All of us know it, but all of us ignore it, we pretend it is a concept, we all blithely say it when the rains fail, and then forget it when we get the first showers. Why am I writing about climate change at 7 AM this morning? Because the impact of this is being felt by us acutely, especially while dealing with vegetable farmers. Their struggle has intensified and our understanding of their struggles is so superficial that most of us have no patience to deal with it. Someone who runs a conventional shop (who stocks a couple of organic items from us) recently asked AS, “The prices of all items should go down now that it has rained.” Well, it isn’t as simple as that. The lack of rains hurt, the wrong kind of rains also hurt. Rains have to come in the right intensity, spread across the right duration at the right time of the year. That is happening less and less as each year goes by.
Rains – not on time, not enough
Since the last couple of years, people have become more sensitive to the need for rains, a couple of droughts taught us the pain. Before that I have met so many urbanites who would complain about the inconvenience of rains, now I don’t hear that as much. However, we haven’t learned that a rain coming is not enough for crops to grow magically and sway in the breeze like we see in some animation films.
We are seeing the difficulty in our vegetable offering, most of us organic retailers are struggling to meet our customer demands, crops wither when the sun gets hot and then they have a spurt of heavy, intense rains and the crops rot. As I write this letter beets and cabbages have rotted in the Conoor fields. Raw banana which is normally a steady crop has failed us today and we are scrambling to see what is left of the Kovakkai crop. Two of our farmers lost a season and are re-sowing everything. In fact, the vegetable crisis is increasing since we began Bio Basics; we experience greater difficulty consistently sourcing vegetables even though we have more farmers from whom we source. All this scares me, really worries me about our future. It is from this concern that my article “eating from trees” emerged ( read here: http://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/food/a-look-at-the-many-vegetables-that-come-from-trees/article18250052.ece .)
Interestingly, our lead farmer pointed out another facet; the demand for organic items spike upwards when the season is about to end or there is a shortage in the conventional market. Then the price difference between organic and conventional markets is minimal. And we are unable to meet the unexpected demand at sometimes. When the vegetables are in plenty, the price difference between conventional and organic increases as the chemical vegetable market beats down the price to “below cost of cultivation” level, which we never do in organic and demand goes down, forcing our farmers to have to sell some in the chemical market. So consistent support from customers is essential for the survival of organic farmers.
Like everyone I also heaved a sigh of relief when the rains came, albeit reluctantly. But I am being taught that it is not enough and I am thinking of uncultivated greens. I think that if this continues every one of us will have to keep a few pots, a kitchen garden if we have to eat safe, healthy, wholesome food. Small gardens can be better protected from vagaries of weather.
On that note, our apologies for the missing items…A bigger apology to the coming generations for the possibly irreversible damage we have caused to nature, for making their life more risky and perilous and for destroying the basis of our common existence. Hope I will feel better about the whole thing and be recharged by next weekSHARE it! ... and spread the good word!