Reviving traditional ideas for sustainable agriculture

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Dr Ghazanfar Ali Khan and Dr Babar Shahbaz

VERY MUCH peculiar and pinching fact has come on the scenario that we are mostly entrapped within a sphere that innovators (the people who first of all adopt the innovation) are the best categories of farmers in the perspective of adoption of agricultural innovations and the laggards (who are resistant to change) are criticized. There remains a paradoxical and perplex situation to decide whether there is any place for the people having traditional ideas. These people do not want to adopt the change at once and try to thrash out the new things with the strength of their experience. However, they have to face the music in this context. Young people, some times, are having a mania of superiority complex and look down upon the old people by giving such comments; “You know nothing; we have the real solutions of your predicaments.” Can we move on the road of sustainable agriculture with this obsession? It is a very crucial question with somewhat still obscure answer.

Change just for sake of change may not be desirable; only sustainable change is desirable. We are becoming habitual of seeking new things by overlooking the real pros and cons thereof. Especially in agriculture, an innovation is considered as beneficial for the target client (farmers). It is a common saying; all that glitters is not gold. Situation in real perspective should be analyzed while looking at the innovation with all its facets. It is the irony of fate that we have given all the privilege to the scientific knowledge and we do not bother about the worth of indigenous or traditional knowledge. Some scholars like Stan Burkey and Robert Chamber have highlighted the value of indigenous knowledge and traditional ideas for sustainability. Stan Burkey stressed upon that we should learn from the rural people in the realm of conducive environment of mutual respect, love and affection. It will substantially pave the way for the destination of sustainability.

We appreciate the innovators and early adopter who immediately adopt the new things while we criticize the laggards. It may be interesting to observe that the laggards might have also possessing some sound grounds for adopting the things at last when they become fully convinced about the utility. We have spoiled our precious natural resources by injecting poisons in various forms like over use of artificial fertilizers, blind use of pesticides and industrial wastes, and now genetically modified seeds etc. Although we are attaining more production yet we are going on increase the pollution and health hazards as well and the sustainability remains as question mark. It seems indispensable to revisit our strategies to improve not only production but also develop nature friendly agriculture. It may be possible that we revert ourselves towards consulting the experience of elders who are so called conventional, orthodox and dogmatic. Now it is the time to realize this fact that we have to get benefits from the traditional assets i.e. experienced old farmers. One reason for this paradigm shift may be explained with an example; our forefathers had constructed such type of buildings and houses with proper ventilation and light for best utilization of natural resources (sunlight, air). On the other hand we are now making such types of buildings in which more energy is required for getting illumination, ventilation, cooling and warmth.

Global demand of organic farming ascertains the importance of those practices which are closer to nature. Various natural patterns like Farm Yard Manure (FYM), green manuring, non-polluted irrigation water, biological pest control contribute towards health and better environment. We have to make a transition about stereotype if we want to develop our agriculture in a better and sustainable fashion. Thus consideration of laggards worth looks logical because they are rationale people and thinker.

Taking a step towards a progressive change with a foundation of previous (traditional) knowledge can be more reliable. The situation becomes more crucial when we thrash out all the traditional methods and blindly believe in the new one. The matter over here is not the denial of either of the two. The point of discussion is that both old and the new one should be given a due weightage in the right perspective. Total avoidance of traditional knowledge is not the judicious way of progress. Giving the devil his due, we are not advocating that we should remain static in sense of transition; however it must be under consideration that ignoring the knowledge only account of its oldness is not logical.

Organic farming is a crystal clear example on the scene that the natural and purified way of growing crops is better than the poisoned and polluted way. Keeping pace with the new technology seems necessary but sometimes we have to work on in such a way that a balance and equity between the new and old one should be there. Superficially, here a skepticism arises, if acceptance of new is there then rejection of the older one is obvious. It seems rather difficult to keep both the formats simultaneously. But the real solution is that we can accept the new ideas but we have to decide its aspects/proportion of acceptance and we can keep the old idea to extent which is beneficial.

The new generation has entered into a fantasy world that we have gained more by indulging ourselves in modernization and getting rid of the traditional modalities of our ancestors. If we look at the scenario of gain and loss, the picture is gloomy in the context of gain while loss seems more prominent. Blindly hankering after the so-called development, we have deteriorated our ecosystem, polluted our environment, poisoned our food commodities, etc.

The authors are the faculty members at the Institute of Agri. Extension and Rural Development, University of Agriculture Faisalabad. Via Pakistan Observer


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