Challenges of grass root rural development in Tamil Nadu

Looking at the adverse effects of pesticide use on health and farmer yields in Erode, Tamil Nadu state in India, the author highlights the needed measures to bridge the gap between the remedies available to the government, NGOs and civil society on one hand, and the sustainable options for the farmers on the other.


By Camille Maubert, 23rd November 2013

India’s outstanding economic development following the Green Revolution (1960s) was characterized by a remarkable increase in agricultural production. In the past decades, India’s crop yield was multiplied by four through the use of enhanced crop varieties, fertilizers, pesticides and other chemicals. However, despite such success on the global scale, concerns are emerging at the micro level regarding the sustainability if intensive agricultural exploitation. The biggest challenge facing farmers is the dramatic decrease in soil fertility. Indeed, after five decades of intense farming, some challenges have become alarmingly recurrent.

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Research Project: Best Before, the London food revolution

In this post, documentary filmmaker Ben Mann brings us his latest work on the current food revolution taking place in London.


By Ben Mann, 27 February, 2012

Best Before is about the current food revolution in London and the reasons why it is happening. Since it is a revolution that few people are aware of, we wanted to draw a picture of what it constitutes of, and how and why it is happening. The 2007/2008 Food Price Crisis pushed an extra 800 million people around the world into chronic hunger, as a result of the price for basic foods drastically increasing. This was so dramatic a shock since many developing countries are net importers of staple crops. Here in the UK we import about 40% of the food we consume[i]. With increasing oil volatility, the food system in London and the UK is vulnerable to increasing prices of basic foods. Food prices are expected to double across the world by 2030[ii], and food prices have already risen 6% in the UK in the last year[iii].

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Research Project – Pune: A (Nearly) Waste-Free City

This post is the tenth in a series sharing findings from a research project Sam Kornstein and Paul Artiuch are working on throughout the month of January. Paul Artiuch and Samuel Kornstein are graduate students at the MIT Sloan School of Management. Throughout the month of January they are in India researching market-oriented approaches to reducing agricultural food waste.

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By Samuel Kornstein and Paul Artiuch

January 26, 2012

Until now, we’ve spent the majority of our time exploring upstream agricultural supply chains – learning about what happens to food between farms and markets, before it reaches end consumers. Unlike many western countries, Indian consumers waste remarkably little food, as a use is found for nearly all left-overs and food scraps. However, this doesn’t mean that there’s no waste, and Pune, a four million person city three hours southeast of Mumbai, is implementing an innovative initiative to change that.

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Research Project: Four Problems with India’s Food Supply Systems

This post is the ninth in a series sharing findings from a research project Sam Kornstein and Paul Artiuch are working on throughout the month of January. Paul Artiuch and Samuel Kornstein are graduate students at the MIT Sloan School of Management. Throughout the month of January they are in India researching market-oriented approaches to reducing agricultural food waste.

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By Samuel Kornstein and Paul Artiuch

January 24, 2012

We’ve spent the past three weeks in India researching agricultural supply chains to see if we could uncover the reasons why an estimated 30-40% of food grown in the country goes to waste. Over this time we’ve had a chance to speak with many stakeholders to gain their perspectives on the issue. Not surprisingly, the landscape that’s emerged is quite complex. At the risk of oversimplifying some of India’s largest agricultural challenges, we’ve outlined four of the main problem areas.

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Research Project: Smaller Markets in Rajasthan

This post is the eighth in a series sharing findings from a research project Sam Kornstein and Paul Artiuch are working on throughout the month of January. Paul Artiuch and Samuel Kornstein are graduate students at the MIT Sloan School of Management. Throughout the month of January they are in India researching market-oriented approaches to reducing agricultural food waste.

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By Samuel Kornstein and Paul Artiuch

January 23, 2012

Earlier this month, we visited Azadpur Mandi, the largest wholesale produce market in Asia. We found that while the marketplace is extraordinarily chaotic, it’s actually quite efficient, and little food goes to waste once it reaches the city. Since then, we’ve spent some time in rural areas, meeting with farmers, commission agents, traders, academics, and start-up companies. It’s become clear that some of the most significant causes of food waste in India include inadequate storage facilities, limited processing capacity, government program inefficiencies, and as well as some economic challenges related to cold storage and capital investment capabilities.

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Research Project: India’s Lack of Food Processing

This post is the seventh in a series sharing findings from a research project Sam Kornstein and Paul Artiuch are working on throughout the month of January. Paul Artiuch and Samuel Kornstein are graduate students at the MIT Sloan School of Management. Throughout the month of January they are in India researching market-oriented approaches to reducing agricultural food waste.

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By Samuel Kornstein and Paul Artiuch

January 21, 2012

Fresh produce, such as fruits and vegetables, generally spoils quickly. As we’ve previously discussed, cold storage is an effective method of extending shelf life. In most cases, however, the cost of such storage is prohibitively expensive in India, stifling investment. Another way to preserve food is to process it into products, including juice, sauce, dried fruit, and jarred/canned vegetables. Processing can extend shelf life from days to years, and in many cases can add value to the product.

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Research Project: India’s Grain Storage Problem

This post is the sixth in a series sharing findings from a research project Sam Kornstein and Paul Artiuch are working on throughout the month of January. Paul Artiuch and Samuel Kornstein are graduate students at the MIT Sloan School of Management. Throughout the month of January they are in India researching market-oriented approaches to reducing agricultural food waste.

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By Samuel Kornstein and Paul Artiuch

January 18, 2012

India is one of the largest wheat producers in the world, with the most recent harvest bringing in over 80 million tons of grain. As we’ve mentioned in previous posts, the government buys a significant portion of each year’s harvest and distributes it to the poor through ration shops. As part of this program, the government also maintains a grain reserve as a food security measure, and provides farmers with purchase guarantees at a minimum support price. As a result, massive stocks of wheat are kept in government storage every year – 17 million tons was held by the program’s agency, the Food Corporation of India, at the beginning of 2011.

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Research Project: The Punjab Potato Party

This post is the fifth in a series sharing findings from a research project Sam Kornstein and Paul Artiuch are working on throughout the month of January. Paul Artiuch and Samuel Kornstein are graduate students at the MIT Sloan School of Management. Throughout the month of January they are in India researching market-oriented approaches to reducing agricultural food waste.

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By Samuel Kornstein and Paul Artiuch

January 16, 2012

As we mentioned in our post on cold storage, this year there’s an excess supply of potatoes in India, and prices have plummeted. After spending a day speaking with professors at the Punjab Agricultural University, we learned that there tends to be a 4-5 year cycle for the prices of certain staple crops such as potatoes.

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Research Project: A Look at India’s Agricultural Chains

This post is the fourth in a series sharing findings from a research project Sam Kornstein and Paul Artiuch are working on throughout the month of January. Paul Artiuch and Samuel Kornstein are graduate students at the MIT Sloan School of Management. Throughout the month of January they are in India researching market-oriented approaches to reducing agricultural food waste.

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By Samuel Kornstein and Paul Artiuch

January 15, 2012

Over the past week, we’ve learned quite a bit about how food gets from farmers’ fields all over India to the plates of the country’s 1.2 billion people. What struck us most is the level of fragmentation across the supply chain, which hinders the country’s ability to plan and quickly make adjustments to the system when necessary. These challenges, coupled with the importance of India’s agricultural sector in feeding the population, have compelled the government to step in and regulate parts of the system. Sometimes this is a good thing – government programs provide food for millions of low-income families – however, these government programs can also be extraordinarily inefficient and wasteful, which we’ll discuss at length in later posts. In the meantime, we thought we’d share a brief overview of how the system works, which will hopefully provide some useful context for subsequent entries.

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Research Project: India’s Cold Storage Capacity

This post is the third in a series sharing findings from a research project Sam Kornstein and Paul Artiuch are working on throughout the month of January. Paul Artiuch and Samuel Kornstein are graduate students at the MIT Sloan School of Management. Throughout the month of January they are in India researching market-oriented approaches to reducing agricultural food waste.

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By Samuel Kornstein and Paul Artiuch

January 14, 2012

Cold storage facilities, essentially refrigerated warehouses, can reduce agricultural price volatility, helping to minimize food waste and increase income for various supply chain stakeholders. The benefits of cold storage are simple: most types of produce have shelf lives ranging from just a few days to a couple weeks when kept at room temperature. Farmers and traders are forced to quickly get their produce to consumers, even if there’s too much supply in the market. This can result in low prices that often don’t even cover the price of production and transport. In the most extreme cases, when the market is flooded with a particular item, it makes more economic sense for farmers to just let certain crops rot in the field, rather than spend the time and money to harvest them.

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Research Project: Delhi’s Azadpur Mandi Vegetable Market

This post is the second in a series sharing findings from a research project Sam Kornstein and Paul Artiuch are working on throughout the month of January. Paul Artiuch and Samuel Kornstein are graduate students at the MIT Sloan School of Management. Throughout the month of January they are in India researching market-oriented approaches to reducing agricultural food waste.

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By Samuel Kornstein and Paul Artiuch

January 10, 2012

Soon after arriving in Delhi, we took a walk over to a local market and spoke with a man who runs the community produce stand. We asked him where he buys his fruits and vegetables. “I take my truck to Azadpur Mandi every day at five in the morning,” he said. “Is that where all of Delhi’s markets get their produce?” we responded. “Just about, except for the government-run shops.” We probed a bit more about seasonality, food waste, and prices, but found that his operation is fairly simple, and nearly nothing gets wasted at the retail level. Even if food becomes damaged someone in the community finds a use for it.

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Research Project: Battling Food Waste in India

This post is the first in a series sharing findings from a research project Sam Kornstein and Paul Artiuch are working on throughout the month of January. Paul Artiuch and Samuel Kornstein are graduate students at the MIT Sloan School of Management. Throughout the month of January they are in India researching market-oriented approaches to reducing agricultural food waste.

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By Samuel Kornstein and Paul Artiuch

January 9, 2012

Last fall, we each participated in the Development Ventures course in MIT’s Media Lab. The objective of the course was to identify ways to leverage for-profit business models to tackle some of the world’s most pressing international development challenges. As we both had an interest in finding ways to reduce or extract value from waste that occurs in the supply chains of many developing countries, we teamed up to think about how we could make an impact. In the process, we learned something staggering: research shows that 20-40% of the food grown in India ends up spoiling before it ever reaches consumers.

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