“Changing patterns of warming, rainfall and wind have become major variables in determining the productivity of crop for at least more than a decade now. Farmers are frequently affected by unpredictable climate change along with predicable climate change such as cyclones. In this background, if climate change is not addressed adequately, it could seriously hinder sustainable livelihood development and poverty eradication efforts in Odisha,” says Banshidhar Behera, a farmer by profession who has come to float the message #TowardsBetter at Devi River, Puri.
Undoubtedly, the Covid-19 pandemic has exposed the limitations and vulnerabilities of our existing food systems. It has also highlighted the need for affordable access to safe and nutritious food to be fit, healthy and to boost our immunity against various infections and illnesses. Farmers not only continue to struggle for a fair price, but have to bear the brunt of the broken supply chains as well. The non-availability of markets during the lockdown has shown the fragility and fractures in the system.
“Thus, we believe that future choices should foreground inclusive, holistic and comprehensive systematic changes that make us resilient and responsive to further environmental, economic or health crises of even greater magnitude than Covid-19,” said global non-profit organisation Greenpeace India in a statement.
Now, with activity in the Devi river near Puri, farmers want to grab the government’s attention towards them. Their float message ‘Towards Better’ is a reminder to the government to adopt policies that encourage sustainability. Around 14,000 farmers have signed the petition #TowardsBetter, demanding systemic changes in agriculture.
Last year in December, farmer groups had held a large public meeting to demand a phase-out of chemical fertilisers, appealing to the government to encourage natural farming.
With the support of farmers, Greenpeace India is also creating a space for farmers and consumers to express their solidarity and voice their support for a recovery towards better. Farmers are asking the government for envisaging sustainable farming practices as post-Covid green recovery plans, which improve productivity and maintain a mutually beneficial relationship with the environment.
Meanwhile, farmer groups in Odisha are also preparing green recommendations, which they say will be sent along with petitions to the Niti Aayog.
With regard to the post-Covid recovery plans, the environment group and local communities have asked the government to ensure that all the future policies are in tune with mitigating and addressing climate change issues. These environment enthusiasts are not only looking for green recovery plans in terms of agriculture front, but also for a smooth transition from fossils to renewables.
“Decentralised models of renewable energy and employment with ecology need to be promoted. While planning for the future, we will have to remember that the health of the soil, plants, biodiversity, water bodies, animals, environment and humans is interconnected,” said Ganesh Swain, a member who stood with a #TowardsBetter placard at the site.
“When this pandemic ends, as a society, our future potential will be defined by the choices we make. Covid-19 is an unintended disruption that is leading our societies, now more connected than ever, to relook at the present and reimagine a sustainable and just future for India,” said, Ishteyaque Ahmed, Senior Campaigner at Greenpeace India.
The Indian unit of the global NGO, earlier, has also campaigned for saving the ridley turtles in Odisha.