“The physical health of a nation is reflected in the health of our planet: Punching holes in the ozone layer is like drilling holes in our skulls. Destroying the forests is like hacking away our own limbs. Allowing the soil to erode is like ripping off our own skin.” (At the Eleventh Hour)
“About 45 percent of India’s land is degraded, air pollution is increasing in all its cities, it is losing its rare plants and animals more rapidly than before and about one-third of its urban population now lives in polluted slums…” (India’s State of the Environment report 2009)
As in many areas across the world, this traditional farming area is on the cusp of radical change. After years of chemical farming, the land is depleted, impacting the livelihoods and social structure of the tribal people. An urban building boom encourages the stripping of topsoil for brickmaking and unplanned industrialisation threatens further damage to land, forest and culture.
India must change and develop to meet the needs of its growing population. But intensive farming techniques which rely on heavy use of pesticides, fertiliser and large scale irrigation will become increasingly unsustainable as we enter the period of peak oil.
But at the same time there is a vision of hope in the revival of organic mixed farming techniques and tree planting which can restore fertility and abundance with a minimum of intervention. Working with a deep understanding of soil structure and optimal planting for local conditions, the challenge is to spread this knowledge and practice and to generate sustainable, long-term livelihoods in Maharashtra and in other areas right across India.