“It is a crime that is staring us in the face.” Anusha Rizvi, director of the film Peepli Live.

Rizvi said these words at the launch of the Greenpeace report, Of Soils, Subsidies and Survival, in Delhi on February 3, 2011, elaborating on how a mammoth subsidy of Rs 50,000 crore in the name of the Indian farmers goes to the chemical fertilizer industry every year.

living soil report launchShe was elaborating on the irony mentioned in the Greenpeace report that, on one end, the Indian government worries about the degradation of soil and on the other, continues to promote chemical fertilizers. The continuous and extensive use of chemical fertilizers since the Green Revolution has destroyed life in the soil and the complete neglect of ecological fertilization has led to depletion of organic matter in the soil which is vital for maintaining the health of the soil. Her point was that the government’s spending on chemical fertilizers is degrading the country’s soil even though it could be diverted into friendlier agricultural practices which would replenish the soil and improve yields.

“The soil is in very poor health but we have not yet reached the stage where we have lost it completely. Farmers can reclaim their soil by shifting away from chemical fertilizers to ecological fertilization, which will not only fix the problems in their soil but also provide sustained production." Gopikrishna SR, Greenpeace Campaigner.

Gopikrishna says that despite the degradation of the soil by chemical fertilisers, farmers can restore the fertility of their soil by improving their methods of farming. He advocates the use of farmyard manure, green leaf manure, crop rotation with leguminous plants and the use of traditional liquid manures such as Panchagavya, Jeevamrutha and Beejamrutha Amritpaani.

“Biological approaches such as crop residues and biomass; integrating annual crops, perennial trees, animals, strategic production of plant biomass and local botanicals for crop protection have the potential to meet crop nutrients and crop-protection needs in place of chemical fertilizers and pesticides and need to be explored widely.” Dr OP Rupela, international scientist and co-author of the report.

Dr Rupela says that if farmers take up the ecological fertilization way of farming, life in rural India will be transformed. He says that this method of farming will also create livelihood opportunities and increase employment potential in rural areas.

The report, Of Soils, Subsidies and Survival, does not merely point out to the mess in the soil but, importantly, shows the way out of the mess. The strength of the study likes in that it yokes together the traditional knowledge that farmers hold and scientific studies conducted over the decades.