.  Construction of roads, fragmentation of farm fields, buildings, establishment of villages, town, cities and industries have contributed to habitat loss and narrowing the biodiversity. 

Development activities of man have contributed a lot to loss of biodiversity.  Take the industries which contribute  waste in the form of environmental pollution (air, water, and land) including radioactive materials.  This often leads to natural disasters like floods, droughts, land and water turn unfit for consumption, crop failure, pest and disease outbreak.  The loss of forest cover has greatly contributed to imbalance of oxygen and carbon dioxide resulting in Climate Change. 

Climate Change:
Climate change is a change in the average weather conditions observed over years caused by a numerous biotic processes.  Human activities have adverse effect on climate.  Ozone depletion, deforestation plays a major role in climate change.  Migratory birds are at risk due to the extreme dependability on temperature and air pressure for migration, foraging, growth, and reproduction. 

Restoring Biodiversity:
Biodiversity is the ONLY SOLUTION for the ill effects caused by Climate Change.  Restored habitats and conserved Biodiversity can absorb the carbon dioxide produced by the industries and give us fresh load of Oxygen.  Formation of Wind Breaks and Shelter Belts protect from the tidal disasters and sand drifting.  They check soil erosion along with wind erosion, protect man, matters, and livestock from hot and cold winds, and also provide them habitat.  Mangroves serve as a breeding ground for aquatic lives. 

Integration of biodiversity and ecosystem paves a way and gives new hope.  It is effective economically, socially and culturally where man, flora, fauna and the whole BIOTA can live sustainably and benefit each other and contribute to the conservation of Biodiversity.  Restoring Biodiversity results in gradually reducing the negative impacts created by  man-made disasters like Pollution.  Increasing the tree cover increases the fertility of the land as soil erosion is curbed, stabilizes the slopes and regulates the water flow reducing the run-off and provides shelter to few lives.  Once this network is extended the biodiversity gradually builds on. 

Organic Farming’s contribution to Biodiversity:
For  mankind to survive, FOOD is a pre-requisite.  Indians are proud about of their intelligence and the frontiers of science have had many Indians contributing.  Even if we fly high, do a space walk and make an expedition to Antarctica, we cannot forget about the fact of sitting down to EAT.  Hunger is the most serious problem facing humanity, more than corruption and poverty. 

Insects on an Okra flower

When people are fed properly, the ethics and morale of the society increases and standard of living is in good trend.  The policy makers are more concerned about the industries and IT sectors for its economic development, forgetting that ignoring farming and development of agricultural livelihood would end up in India depending on  FOOD PRODUCING countries for survival.  If agrarian community is least motivated,  the days of dependence on an alien land for all food inputs will force INDIA to days of SLAVERY.  The solution for the situation is encouraging farmers in an Organic Way, through a low cost, eco-friendly, easy and convenient practices.  In the long run, this will help more than 70 percent of the population to live with DIGNITY and in tune with NATURE. 
Organic farming practices when done in a systemic manner, ensure the uninterrupted WEB of LIFE (Food Web).  Interdependency of one organism feeding on the other and the balance results in conserving the BIODIVERSITY.  As a result of the lives conserved at micro level (from microbes, insects) and macro level (rodents, birds, trees) the mankind will get the economic benefits.  The same principle may be applied to the forest ecosystems.  When the small animals and birds are provided opportunity to live and multiply, wild life will be conserved.  Mere killing of rodents may result in the fall of the hawk population (which feed on rodents).  Spraying of pesticides reflect in the fertility of men and immunity of mankind (as mother’s milk is found to have pesticide residue).

Mating Butterflies in an organic field

Sustainable Development:
India is proud of its astronomical feat of launching 104 satellites is a single go.  On the other side, many millions die of hunger, live in poverty and fight to meet their minimal basic needs. The gap between haves and have-nots is getting wider.  Hence the livelihood of farming community is affected.  White collared jobs are considered superior but the irony is, the mean attitude people have towards the ones who till the soil to feed the world.  Ignoring the pain and cost of production of FOOD, the farmer cannot even  fix the price for his farm products!!!.  The cost of all inputs, seeds, fertilizers, pesticides is alarming whereas the cost of farming produce is highly seasonal and not economical. 

Organic Farming paves the way towards sustainable development.  When a farmer decides to turn down all the chemicals and mechanization the input cost gets drastically reduced.  The net return is reduced harvest but of superior quality without polluting nature and harming the biodiversity.  Hence it is time to seek old wine in new bottle - The traditional agriculture in the name of Organic Farming. 

Butterfly on eggplant

Organic farming uses crop rotations and covers crops which help to balance  nutrient supply. Cover crops and composted manure are used to maintain soil organic matter and fertility.  Balanced host/predator relationships were encouraged for pest and disease management without any external inputs.  Organic residues and nutrients produced on the farm are recycled back to the soil with the active participation of Earthworms and soil microbes. Organic farming protects the environment, minimizes soil degradation and erosion, decreases pollution, and optimizes biological productivity. 

Organic Farming is gaining importance to gain back what we lost - A healthy life, a sustainable economy and integrated development.  In this age of globalization, an organic certification helps to reach the global market. The developed countries consume organic foods but sell to developing countries like India, genetically modified seeds, fertilizers and pesticides which they produce.  It is time to get up and make sense of this marketing game.

(Text and photographs by Amina Bibi.  K. Amina Bibi is a Post Graduate in Agriculture with specialization in Plant Breeding and Genetics. She is currently working as Agriculture Officer in Karaikal, Department of Agriculture, Government of Puducherry) 

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