Saturday 15 October 2011

Rubber Plantation and other Fruit crops

     In the post title “Tripura in the world map of rubber production” some idea and real situation had been narrated. While the Rubber plantation has improved the people economically and helped them to pursue better future in other fields.
    On the opposite side, fruit crops and other valuable forest species have been in declining stage or sidelined due to mass movement for Rubber plantation. Small mammals and simian have no option but infested villages destroying the homestead garden of the people.

Emergence of Rubber plantation

While I feel to mention some of the real facets of changes that Rubber has brought to the state Tripura in ensuing movement of prosperity. Rubber has become the established plantation crop and it is perhaps in increasing trend of expansion.
Prior to 20 years, those surrounding small sloppy hills happen to be fearsome place due to thick canopy of forest.
 For economic sustenance, people started the extraction of forest resources and in the process; forest coverage had been totally cleared. Although some initiatives had been taken by the forest department of Tripura but no much changes could be brought in terms of forest regeneration.
At this juncture, Rubber Board of India and state Tribal Welfare Department had brought out the package for implementation of Rubber scheme thereby improving the socio-economic status of the people.
 Rubber Board under the Ministry of Commerce, Government of India being vigorously advocating the Rubber plantation had successfully taken the chance of receptive mode of the people and implemented their scheme. Consequentially, local people greatly benefited from this approach of the Government.

Disappearance of Fruit crops and other Forest species

Now, what happened is, the hills which were earlier looks to be debilitating forest with thick vegetation of different valuable forest species and small mammals, birds and insect has been replaced with Rubber plantation.
In my experience now even taking a walk inside those Rubber plantations feels me as if I am walking in the deep jungle. Of course, in the day time, it is a pleasure due to ample sheds during the scorching summer but during night time it is simply the darkest.
 But, the valuable forest species and fruit crops like Jackfruit, Mango, Banana and many others local species of fruit crops had been totally forgotten from this area. Simultaneously, different species of fauna had been disappeared from this area and pushed to unknown boundaries.

Voice of the people

Some people used to whisper that Rubber is man made interference to the nature and it is affecting the nature. However; due to lack concrete scientific evidence their mesmerizing opinions are still not weighted. There is also trend that, when economic return is more, people pretend to be nobody rather than somebody.
While I do not know whether rubber releases any toxic gases to the air causing health implication or not but one thing I experienced is, the whole area of nearby villages is stinking and constantly under the exposure of a bad odor that is being emitted from processing of Rubber latex to the marketable dried Rubber sheet.

Emergence of new problems

Another example I set forwards is, in my area where we live there is absolutely no place excepting low lying areas that are not converted under the Rubber plantation. Virtually, every piece of land is converted into Rubber plantation. The effects there are several as few listed here:
·Fruit crops have been sidelined.
·Non-availability of fruit crops in the locality.
·Forest trees and other species have been completely forgotten.
·Shortage of fuel woods.
·Increase of simian pressure on field crops and orchard crops.
The last point I would like to mention here is simian invasion on villages. There are of course, few hills that are preserved by some families for different fruit crops and other forest species but unfortunately due to perennial habitation of monkeys no produce could be harvested.
 This is happening due to decline in forest area and increase of Rubber plantation.
It is the simplest example that I could exemplify how natural imbalance has been created due to our progress.
 My point is that, we have progressed economically, educationally, socially but are we going forwards only to pay heavy dividend later on. This is the most crucial points that should be taken into consideration
     What I feel is, time has come to have some kind of regulation in the form of proper utilization of natural resources keeping in mind the wholesome development of mankind with peaceful co-existence with the nature.

Wednesday 12 October 2011

Agriculture expansion: Confrontation with nature!

In the doorstep of twenty first century where do we stand? In the zenith of advancement! You are the better Judge to give this verdict.

Agriculture Expansion at a Glance:

Take the small example of Agricultural advancement around the world. We have developed high yielding varieties of crops, devised modern cultivation practices, discovered soil nutrient supplement and developed modern pest control measures and so forth.
We grow crops in the same plot of lands repeatedly, utilized water from stream, river and ground water. But, could we remain in the same plot of land? The answer is no, we have to move further.
 It is due to the pressure in terms of population explosion, more production and insatiable profit that has come to place.
We have intruded the forest land, marshy land and community Pasteur land in search of suitable land for more production and expansion. And, now we are in intense search for appropriate sustainable farming.

Confrontation with nature:

We have intruded the unmanned area, we have also altered the very ecosystem of the nature and subsequent results are depletion of water resource, depletion of forest coverage and driving the flora and fauna of the forest to the extinction.
It is where exactly my point of discussion on affecting fragile nature thus confrontation with nature comes. We have disturbed the inland ecosystem by altering the food web of the primary feeder so is primary producer.
We have distressed the natural tiller the earth worms and other soil micro organisms by unscrupulous use of chemical fertilizer and herbicides.
We have polluted water in the stream with chemical residues let alone the industrial affluent which is major case of concern in industrialized nations.
 We have deforested the huge chunk of forest coverage for farming, livestock, logging, road construction and urbanization. In due courses of all, our nature with its fragile ecosystem has been confronted several times.
This confrontation with nature is prominent in forest coverage of the country that is what we have now and then. For instance, the mighty Amazon, the biggest rainforest of the world is always in conflict with man made advances.
 It was estimated that between May, 2000 to August, 2006, Brazil lost l, 50,000 square kilometers of forest area and it is still serious if, record is traced from earlier period. This was mainly attributed due to cattle rearing and agriculture expansion for subsistence farming
This is the picture how our nature has been confronted with to meet the needs of agriculture are and many other human needs.
In India also forest coverage has been depleted quite significantly. According to U.N., F.A.O., in India 23% of land is forested. Of this 22.9% is classified as primary forest.
 It was reported that since1990 to 2010, India lost 224750 hectares yet, in the corresponding period; India gained 7% which is quite positive indication.
However, this minuscule gain in forest coverage may be outdone very comfortably if concerted efforts are not taken with good implementation of legal frame work.
Another anxious picture for India is Silent Valley, the place of hottest bio-diversity due to its flora & fauna.
 This Silent Valley is connected to the mythological character since PANDAVAS. The Government has declared the Silent Valley as national park since then no much intrusion has been reported.
There is report that cannabis is used to be grown in the buffer zone of Silent Valley by Mudugar tribal at the behest of the mafia group. This may affect the splendid nature of Silent Valley according to Wikipedia.
Now the point to be introspected is; the Sahara & Sub-Saharan desert, have we done any positive thing that has come to the use of the humanity?
My understanding is; we love to care the most cared ones but not concern with the sand dunes, oasis in desert, the curse that has affected mankind through the centuries.
Similarly, what happened to the Gobi desert of China and Thar of India? As it is or may be increasing day by day.
 On the contrary, we came out successful to make the green cover to pale color but never mind to take the challenge that has already been challenging the mankind.
Conscious calculations will definitely unrest the mankind and it would cease the sound sleep that is what had been achieved with all these expansion, extension without retention. 

Sunday 9 October 2011

Will Vanilla Vanish

During the year 2000 or so, I had a chance to listen amazing story of vanilla and how it was creating fortune to farmers or adopters. In my visit to one such central nursery, I had eye witnessed the vanilla seedling for the first time.
 The Superintendent of that nursery had given a thorough talk on vanilla cultivation and it economic importance. While I had forgotten all except its economic importance “lakhs rupees is not a matter from the single acre of vanilla cultivation” that’s what I still remember.
In between 2000 to 2011, few years ago vanilla also rocked my native state in north eastern India. But, within a matter of 5 to 6 years on date, there was no news of vanilla cultivation and its economic proliferation.

Vanilla cultivation in India

In India, Kerala the South Indian state and also Nilgiri region of Tamil Nadu could be termed as pioneer in the vanilla cultivation. But, the condition or plight of the cultivators is same or might be same as is evident from the news column of one retired Colonel who used to contribute in “The Week” magazine and I am the avid reader of his column.
Colonel had mentioned his misfortune by taking up the vanilla cultivation investing good sum of hard earned money during the upward trends of vanilla in national and international markets.
In India Vanilla production has been in declining trend due to demand and supply situation in the national and international market. While the main feeder of vanilla is companies associated with ice cream maker and some perfume manufacturer etc but there is slew of demand from such organization or industry too.
According to The Financial Times “Farmers in the south Indian states, especially Kerala, took to vanilla farming after 2000 when prices climbed to record levels mainly due to damage to the crop in Madagascar, the world's largest producer of the commodity, because of hurricanes.
 Vanilla prices soared in 2003-04 to touch Rs 20,000 per kg for cured or processed beans. Later a bumper crop in Madagascar saw Indian prices dropping to less than Rs 600 per kg for processed beans”.

Now,what is vanilla?

Vanillin oil is the product obtained from the dried and cured vanilla bean. The vanillin oil is scented with good flavoring agent derived from the Orchid of genus vanilla (Vanilla planifolia). The compounds found in the vanillin is 4-hydroxy-3-methoxybenzaldehyde which is primarily responsible for the characteristic flavor and smell of vanilla  (wikipedia).
 In addition, there are also several other compounds that is making the natural vanillin a unique product.
This is commonly used in ice-cream for flavoring the ice cream and also aromatizing perfumes and liqueurs. It is also used in culinary and varieties of   sweet dishes, cakes, chocolate, confectionery items and   creams.

Vanilla; Source of origin, distribution and production

Vanilla is native to Mexico however, it is also found in Philippines, Tonga, Turkey, Uganda, Madagaskar, China, Uganda, Indonesia, Comoros, Malawi etc where it is commercially cultivated (Wikipedia).
In the World, Madagascar dominates the market and trade both in terms of production and cultivation and the country is closely followed by Indonesia and Comoros. World production was about 4,500 tons in 2004 and has increased strongly in recent years according to VanillaBiomatrix.

Declining trend of Vanilla in World market

However, there is a declining trend in the world market for natural vanillin oil. It may be due to the slew in production and invasion of synthetic vanilla extracted from lignin a natural polymer found in wood and synthetic vanilla is a byproduct of pulp in papermaking.
However, synthetic vanilla is aggressively competing with the natural vanillin being cheap in price compare to the natural product. VanillaBiomatrix estimates that “The consumption of synthetic vanilla totals 12,000 to 15,000 tons per annum whereas world trade in natural vanilla is only 4,500 tons”.


In my opinion, the reason for declining trend of natural Vanillin could be higher prices and short supply. On the contrary, synthetic vanillin easily available with affordable rates is hugely affecting this on going saga of natural vanillin.
When I was writing this post, I was re-collecting and memorizing the indigo cultivation in India during the period of British which we studied during our school days.
 There were folklore, stories and dramas about the forceful cultivation of indigo in India by the British ruler who intern benefited in the world trade by exporting the indigo produced from the India.
 But there was sudden decline and finally stopped the indigo cultivation in India. Historian says it is not due to the resistance by the Indian farmers to the indigo cultivation but it was due to the discovery of the artificial indigo that had brought this change.
I am worried whether vanilla is trading the same path like Indian indigo or not.