Saturday, March 05, 2005

Every worm has its day

Feb 23rd:

Having spent most of the previous day traveling, I spent Wednesday at the AID office, again contributing very little but hearing about their weekend camp, which was a huge success. One major issue which will concern AID and other groups working with coastal communities after the tsunami is the implementation of CRZ (Coastal Regulation Zone) rules. According to an internal document circulated by the Special Relief Commissioner to District Collectors, the government has decided to relocate fishing communities beyond 500m from the sea, using 'whatever methods' necessary. But hotels and resorts will be allowed to occupy this space. One does not need too much imagination to foresee what will happen next. During the camp, AID staff and volunteers presented a play on this issue and discussed the likelihood of a tsunami attacking this coast again. They think that enough interest has been generated and new information provided to the volunteers, many of whom requested the team to visit each of their villages and spread this message. The AID office was busy preparing pamphlets about the issue and distributing them directly or through other groups such as NESA.

In the evening, I met with Dr. Sultan Ismail, a professor of Agriculture and an expert in vermicology. By this time, I'd begun to realize that there are factions in the organic farming community in Tamilnadu. Dr. Ismail may be one person who gets along with almost everyone. He personally was not happy with those he called the 'younger generation' – he thought they were too rigid in their definitions and unaccepting of other people's work. “The need of the hour is to encourage each other's work, not condemn it,” he said. I asked him if he thought organic farming was viable - “Not while the government continues to subsidize fertilizers and genetically modified seeds,” he said. But he was still hopeful that things are changing – at least words like vermicomposting were in people's vocabulary. He works in the Agricultural department at New College and thinks that training students to rediscover the science in our traditional methods of farming was a crucial step in countering the advance of so-called biotechnology.

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