Introduction to Blog

I launched the website and the Blog after having spoken to government officials, political analysts and security experts specializing in South Asian affairs from three continents. The feedback was uniformly consistent. The bottom line is that when Kashmiris are suffering and the world has its own set of priorities, we need to find ways to help each other. We must be realistic, go beyond polemics and demagoguery, and propose innovative ideas that will bring peace, justice and prosperity in all of Jammu and Kashmir.

The author had two reasons to create this blog. First, it was to address the question that was being asked repeatedly, especially, by journalists and other observers in the U.S., U.K., and Canada, inquiring whether the Kashmiri society was concerned about social, cultural and environmental challenges in the valley given that only political upheaval and violence were reported or highlighted by media.

Second, the author has covered the entire spectrum of societal issues and challenges facing Kashmiri people over an 8-year period with the exception of politics given that politics gets all the exposure at the expense of REAL CHALLENGES that will likely result in irreversible degradation in the quality of life and the standard of living for future generations of Kashmiris to come.

The author stopped adding additional material to the Blog once it was felt that most, if not all, concerns, challenges and issues facing the Kashmiri society are cataloged in the Blog. There are over 1900 entries in the Blog and most commentaries include short biographical sketches of authors to bring readers close to the essence of Kashmir. Unfortunately, the 8-year assessment also indicates that neither Kashmiri civil society, nor intellectuals or political leadership have any inclination or enthusiasm in pursuing issues that do not coincide with their vested political agendas. What it means for the future of Kashmiri children and their children is unfathomable. But the evidence is all laid out.

This Blog is a reality check on Kashmir. It is a historical record of how Kashmir lost its way.

Vijay Sazawal, Ph.D.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Introducing the Concept of Organic Farming

A Kashmiri scientist explores the potential for community-supported agriculture based on organic farming

(Rafia Tafazul, 28, was born and raised in Kashmir. Rafia attended St. Joseph's School and received the post graduate degree from the Aligarh Muslim University. Rafia is a nutritionist who has also worked as a dietition and conducts research at the Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology (SKUAST), Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVK) in Kupwara.)

Concept of Organic Farming


Modern agriculture, utilizing large amounts of artificial chemical inputs, monocultures, and intensive farming methods, is a recent phenomenon. Indeed, it is obvious that almost the entire history of agriculture consists of what would be now termed “organic farming”, as in previous centuries there was no technology or will to modify natural food by chemical pesticides, genetic manipulation, etc. There is a need of awareness regarding the production, sale and consumption of organic foods both as a concern for the environment and a concern for human health. Furthermore it reflects an interest in strengthening communities and the relationships within them.

The organic movement will further help to reflect a return to values of handmade quality, accountability, and a refined holistic aesthetic. Due to increased consumer awareness and health consciousness and rapidgrowth of organic food markets nationwide, a concept of organic farming is to be developed in our state too. Our agriculture industry is blooming these days and has to compete with the rest of the nation. And this type of concept will not only result in the popularity of farmer’s markets but will also highlight the value about the use of fresh organic local foods.

Organic foods are produced according to certain production standards. For crops, it means they were grown without the use of conventional pesticides, artificial fertilizers, human waste, or sewage sludge, and that they were processed without ionizing radiation or food additives. For animals, it means they were reared without the routine use of antibiotics and without the use of growth hormones. In most countries, organic produce must not be genetically modified. Historically, organic farms have been relatively small family-run farms— which is why organic food was once only available in small stores or farmers’ markets. However, since the early 1990s organic food has had growth rates of around 20% a year, far ahead of the rest of the food industry, in both developed and developing nations. As of today organic food accounts for 1-2% of food sales worldwide. In the future, growth is expected to range from 10-50% annually depending on the country. At first, organic food consisted mainly of fresh vegetables. Early consumers interested in organic food would look for chemical-free, fresh or minimally processed food. They mostly had to buy directly from growers: “Know your farmer, know your food” was the motto. Personal definitions of what constituted “organic” were developed through firsthand experience: by talking to farmers, seeing farm conditions, and farming activities. Small farms grew vegetables (and raised livestock) using organic farming practices, with or without certification, and the individual consumer monitored.

Several surveys and studies have attempted to examine and compare conventional and organic systems of farming. The general consensus across these surveys is that organic farming is less damaging for the following reasons:

- Organic farms do not consume or release synthetic pesticides into the environment — some of which have the potential to harm soil, water and local terrestrial and aquatic wildlife.

- Organic farms are better than conventional farms at sustaining diverse ecosystems, i.e., populations of plants and insects, as well as animals.l When calculated either per unit area or per unit of yield, organic farms use less energy and produce less waste, e.g., waste such as packaging materials for chemicals.

A 2001 study by researchers at Washington State University concluded, under judgment by a panel of tasters, that organic apples were sweeter. Along with taste and sweetness, the textures as well as firmness of the apples were also rated higher than those grownconventionally. These differences are attributed to the greater soil quality resulting from organic farming techniques compared to those of conventional farming. Some studies have shown higher nutrient levels in organic fruit and vegetables compared with conventionally grown products.

However there arises a big problem regarding the certification of the organically grown foods, for this formulation of Government regulations and third-party inspectors need to be looked in for assurance. A “certified organic” label is usually the only way for consumers to know that a food product is “organic”. To be certified organic, products must be grown and manufactured in a manner that adheres to standards set by the country they are sold in. There is also implementation of new approaches for defining and buyingfood. Community-supported agriculture (CSA) is one such approach that cuts out all the middlemen by having consumers partner with local farmers. CSA members pre-purchase “shares” in a season’s harvest, and pick up their weekly portions from distribution sites. Thus, consumers provide direct financing for farms, participate in the risks and rewards of annual growing conditions, and participate with farmers in distribution networks.

CSA is one example of “buying locally,” which is often valued by both the organic food consumer and the producer. Generally speaking, locally-grown seasonal food can be brought to market more quickly than food that has to be transported long distances, and therefore can be better tasting and to some degree more nutritious by virtue of its freshness. Additionally, the act of buying foods that are locally-grown benefits local farmers and other employers. This local food approach is seen as a direct investment in one’s own community and a way to reduce economic dependence. Organic food is also often linked with the fair trade movement, based on the principle that social and environmental sustainability are inextricably interdependent.

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