Agri business is on the way

21st January, 2015

In the last week I got a phone call from Mohanakrishnan( name changed) who is an engineering student from Palakkad. I met him 5 years ago when I went to his school to talk on biodiversity and food security. He was in the 11th standard then. Most of the students in that school come from farming families . So the children had a certain kind of understanding of environment , agriculture, food etc although many of them were unaware of the larger agriculture and food policies. They were quite innocent . After my talk we had a long discussion about paddy and other agriculture lands getting converted for other purposes. This student by name Mohana Krishnan got up and said that his father is going to sell their land since they need money. I only told him one thing , it is easy to sell the land which they inherited from their grand parents, but he won’t be able buy such land in future . The price of land is going up like in such a way that ordinary people won’t be able to buy land in Kerala . I requested him to convince his parents . He started calling me once in while, and after the school he joined for engineering ( like any other child in Kerala). Once I just asked him what happened to his land , he said that they did not sell the land. I was happy to hear that.

Last week while he called it was for a specific purpose. He wanted my help in identifying some agriculture institutions where children can study agriculture. I told him about the existence of agriculture universities . I was surprised a bit because these are the times when farmers are leaving agriculture and no body wants to get in to farming as a livelihood . It is also true that students are not interested to join for agriculture and even if they join , they will study MBA and other management courses or do biotechnology so that they need not work in the open field with the poorest illiterate people in this country. So why this enquiry. His answer took me back for a while . He said that they are doing counseling and career guidance for students . Agriculture has great scope , he said. How ? I asked . He said that in future agriculture will be agri-business and companies like Reliance are getting in to agri business in a big way and hence there will be a lot of opportunity for agriculture management people.

I took it only half serious, but in the back of my mind I was little disturbed. I could see this happens also in many ways. But one sees the resistance to such a build up also from many quarters. But now the idea is getting main streamed. Later I could see that one of the leading agriculture magazine brought out a special issue on this –Agriculture needs managers also! The whole issue was about ‘ opportunities for youngsters ‘ and it was really convincing . I can see that a paradigm is being built –High tech agriculture, biotechnology, agriculture management courses, retail chains, safety standards, certification etc etc all leads to this point . Corporates know that there is a big business potential in this. Ordinary people think that they can also make a decent business/ profession out of this . Politicians and many among the decision makers think that this gives a great opportunity to develop agriculture and also contribute more to growth of the country. But what is the truth? What is the ecological cost of this type of growth? What will be its sustainability? Is our country with thousands of years of culture of agriculture , culture of soil and soul moving towards a state where food will be produced without soil-soul interaction? Without a warm human touch? Without sweat?

I know that culture can not be static. It will undergo change , but here what we are trying to do is not to make our culture more stable and evolving, but make culture disappear from the soil so that a society without souls and ethics can run the business without being questioned.
How can we protect and nurture the traditional knowledge related to farming and food for the sake of humanity in this paradigm?

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