Sustenance for all or profit for some?

Barah Anaaj is a mixed farming system wherein farmers grow 12 foodgrains on the same piece of land. These 12 crops include ram dana (amaranthus), rajma (kidney bean), ragi (finger millet), mangjeer, green gram, buck wheat, lobia (black eyed pea), horse gram, a traditional soy called math and a few other crops.

Farmers in Uttarakhand explain that the reason their ancestors used to follow this practice is that in case one crop fails due to climatic conditions, the others can be harvested. This would ensure food for family and a farmer will not have to beg others for food. The system also ensured less pests and diseases. It also helped them fight drought. “Ragi is one of the crops that would survive even in harsh hot weather. Even one rainfall is enough for the seed to germinate,” farmers in the area say.

  Shanti Devi  
  “I still remember sowing 12 seeds with my mother. Even in droughts, we had enough food to eat”  
  —Shanti Devi from Panwadhokhan village in Almora  

“I still remember sowing 12 seeds with my mother. Even in droughts, we had enough food to eat,” says 60-year-old Shanti Devi from Panwadhokhan village in Almora district. It was a laborious work and we used to harvest one crop after another as their maturity times were different. After harvesting, the crop was dried in the sun and stored in huge mud utensils. She adds, “Women in our areas are always busy. Our day starts in darkness and ends in darkness. We get up at 4 am, finish household chores and rush to the farms by 7 am. By noon we come back to cook lunch and then winnow, clean and thresh the foodgrains.”

The practice of growing barah anaaj is generally followed in Kharif season because during Rabi season weather is generally cold and temperatures are very low. The seed sowing starts between mid-May and mid-June. Harvesting is done between mid-September and mid-October. 

But the irony is that this system is already on brink of disappearance in the state. The reason is popularisation of mono-farming, the practice of growing a single crop, to boost the income of farmers. The switch is for betterment of farmers according to government officials. But it leaves me in a dilemma. With climate change and uncertainty in weather conditions like erratic rainfall and long drought spells will this mono-culture help farmers? What is more important for Uttarakhand farmers’–sustenance or commercialisation?

While the 12 grain system described here might not have provided farmers with riches beyond what their family needs, it seemed to have provided at least for that. With mono cropping some will get rich, but on the way many would loose their land, migrate to the cities to become laborers or succumb to pesticide fueled infertile lands (as has happened elsewhere in India)…

We have to question – is the TV set for some and poverty for others as opposed to sustenance for all really the way forward?

Making your deodorant

1/4 cup baking soda
1/4 cup arrowroot powder
4 tablespoons unrefined coconut oil
10 drops/shakes grapefruit essential oil
A tin or jar with lid



In a bowl, stir together dry ingredients, then add oils gradually until you like the consistency, mixing with a fork. Store in a closed container at room temp. (If the mixture seems too soft, try refrigerating it for a bit to firm it up.)

To apply, scoop up a bit with your finger, hold it against your skin for a couple seconds so it melts a little, then rub around.


In another win for sodium bicarbonate (baking soda), here is a recipe for deodorant. I’m currently battle-testing it in 40 degrees Delhi summer, and as far as I can smell, feel or see it is absolutely superbly functional. Benefit of essential oils like lemon (which I used) is that I also believe they add extra anti-bacterial properties (sweat smell is in the end bacteria smell).

Not only is this deodorant effective, it’s also dirt cheap (at least in India), doesn’t include any harmful chemicals or metals (most other deodorants even ‘natural’ or ‘sustainable ones’ seem to include various forms of aluminium), shouldn’t be too carcinogenic (like regular deodorant) AND you can get it in any smell you like (just alter the essential oils).

I added some tea tree oil which also means that it’s good for your skin…

Apart from muffins, sodium bicarbonate has provide to have many uses like toilet and bathroom cleaner, pesticide and so on, in fact so many that once I should probably collect a post of all baking soda recipes I’ve collected (including that of chocolate muffins..).

How to improve human-glacier relations (they’re pretty bad)

Ever wondered how to better interact with glaciers?

PS. I love that my new MTNL 3G sim allows me to stream (yes, stream!)
TED talks to my cell. Even our fixed line broadband at work can’t do
that. DS.

A qur’anic take on sustainability

Thanks to Meg Lyons for sharing.

Making no-electricity lightbulbs from plastic bottles

Interesting project! My only question would be if bleach could be replaced by something slightly less harmful? Any chemists around?

Thanks to Madhura for the find.

Who will be the Kraft foods for the emerging middle class? And how must they be different?

The middle class in emerging economies is growing by leaps and bounds. McKinsey has some pretty huge numbers estimating the size of this market.

Furthermore, they quote a study saying that the 1925 market leaders – at the time the European and American middle classes grew like this – were still the leaders at the end of the century.

A huge opportunity for business in other words. However it is also a huge opportunity for a change in the patterns of consumption. It is arguably a large, affluent middle class t puts the largest pressures on for example environment, health care, etc. (the rich are too few to matter). Only if we manage to grow the emerging middle with a different set of behaviors (public transport, less meat, sustainable travel) will this not be a huge threat.

Hopefully the Kraft Foods of the emerging middle will have a completely different set of desirable behaviors to sell.