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Here’s Why We Need To Switch To Organic Farming

More from Mahitha Kasireddi

By Mahitha Kasireddi:

Organic farming appealed to me because it involved searching for and discovering nature’s pathways, as opposed to the formulaic approach of chemical farming. The appeal of organic farming is boundless; this mountain has no top, this river has no end.
― Eliot Coleman, The New Organic Grower: A Master’s Manual of Tools and Techniques for the Home and Market Gardener

map-in-grass2

India is advancing towards becoming a diabetic country. This development is due to lot of chemicals making their way to our plates owing to the growing super market culture. The vegetables and fruits we buy from the supermarkets are the ones treated with chemicals to preserve the fresh look. Irrespective of the number of authentication labels on the product, customers could be easily cheated. With growing consciousness about health these days, people are eager to seek better sources for nutritious food. It is a far fetched dream to be able to use fresh vegetables directly from farm without any additives or preservatives sprinkled on them. Also, one need not be surprised on learning that we are prone to another food crises in the coming years because the present farming methods using subsidized fertilizers and chemicals is not going to provide us with sustainable amount of grain to support the 1.2 billion population.

The solution to save posterity from such pathetic crisis is to shift to organic farming. The old traditional methods need to gain revival once again for common good and sustainability. The biggest catching argument in the country today is the feasibility of organic farming. Hope this essay will help everyone to be convinced why we need to go organic.

Before I begin persuading all to shift to organic food, let us cognize the disadvantages of conventional farming. Shortcuts come with consequences, conventional methods are such. How long can you manipulate nature? Many credits have been attributed to the success of green revolution technologies in India. Past 45 years of agriculture no doubt has made us self sufficient in food grain but we are already facing the upshots. The soil fertility has been eaten away by the fertilizers, pesticides and insecticides. Farmers are not educated enough and often tend to administer high doses of pesticides which effect the crop and the strength of the soil.

After a lot of vitriolic treatment to the food, normal washing under the tap is not going to help get rid of the chemicals. For instance, 25% of Punjab is suffering from diabetes. Upon investigation of the reason for such a trend, it was found that there was a high deficiency of zinc in their diet. This deficiency is attributed to excessive use of fertilizers. Also, excessive use of pesticides can lead to cancer. The use of ammonium nitrate fertilizer also leads to global warming as it emits nitrous oxide, an active green house gas which is 320 times greater than CO2. The use of organic farming methods can reduce these emissions to considerable scale.

Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh are notorious for high number of farmer suicides by consuming pesticides. The reason for farmers to take such an extreme step is not the rain pattern or crop failure but being trapped in debts due to purchase of costly pesticides. The greed to increase yield drives them to make high purchases in addition to subsidies provided by the government. In order to promote healthy food, the best would be to cut down subsidies but, the apologists in the government bring up a ridiculous vindication that cutting subsidies on fertilizers would inflate food prices. So, to control food inflation subsidies shall continue.

Here is why we should shift to organic farming. In natural farming, the nutrients in the soil that are drawn for agriculture will be restored back in the soil in one form or the other. The food it yields will be rich in proteins and nutrients. Organic farming does not require heavy investments, in case of a crop failure the farmers will not suffer much loss as compared to conventional farming. Crops raised using organic methods do not use much water as the soil structure is not associated with problems such as salinisation or soil degradation. Traditional methods use biological manure as against those in conventional which lead to global warning. Organic management helps to enhance agro- ecosystem health including biodiversity, biological cycles and soil bioactivity which are displaced due to synthetic inputs. Agro-chemicals are produced from non-renewable fossil fuels which will diminish in future and shall cost a lot on our foreign exchange.

The requirement is not only to increase yield but to stabilize production in a sustainable manner. Above all, food security is the main reason for taking to organic cultivation. With the new law passed in order ensure quality in food production, it is not possible to realize this unless we get back to traditional methods. The lucrative benefit that adds to the economy due to organic farming is job creation. It is difficult to maintain an organic farm without the required skill and training. Government can initiate training and provide employment in farm sector as we shift to organic gradually. Organic farming can very well emerge as an art. It is visibly a solution to alleviate poverty at rural level, helping in realizing inclusive growth.

Critics may argue that organic food is costly and the yield per hectare will be low. But, a clever choice of vegetables will promote the health of the family. The affordability and spending patterns of middle class mainly is changing, they do not mind paying more if it is worth that. And the yield will definitely be low for the first 3-5 years by 20-30%. It is not possible to expect a sea of change overnight. The shifting shall take place over years hectare by hectare. Anything natural develops in a phenomenal fashion. It will require observation, vigilance, skill and patience to finally make India sustainable and healthy.

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  1. Raj

    Sorry but I don’t agree with most of the points put forward :

    1) India isn’t exactly becoming a diabetic nation, but it does have a somewhat high prevalence of diabetics. Yes it has the highest diabetic population but that is because it has the world’s second largest population. I believe China ranks second
    Anyway, diabetes is caused due to an individuals genetic propensity to insulin sensitivity but also due to incorrect diet. It is not , as you say because of “chemicals” making their way into our food.The Indian diet is extremely bad with a lot of emphasis on carbohydrates and fats, with less emphasis on fresh vegetables and almost no emphasis on egg/meat. Organic farming won’t solve this issue.

    2) We can “manipulate” nature to our heart’s content and even more. Every form of technology is in fact a manipulation of nature. I am confident that emerging bio-technologies (and other allied technologies) will allow us to expand our food production.

    3) Punjab having diabetes hasn’t much to do with organic or non-organic farming, it has to do with their diets. Also, since pesticides do cause issues, the idea would then be to figure out to make safer pesticides. I agree that many pesticides do cause cancer. But the answer can’t be to do away with them, rather we need to figure out safer ones.

    4) The farmer suicides are happening due to a myriad of reasons, not just because they are using non-organic farming methods. Crop failures etc. used to happen with organic farming methods. Famines were commonplace in India right up till the 60s because of these “organic” farming methods.
    I believe we need a scientific and large-scale approach to farming through corporate farming. Not only will large enterprises bring much more technology and techniques to bear but also spread the risk of crop failures across different business units

    5) The points you raise for organic farming are only partly true. The biggest drawback is that their yield per acre is far lower. So that means, we have to bring more and more land under cultivation , resulting in a huge destruction to ecosystems and biodiversity. Agriculture is one of the biggest destroyers of rain-forests around the world
    Also “job” creation by itself isn’t a beneficial goal, instead care must be taken to see if it productive or not. Many of the farmers are farming lands which should not be farmed. I feel we need to move a lot of people out of agriculture and into more productive areas.
    I think it was the Communist Party of India which tried to ban computers in the 70s because it would take away 1000s of clerical jobs. I do not wish to be taken down that road again.

    I sincerely hope that instead of going back a 1000 years and destroying whatever eco-systems we have left, let us instead increase the per acre yield through the means of technology.

  2. Kavya Jha

    A really interesting read with regards to this is ‘One Straw Revolution’ by Masanobu Fukuoka. Mr. Fukuoka started off as an agricultural scientist in Japan and at some point decided to quit his job and revert to organic farming entirely. His methods are simple yet inspiring, as is the book. He also lets students and visitors train under him by working on the farm he’s built over the years. It would be a great opportunity to learn from him too.

  3. Kavya Jha

    With regards to the gentleman above, please do go through the book once. It might surprise you how much potential organic farming actually has in terms of creating more food security within the country and also increased yield per hectare. So to some of the point you made, I shall make some of my own.
    1. The yield per acre becomes low nowadays, since farmlands have been made dependent on pesticides and fertilisers. The chances of crop failure increase if the farmer doesn’t use them, yet this is a by product of the very technology used to prevent it. Farmer suicides can mostly be attributed to GM seeds, since the cost is higher and the seeds cannot be reused. Also these were manufactured by companies like Monsanto in the USA, which makes the use of such seeds in India questionable. No prior research into the soil varieties and types of crops native to India were taken into account, the GM seeds were brought in without any testing. Also GM seeds cultivation require a set of pesticides and insecticides to actually get that high a yield, which in turn increases the cost for farmers, which leads to money borrowing, which ultimately become the cause for suicide some years later.
    2. I do agree every form of technology is a manipulation of nature. So essentially, we tinker around and mess up a whole of things too. Of course there’s no real point where we can say something is good or bad. It depends on the context, and our own viewpoints. I do not know about the rest, but with regards to agriculture, there are some points of though. Plants survived long before we did. If you look at natural terrains, there’s such an amazing balance with a variety of flora and fauna, food generation and disposal within the system. Nothing goes to waste in nature. So maybe, instead of considering us so high and mighty with the science and technology we’ve come up with during the past two centuries, we could also look at nature for inspiration and work towards a more balanced way of thought. (Nothing wrong with technology, just saying it may not be a solution to anything and everything in the world.)
    3. Now to our diets. No cuisine is really all that unhealthy, except maybe the fast food chain (McD’s, Dominoes, KFC etc) culture that’s come into being with the advent of globalisation. Indian diet has a lot of carbs and fat because it was essentially a land of cultivation, where the calories were burnt up whilst working on the fields. Now the so called educated people having shifted out of such occupations should surely be smart enough to watch what they are eating. Don’t blame the cuisine, it’s only natural Indian food will come from the crops and spices that grow in India.

    1. MAHITHA_K

      Thank you, Kavya for the comment 🙂

    2. Raj

      1) You have raised valid points against genetically-modified seeds. They need to be addressed by developing the seeds that India needs. That can be done by an Indian firm or even Monsanto. After all, Monsanto stands to lose heavily if farmers junk it’s seeds if they don’t work in India

      2) Nature is very cruel and unforgiving. Without technology, our global population would be in the millions. In order to achieve this balance, we would need to give up agriculture altogether (i.e. let plants and animals grow and evolve how they wish. Who are we to force them to grow in such and such ways?)
      That would unfortunately led to genocide. There are extreme environmentalist groups that advocate such an idea.

      3) I do blame the cuisine since our regular Indian food is now completely inappropriate for our industrial/post-industrial lifestyles.
      And why blame the corporate fast food chains? They have among the highest hygiene standards in the world and are responsible enough to give accurate calorie infomation . Why not blame the mithaiwala who fries samosas and makes barfis? What are these culinary abominations? Refined carbs with sugar and fat! Where is the protein and the fibre? Any day KFC’s fried chicken is far healthier than samosas and barfis!

    3. Kavya Jha

      1) Monsanto. I hope that godforsaken company doesn’t interfere anymore with India. They’ve already caused enough damage. But yes there may be possibilities with GM seeds. I just don’t see it at this point of time.

      2) Nature isn’t cruel and unforgiving specifically. It can be, definitely. But look at the human race as well. Haven’t we created quite a ruckus ourselves? And all in a time period which is like a speck in Earth’s history. All this talk about sustainability itself proves it. Earlier there wasn’t a need, since our habits were such that it didn’t disrupt things on the planet. And anyway, the point here isn’t to make who’s cruel and who isn’t. We are part of nature too. Any damage we do to it, comes back to us. And I never said we have to give up on one thing entirely. The idea is to keep a balance between the two. If you create a product, see how it’s used, study how it affects the places and people it involves, find a way to give back some of what is taken as a resource. This applies to anything one does actually. I’m not part of some extremist environmentalist group, though I may be biased in my viewpoints. I could call you a fanatic technologist (probably not a word, but I hope you get the drift). But I will not do so since you are trying to make your own point. Even I think there’s a way forward from here and I’m not trying to say one should revert to their primate existence entirely. It just might not have all the answers in technology.

      3) Another suggestion for you. Watch Supersize Me. It’s quite educative about fast food chains, specifically McD’s. Most of the food there is actually quite old, since there are packed elsewhere and stored in cold storage. An average burger would be about a week old in cold. And not to mention, all the colouring and flavouring substances, preservatives for quality and colour. The general snacks of samosas and pakodas may be unhealthy but at least they aren’t chemical ridden. I grew up from a small town, so my taste buds haven’t quite acclimatised to the hoo-hah finger licking goodness of KFC. I do like food from all these unhealthy joints too every once in a while, but I do not agree that they are a healthier alternative to Indian snacks. Read up a bit first.
      Also, the post industrial revolution life you are talking about applies to a much smaller fraction of society. I’ve grown up eating samosas all my life, and I’m pretty healthy and happy. My grandmother has been eating unhealthy Indian snacks all her life and her cholesterol levels maybe better than the average set of teens. My grandad is diabetic, yes, but that is hereditary. Yet he too indulges in such unhealthy habits and is more energetic than me, I’d say. Ultimately what you eat is upto you man, but at least you know the ingredients while eating your normal chats and samosas. Half the times the chemicals used in fast food chains are so complicated, they just resort to saying ‘May contain some artificial and nature identical substances’. I don’t know about you but, panipuri and chatpata chaat still sounds more appetizing to me than monosodium glutamate or zodicarbonamide.

      And again, the ebook link to the book I’d mentioned as a possible read. I’m sure this would be more helpful, since it comes from an agriculture scientist turned farmer. Not trying to change your viewpoint, but you could be sensitised to someone else’s maybe. And anyway,
      http://www.arvindguptatoys.com/arvindgupta/onestraw.pdf

    4. Raj

      1) I’m no fan of Monsanto either, but I do believe GM crops are an important tool in modern agriculture. If anyone, whether private or public , comes up with better seeds, they should be used. Stopping research or putting unnecessary restrictions should not be done

      2) No I wasn’t calling you an extreme environmentalist, just that I was reading up on some groups that want the “voluntary” extinction of our species.
      Now regarding not finding all answers through technology, what other methods are there? I mean every improvement that our species has made including cross-breeding, building canals etc. and agriculture itself, are all forms of technology. Where do we draw the line at a “balanced” human population. Some groups say it should be 500 million. I believe that such limits shouldn’t be there at all. Yes our planet may get very crowded a few millennia from now but hopefully we should have started colonizing other planets too.

      3) I have watched Supersize Me, Food Inc. and many such documentaries. I have “read up” quite a lot too. Yes, there are many chemicals used by such large fast food joints but they are heavily tested and are not harmful. Their hygiene standards are far higher than the roadside shops that sell Indian snacks. And a lot of these small sweet shops heavily use substandard food coloring, which are often dyes used in the textile industry! What gives our desi jilebi’s or barfis their color? If we are blaming KFC, McD for their chemicals , how about we blame these mithaiwalas too?
      I don’t believe that fast food should replace regular foods but the scare tactics used by many groups against corporate fast food joints (and conveniently ignoring the local ones ) are unjustified

      Now coming to crazy chemical names, monosodium glutamate is a naturally occurring sodium salt of glutamic acid. Azodicarbonamide though may sound formidable decomposes into biurea which is quite stable at cooking temperatures. The inhalation of azodicarbonamide does have some harmful effects but eating it in bread doesn’t

      Now taking pani puri, to begin with you have the “pani” which is a suspension with dihydrogen monoxide(which is popular cooking medium but also is the cause of 1000s of deaths due to excessive inhalation) with different chemicals like sodium chloride(salt), 8-Methyl-N-vanillyl-trans-6-nonenamide (chilli powder), 2-isopropyl-5-methylcyclohexanol(pudina) and so on.
      The “puri” is made from polysaccharides containing amylose and amylopectin fried in the esters of octadecanoic acid and glcyerol.
      Bet that doesn’t sound very appetizing either!

  4. Kavya Jha

    1. I didn’t say no research should be done. There are possibilities with GM seeds. But there are possibilities with traditional methods of farming too. I just believe both should be taken into account before blindly going in one direction.

    2. You should re-read my second point. I haven’t said something unreasonable, I think. About possibilities with traditional farming, you can look at traditional irrigation methods or cross plantation of seeds (I don’t know the exact term here, but it means putting kharif seeds in the soil before rabbi crops are harvested and vice versa). I’m not a farmer, so I don’t know things the way they do. But there’s a common sensical approach they follow, that works for them. The techniques may vary every 100 metres you venture ahead actually, but they all stem from some sort of logic. And since traditionally, one had only resources offered by nature, they had more knowledge of how nature worked. So they looked at food sufficiency, weed control, enriching the soil, natural manure, groundwater recharge. It was just more holistic and sustainable. Now, we may have to alter some of the things we do if we’re looking at a higher production capacity. But pesticides and GM seeds may not be the clear cut answer to it all. It may also be a certain improvement of techniques. I don’t have all the answers myself, I’m still learning. I lean more towards the natural farming side because it’s less harmful in the long run. Additional additives like pesticides and fertilisers disrupt the balance in certain ways. There are no ‘better chemicals’ which can be introduced without any consequences. However, if one improves farming techniques, we’re looking at a more cohesive system where we ourselves don’t need to interfere so much. At least the technological enhancement hasn’t proven itself to be better at this point. Plus, there’s a certain hype about tradition vs. technology, but actually a true advancement is made when we synthesise the best of both. We shouldn’t have to discard one form of knowledge over the other. It’s almost Fascism 😛
    Also, about colonizing other planets and what not, I think it’s a pretty cool idea. But I think, whatever we do, however much we try to get things under control, we can never get hold of the entire universe. That is humbling, and I choose to stay in awe of nature rather than humans overall. After all, nature created us too. Okay, too much philosophy. Next point.

    3. I do agree with you when you say it’s unjustified to put the blame only on fast food chains. Indian snacks are really unhealthy as well. Point noted. But I also think it’s a difference in our taste palettes. So let’s stop the discussion here on this. You eat KFC, let me enjoy pani puri 😛 For me the hygiene standards don’t seem a big deal, because I’ve grown up eating it all. And I can still safely enjoy panipuris everyday, but one week of burgers upset my stomach. I guess it’s probably what one is used to. Ultimately, eat what you want to or think is right for you.
    Btw, dihydrogen monoxide sounds suspisciously like water 😮 H2O?
    About the MSG, my bad. I do know that, I was just trying to use exaggeration as a tool ;P

    1. Raj

      1) I think we should use whatever works the best. If old technology i.e. traditional methods work, then they should be carried forward. And if newer technologies do well, they too should be used. I’m not in favor of change for the sake of change. We have devices like the wheel which are widely used even today after millenia. But many other bad techniques like using leeches to cure diseases , has been thrown out

      2) Once again, what all you are saying is correct, such methods should be used. After all, what sense does it make to keep the land empty or to grow things against their natural tendency? It’s is tougher and costlier to do so. I am not against these methods.

      I believe that no form of farming is natural! Farming is very unnatural. Who are we to tell which plants/animals should be killed(through destruction of forests) to make way for which plants/animals we want.

      Organic foods is actually a marketing term which basically denotes that the food grown has been made by not using newer and more advanced technologies like artificial fertilizers and pesticides. So basically I could use ground-water recharging and could do crop-rotation like you mentioned, but if I used artificial fertilizers or GM seeds, my food will not qualify as organic anymore. So basically your points can be applied by both organic and non-organic farmers.

      Now coming to less harm, I disagree. Organic methods may on the face of it seem safer but they are much more resource intensive. The biggest destruction organic farming does is the destruction to forests and that too in poor countries. Why? Because forest lands (not necessarily all but especially the ones in plains) are inherently fertile and have some in-built source of irrigation. Otherwise that forest would not have come up. These poor people with limited access to tougher seeds, fertilizers and irrigation, choose to clear forests and plant crops. But you’d not see them doing that to say a barren wasteland in the plateau. But by using hi-tech methods we can bring this land under cultivation (and mind you this is much tougher than simply cutting down forests and planting there) and protect our forests.

      Colonizing other planets will have to be the eventual goal for our species in order to survive. We perhaps won’t get hold of the entire universe, so what? We can always try. That doesn’t mean we can’t “stay in awe” of the universe (not entirely sure that means).
      And regarding “nature” creating us, I don’t think nature had any intent of creating us. Nature is nature, it’s there. We have come about through a series of chemical processes and we are here too. I don’t there is a contest between man vs nature. Nature doesn’t really care about us, it isn’t an ally nor a competitor.

      3) I eat both KFC and pani puri (outside and at home too), but I worry much more while eating pani puri outside because of the hygiene and food quality standards than KFC. And I don’t eat either in excess. Pani puri is full of salt and spices and KFC is quite fatty (and also has salts and preservatives). But this isn’t really a fair comparison since you are comparing processed with fresh food.
      You are seeing this from an Indian point-of-view. If you go to southern USA, you will find that most fried chicken is made fresh from farm-bred chicken without the need of preservatives. And burgers are the staple food of north Europeans who eat home-made burgers and sandwiches daily. It’s just that we in India get to eat those foods in their processed form whereas we eat pani puri etc. in their fresh form. For a fair comparison, check out the packaged bhel-puri that Haldiram sells. That is full of preservatives and salts, much more than what a fresh bhel puri wala sells
      While I compliment KFC/McD for their higher hygiene standards, I am not defending them for the heavily processed food they sell. It’s crappy and I myself avoid it if there are fresher and less processed alternatives. But I have seen a tendency among Indians to glorify roadside indian fast foods against corporate western fast foods. I don’t think that’s correct. Both are unhealthy but 1 is more hygienic than the other.

      Good to see you did your chemistry subjects well 🙂 Regarding exaggeration, a lot of organizations use scare tactics by quoting such chemical names in order to sway people one way or the other. I think that’s wrong and people should have the sense to study what those names actually mean.

  5. Kavya Jha

    1. Yeah exactly. Glad we agree.

    2. Yes farming is unnatural of course. I think though natural farming in general now refers to using stuff like chicken manure and cow dung instead of pesticides. Or at least reducing some chemical intake of the harmful kind. And about that, it’s not necessarily resource intensive if we can work on the basics. The basic stuff isn’t only about the question of whether or not using pesticides, it is more about looking at the relation of crops to soil to insects to animals to weeds to water. Let’s start with irrigation for example. I had an opportunity to research briefly in some areas in Bangalore on water problems faced by them. One has to dig at least a 1000 feet to access groundwater there now, because of the agricultural land around the area uses borewells to draw water on massive scales. The rainfall has gone down drastically in the past few years. Now, one could say here, agriculture is water intensive and some amount of the water shortage can be attributed to that. But the entire system is interconnected. The water problems arise also because of planting some cash crops not native to the land area (Mulberry, eucalyptus). So one solution is of course to dig deeper for groundwater (which is what happens mostly). But that is not sustainable in the long run, so there’s stuff like rainwater harvesting being looked at and subsequent groundwater recharge. Though, since the water level and rainfall have both gone down so much, there’s still another glitch that it might not work. As an alternative here, let’s look at a traditional farming practice. First, the crops, they need to be of different kinds because each plant affects the soil in a different way. So if you just grow eucalyptus in an area for a long time, it is going to make the land barren and waterless. But if you rotate that crop with say a batch of millets, which do not require a lot of water to grow (thereby lessening water use for that cycle), and use the leftover dried grass from its harvest in the next rotation of eucalyptus, you have some amount of green manure to start off as well. Also mixed farming was another form of agriculture, which raised animals on a farm like chickens, ducks, goats, who grow with the field and provide enough manure for plants to grow. Then there is intercropping, you have one main plant growing but you let a smaller crop grow alongside (Spices in a coffee plantation). Of course I’m just using examples, because I’m not that well informed about crop varieties and possible combinations. But I think the essence of natural farming lies in this – finding the right crops to grow in rotation, looking at indirect ways of water recharge by not using a water intensive crop year round, looking at animal plant relations and how to increase yield with that. It is a slow process at times, but I think that’s mostly because so much of agricultural land has already been depleted. But natural farming is about relying on the local know how of things basically, and adapting techniques and systems in accordance with that. Why I have a grouse against technological advancements at times is because it aims at uniformity, and while that has its perks, at some point one also needs to adapt to varied geographic conditions. The bore well system alone might not work in an area, the drip irrigation is pretty cool and adapts from a basic prevalent idea, the sprinkler is not that common here as of now. But maybe looking at traditional systems like Keres, Surangams, water channels in a field might help us rethink the ways of irrigation within our country.

    P.S: What I meant from staying in awe of nature is that I’m impressed by it. It has literally no waste generation, every creature has a purpose, things are so well connected. It just inspires me, like technology inspires you. At some level, engineering might not be different at all from nature’s working.

    3. I’m not going to say much on this, because I’m bored now. I’ve had lots of instances with KFC and Mc D’s when I found a strand of hair stuck in the crisps or a fly in a drink. Also some of my friends happen to work at these packaging places, where the processed food is on a conveyor belt without much protection from the surrounding dust or fumes. So kinda makes me skeptical about it. Also btw, I wasn’t saying fast food chains are unhealthy cuz they are from a foreign cuisine, Haldirams is equally bad. I meant packaged food is preservative ridden and I personally just prefer it fresh. Unhealthy and dirty, they both may be.

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As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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