So far most sustainable agriculture work in India has concentrated on dry lands . The emphasis was on
(a) soil and water conservation to prevent land degradation and loss of productivity
(b) rainwater harvesting and watershed development to convert single cropping lands into double cropping .
But the context of West Bengal (and large parts of Bangladesh) is different. The flat lands of the southern districts are very fertile; there is plenty of ground water and the lands are cultivated throughout the year. This area is the food basket for the whole state of 80 million people . But this agriculture, which is highly chemical intensive , is now facing growing crisis : falling land productivity , loss of control over seeds, massive pesticide related pollution, un-controllable pest-disease attack , rising input prices , uncertain market prices, arsenic in ground water linked to over-withdrawal etc . Farmers are trapped as they don’t seem to have any viable alternatives. Recent one kind of govt. response to this crisis is to push the farmers to “join the global market”. There are very strong evidences worldwide of the pitfalls of such a strategy.
The work done by SWANIRVAR between 1992 and 2011 in such areas has demonstrated in about 100 villages with 10,000 farmers that there are viable alternatives. But it was also seen that it takes a lot of effort and quite a few years to bring in such changes. From 2007 Swanirvar has also started introducing its “successes” in the more vulnerable coastal Sundarbans with encouraging results.