Scientists from India and abroad have repeatedly acknowledged the growing organic carbon deficiency in our soil over the last few decades. Yet, unlike all the other macro and micro nutrient fertiliser subsidies and promotions, organic carbon has been simply ignored. When urea was initially introduced during Green Revolution, our soils were already rich in carbon. This led to the production boom.

But as time passed, farmers stopped traditional practices of replenishing soil with carbon, which led to a reduction in humus -- the organic layer that absorbs moisture from atmosphere to feed plants, also plays host to beneficial bacteria and enzymes that help plants absorb other nutrients. The current skewed chemical paradigm has been plaguing farmers with a number of issues from increased requirement for water, soil erosion, and reduced resistance to pests and diseases among others. 

The Union Cabinet, chaired by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi 1 recently gave its approval for a Policy on the Promotion of City Compost. The idea is to convert the segregated wet waste generated in the city into nutritious compost and return the nutrients to the farm fields. It’s an appreciative effort as it will significantly help in rebuilding soil health. Such endeavours in the past have failed due to lax implementation as the fertiliser distributors were asked to provide compost to farmers based on availability, but no mechanism was put in place to ensure its actual availability. This new move, as it can be inferred from looking at media stories, can be seen as the first proactive step to build infrastructure for its production and distribution by providing a support of Rs. 1500/MT towards the market development assistance of city compost. 

We, at Greenpeace, have been monitoring such systems using city compost for farming for a while now. There is a growing acknowledgement that city compost can play a significant role in soil health improvement and thereby reduce significantly the use of agrochemicals such as pesticides and chemical fertilizers. This addresses the issue of food safety as it builds a symbiotic relationship where consumers carefully segregates and composts the leftover food and organic matter, provides it to the farmers who build healthier soils moving away from chemical inputs and return safer food back to the consumers. This will also help agriculture become more climate-resilient to droughts and floods, avoiding devastating crop losses. A stable production on the other hand will benefit consumers by ensuring that they don’t face steep food prices during such catastrophes.

Fixing the agricultural system as a whole by starting with the rebuilding of soil health is the only sustainable way for the future. And I hope together we can drive this policy to its logical conclusion of ecological agriculture and safer environment.