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Posted at: Jan 5, 2019, 7:27 AM; last updated: Jan 5, 2019, 7:27 AM (IST)

NGO roots for pesticide-free crops

NGO roots for pesticide-free crops
Gunbir Singh shows pesticide- free produce in Ludhiana. Photo: Inderjeet Verma

Minna Zutshi

Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, January 4

Gunbir Singh has a mission – to coax farmers to go natural and enable ecological conservation and sustainable living. We are ingesting deadly toxins through food and water, he said. As president of the Dilbir Foundation, an NGO, he has been motivating farmers to grow pesticide-free food crops.

“Our objective is to support natural farming movement and organise outreach programmes to support farmers,” he said. The task is challenging and there are many problems that need to be addressed.

There is a degree of scepticism that has crept into the buyers’ psyche – the consumers are not sure whether the products sold as “organic” are actually pesticide free.

The foundation provides a platform to organic farmers to sell their crops directly to consumers. “We test the soil as well as the produce. Five samples are collected per acre- one is taken from centre of the field, while four are taken from four corners. We also send the produce to lab to test for residual chemicals,” said Gunbir. The NGO selects five farmers in every village and they become panches to keep a check on use of pesticides in village. Those not adhering to stringent standards are blacklisted. In last six years, as many as 12 farmers have been blacklisted.

During his visits to farms across Punjab, he noticed that around 70 per cent farmers keep a patch of land reserved for their needs – the produce from this pesticide-free patch is set aside for their personal use. This shows that farmers are aware of the detrimental effects of pesticide-laced food. But what they fail to take into account is that water, air and even soil are common. If they poison soil, air and water with pesticides, they cannot remain immune to its negative impact.

The foundation has been running successfully farmers’ market and organic store in Amritsar for last three years. In Ludhiana, organic vegetables market is organised every Friday at Rakh Bagh. “We are certain that it will catch on as more people come to know about it,” said Gunbir. The Dilbir Foundation also works with farmers to encourage them to create value-added products from farm produce.

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