by By Hassan M Kamal – mid-day, 17 December 2014
American couple — Chris and Marilyn Kennedy — have been travelling all over India with a microscope, to create awareness about natural methods of farming. Now, they are in Mumbai to elaborate on how city dwellers can promote natural farming methods by just asking questions about the source of their food
“The next time you buy vegetables, pause to ask your vendor of its origins. Who is the supplier? Do they use fertilisers or pesticides? What are those fertilisers and pesticides? Also, is it organic?” reminds Chris Kennedy, founder of the US-based non-profit organisation, The Hummingbird Project.
Why, we ask. “It’s simple logic: if you put something in your system, be sure it’s safe. And, we all know how harmful fertilisers and pesticides are,” warns Kennedy, a Cleveland-based school teacher, who along with his biologist wife Marilyn McHugh, will be conducting a workshop on the importance of living soil, preserving local seeds and how city dwellers could help in preserving the natural ecosystem.
As you sow
The couple has been travelling across India since August this year (they come every year in August and return before Christmas) — to farms in Varanasi and Lucknow, Dehradun, Nagpur and across Chhattisgarh, where they have just helped a local farmer to upgrade his facility. “We travel with a microscope around the world, and make farmers aware of living organisms in the soil and their benefits. When we find a farmer who is keen to learn more, we teach him how to make the most of living soil, and how to preserve local seeds and their benefits,” he says.
But why study soil? “The soil underground is home to an entire ecosystem of life, as diverse and complex as the life above ground. Most of this life is microscopic, made up of bacteria, fungi, protozoa and more, but also insects and earthworms. It is important that farmers understand this ‘living soil’ because it is the way Mother Nature has evolved to feed, grow and protect plants,” he elaborates. Chris adds that as in the forest, without man-made chemical fertilisers and pesticides, microbes provide, store and cycle all nutrients that a plant needs to grow. These nutrients are passed on to plants and their by-products that we consume. “However, over-reliance on chemicals, fertilisers and factory-produced seeds, is destroying this natural ecosystem, and putting the lives of those who consume it and as those who produce at risk,” he warns.
Chris reveals that the Mumbai workshop is their first attempt to reach out directly to farm consumers in an Indian city and to create awareness about natural methods of farming. “Being at the end of the farming chain, city dwellers can do more than just purchase whatever is made available to them. If consumers begin to ask about the source and methods used to produce food, sellers will be forced to procure more details from their distributors, who in turn will be required to keep an eye on the methods used by farmers. This may result in a positive change in farming. Besides, they can always take to urban farming and grow vegetables at home,” he summarises.
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