Recent advances in agricultural technology have helped increase India’s grain production through developments including high-yield seeds for the past five years, Reuters reports. With all this excess food, it would appear that a solution to the Indian hunger problem has been found.
But there’s a big problem — India’s storage facilities have not kept up with the grain’s pace of development. As a result, grain surpluses are now being stored outside, where the chances of rotting drastically increase.
This inefficient system has deadly consequences. Instead of the grain filling the bellies of hungry Indians, it is feeding rodents and insects, growing fungus, and decomposing. Just this year, officials estimate that 6 million tons of India’s grain worth $1.5 billion could become inedible, according to Reuters. This is while 43 percent of children under 5 are underweight, according to UNICEF. Reuters reports that 3,000 children die every day from illnesses related to malnutrition.
Bureaucratic inefficiencies and corruption are what hinder distribution to the hungry. Stories of corruption include distributors basically “cutting” the grain, mixing rotting grain with fresh grain and selling it on the market. Then there is what India’s press is calling the “mother of all scams,” with hundreds of government officials redirecting billions of dollars worth of grain away from the poor and into local and global markets.
Even in 2010, when the Supreme Court directed the government to give the grain to the hungry for free rather than let it rot, state governments ignored the request or only distributed grain with low, subsidized prices to people with ration cards.
While the grain is clearly not feeding hungry Indians, it is also not making the government any money either.
Due in part to “good” monsoons, the surplus’ real impetus is provided by government subsidies to farmers, creating incentive to harvest as many crops as possible, even when the supply outweighs the demand. With the inflated prices the government pays to farmers for the crops, exporting the surplus becomes a problem because of the much lower market value the crops garner in world markets.
According to the same Reuters article, the Indian government pays about $346 per ton. To be competitive in the market, a ton would have to sell for about $260. That $80 difference constitutes a huge loss for a government already running a high fiscal deficit. The crops don’t feed who they should and in the end, actually cost the government billions.
What is Compost ?
Compost is organic material that can be used as a soil amendment or as a medium to grow plants. Mature compost is a stable material with a content called humus that is dark brown or black and has a soil-like, earthy smell. It is created by: combining organic wastes (e.g., yard trimmings, food wastes, manures) in proper ratios into piles, rows, or vessels; adding bulking agents (e.g., wood chips) as necessary to accelerate the breakdown of organic materials; and allowing the finished material to fully stabilize and mature through a curing process.
Natural composting, or biological decomposition, began with the first plants on earth and has been going on ever since. As vegetation falls to the ground, it slowly decays, providing minerals and nutrients needed for plants, animals, and microorganisms. Mature compost, however, includes the production of high temperatures to destroy pathogens and weed seeds that natural decomposition does not destroy.
Benefits of Composting:
- Reduce or eliminate the need for chemical fertilizers.
- Promote higher yields of agricultural crops.
- Facilitate reforestation, wetlands restoration, and habitat revitalization efforts by amending contaminated, compacted, and marginal soils.
- Cost-effectively remediate soils contaminated by hazardous waste.
- Remove solids, oil, grease, and heavy metals from stormwater runoff.
- Avoids Methane and leachate formulation in landfills.
- Capture and destroy 99.6 percent of industrial volatile organic chemicals (VOCs) in contaminated air. See Innovative Uses of Compost: Bioremediation and Pollution Prevention.
- Provide cost savings of at least 50 percent over conventional soil, water, and air pollution remediation technologies, where applicable. See Analysis of Composting as an Environmental Remediation Technology
- Reduces the need for water, fertilizers, and pesticides.
- Serves as a marketable commodity and is a low-cost alternative to standard landfill cover and artificial soil amendments.
- Extends municipal landfill life by diverting organic materials from landfills.
Materials to be used for Composting
Food Waste – More food reaches landfills and incinerators than any other single material in municipal solid waste (MSW). In 2010 alone, more than 34 million tons of food waste was generated, with only three percent diverted from landfills and incinerators for composting. Reducing the amount of food wasted has significant economic, social & environmental benefits.
Yard & Wood Waste – When you throw yard waste away with your trash it is sent to a landfill where it takes up space and produces methane gas, which contributes to global climate change. Burning of yard waste, such as leaves and trimmings, creates air pollution and is a fire hazard. That is why many communities ban or restrict trashing or burning yard waste. Many communities now have drop-off sites or curbside collection programs for yard waste. Or better yet, don’t let your yard trimmings go to “waste” in the first place. so goes for the wood waste doing a home renovation project? Consider donating any unused or recoverable building materials to a charity in your area. You can also purchase recovered wood and recycling wood products. Clearing your land as part of routine maintenance or cleaning up after a storm?
BioSolids – Biosolids are the nutrient-rich organic materials resulting from the treatment of sewage sludge (the name for the solid, semisolid or liquid untreated residue generated during the treatment of domestic sewage in a treatment facility). When treated and processed, sewage sludge becomes biosolids which can be safely recycled and applied as fertilizer to sustainably improve and maintain productive soils and stimulate plant growth.