2018 – Ring in the New Year

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Ring out the old, ring in the new, Ring, happy bells, across the snow. The year is going, let him go; Ring out the false, ring in the true”. Let 2018 be the year to inspire people to good health, good cheer and serenity. It is optimum physical fitness and vigour that can best be described as a precursor to all good things that one can work on to achieve. So let this be the year to bring on well-being, fitness, and inner tranquility that may help us enjoy the best of everything else this year.

HERD Foundation wishes good health to be the focal message for the year ahead. Let us begin the New Year with single mindedness towards making physical fitness a year round target. We can devote ourselves to this end by making good choices through diet, activity, and healthy routines to augment these overarching undertakings that will change our lives for the better.

All you would need to do is to build up reserves of your immense will power to prioritize yourself and your good health above everything else. It is very much possible to do this since the human body is so designed as to respond to health care at any age and at any point in time. Good physical care changes and revs up the body to gain the benefits of healthy eating, exercise, and proper care to make necessary alterations right down to our cells.

Alongside, let mindful serenity become the signature tune for 2018. Read books, enjoy music and at every opportunity relax in Mother Nature’s arms. Enjoy the kind of physical activity that suits you. Enjoy simple strolling down the street. Put away the digital devices for some time and enjoy the company of fellow beings around you. Sing your heart out – whether in the shower or a karaoke.

What you need to in-build inside your psyche is to feel good!  Research suggests that any form of movement or activity of any kind is essential for human well-being. Studies also say that people feel happiest when they are up and about and moving around compared to when they remain seated or remain still. So take up opportunities to get off that chair and move around.

As the year begins resolve to make yourself a better person – physically. Do the simple things that will lay the foundation in place for a rock solid support to your resolve. Here are tips that will help you to promote self-care and good health.

  • Mark out January each year to get a complete profile of your health status. It is important to know where you stand and to get a first-hand account of your medical condition – inside out. New Year is the time to focus on your health. Find the time to do this and maintain your health all year long.
  • Drink more water and less of other kind of drinks. You will feel energized and positive. It is essential to stay hydrated and many of us forget that water is the best drink around. Water levels are critical and staying hydrated will have drastic effects on your overall health.
  • Make it a point to sleep better. Lack of sleep is an underlying reason for health problems. From stress and anxiety to weight gain and low immunity – more problems erupt for lack of proper sleep. Resolve to plan out a strict sleep schedule and stick to it. Eat early dinners. Put away devices. Shut off the TV. Certain bodily functions occur only when the body is asleep that keep our health in good order.
  • Practice good mindful eating habits. Improve your diet patterns and eat healthy foods. Stick to your scheduled hours and eat authentic food. Mindful eating is to learn what to eat when you are hungry, and to know when to stop when you are full.

So let this New Year be the year when you transform yourself to become a new you.

Soil Health

 

SOIL FACTS – AND WHY SOIL IS IMPORTANT

Soil is the network of interacting living organisms within the earth’s surface layer which support life above ground.

The nutritional value of the food we eat is directly related to the health of the soil in which it grows (or what it eats grows).

Management of agricultural soils should consider the structural, biological and mineral health of the soil (not just N, P, K) to produce nutritionally-dense food.

Soil has varying amounts of organic matter (living and dead organisms), minerals, and nutrients.

An average soil sample is 45% minerals, 25%, 25% air, and 5% organic matter (less in degraded soils).

Carbon is a master variable within the soil that controls many processes, such as development of soil structure, water storage and nutrient cycling.

Soil high in organic carbon content enables better rainfall infiltration & retention – providing greater resilience to drought.

Every gram of soil organic carbon can hold up to 8 grams of water.

Soils are vulnerable to carbon loss through degradation, but regenerative land management practices can build soil and restore soil health.

Soil erosion within conventional agricultural practices can occur at rates up to 100 times greater than the rate of natural soil formation.

Natural processes can take more than 500 years to form 2 centimeters of topsoil.

Soil carbon takes three distinct forms: living carbon, labile carbon and fixed carbon.

– Living carbon takes the form of microbes, fungi, plant roots, nematodes, earth worms etc.

– Labile carbon in the soil comprises decomposing (dead) plant and animal material that is in a state of transition.

– Fixed carbon in the soil consists of stable compounds as humates and glomalins.

…Sequestered Carbon comprises the fixed carbon plus the total living biomass.

Soil stores 10% of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions.

Around 95% of our food is directly or indirectly produced on our soils.

Soil microbes have a symbiotic relationship with plants – plants provide sugars to microbes and microbes make nutrients bio-available for plants.

Living organisms in soil ultimately control water infiltration, mineral density and nutrient cycling.

Fungi and bacteria help break down organic matter in the soil and earthworms digest organic matter, recycle nutrients, and make the surface soil richer.

In a handful of fertile soil, there are more individual organisms than the total number of human beings that have ever existed.

Soil is one of the most complex biological materials on our planet.

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Image Courtesy – Google

World Soil Day 2017 – ‘Caring for the Planet starts from the Ground’

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It was only in 2002 that the International Union of Soil Sciences or IUSS adopted a resolution proposing December 5 as World Soil Day to celebrate the importance of soil as a critical component of our natural resources. In truth natural soil is a vital contributor to human well being. Recognizing this fact FAO supports the formal establishment of World Soil Day by creating solidarity for Global Soil Partnership. Since 2012 FAO-GSP has been organizing awareness events for this important day.

HERD Organic Farms is diligent in raising awareness about World Soil Day. Soil is an essential resource and a vital part of our natural environment from which our food is produced. Human beings have survived because it is soil that nourished and nurtured generations. Alongside soil continues to provide living spaces for us humans. Importantly soil is critical in maintaining our essential ecosystem. It regulates water, climate and conserves biodiversity as well as enables carbon sequestration.

It is disheartening that in present times soils continue to be under pressure due to human factors. Increasing population and high demand of land-use for needs other than food cultivation remain two debilitating reasons. Industrialization and urbanization are directly responsible for ruining soils. Additionally 33% of global soils suffer from degradation. This is what brings FAO sponsored Global Soil Partnerships into play in order to have policy makers around the world explore opportunities to embrace sustainable development.

A global community of 60,000 soil scientists has been given the responsibility to generate and communicate soil knowledge for the common good of the world. World Soil Day observes the importance of soil as a critical component of our natural systems or growing food and ensuring biodiversity as well as containing climate change. The need is to promote the regenerative landscape for integrated management of soil, water, vegetation and biodiversity.

HERD Organic Farms supports the need for maintaining healthy soils. It is really very important so that we enable sustainable agricultural production which is ultimately good for the environment and human health. The way things are going now soon soil may be a finite natural resource. We dread the day when it may even become non-renewable. It would do well for us all to remember that soil plays an essential role in our wellbeing.

Climate change and desertification are increasingly degrading soil worldwide. Our own environs are getting affected by power-plants and factories that spew forth pollutants that add to further degradation of soil resources. It is time we worked towards mitigating inappropriate technologies to safeguard soils. Also we need to instill safer agri-management practices to replenish soils. With regard to population pressure we may do well by understanding about the carrying capacity of the land.

Soil organic carbon (SOC) forms the basis of soil health, fertility, and food production. A healthy soil with an ideal amount of SOC (the main component of soil organic matter) can provide optimal plant growing conditions, functional nutrient cycling and effective water infiltration and storage. Agricultural soils are among the planet’s largest reservoirs of carbon and hold potential for expanded carbon sequestration, and thus provide a prospective way of mitigating the increasing atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide.

World Soil Day 2017 therefore focuses on activities with the aim to communicate messages on the importance of soil quality for food security, healthy ecosystems and human well-being. The first ever Global Soil Organic Carbon map (GSOCmap) is being launched on World Soil Day 2017! The GSOC map is not just a map! It is also a comprehensive process that supports the development and empowerment of national capacities to build their national soil information systems. Please click on the link to open the GSOCmap web application:

http://www.fao.org/world-soil-day/worldwide-events/en/

Prepare for the Season of Cough & Cold

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Image Courtesy Google

The winter season is upon us. Already many of us are walking about with sore throats and runny noses. Despite taking full care to avoid the chills we end up feeling cold, frazzled and feverish. The cold and flu season has finally arrived. And even as we find relief in hot ginger tea or comforting soups we just want to lie down and snuggle up inside warm blankets.

The cold air mixed with dust and other pollutants that keeps circulating outdoors is the main cause of our maladies and the reason why we feel so miserable. It would therefore be good if one takes due care and learns how best to avoid catching infections. Preparing ahead will do us a world of good. If we take steps to reduce risk of being sick we stand a better chance of staying fit. Nobody likes wasting days in bed.

Prevention as they say is better than cure. It is best to primarily avoid getting sick and a flu shot is your best bet at staying healthy. But in case you catch a cold then it may be a good idea to prepare a survival kit well in advance so as to wrestle with the viruses when they attack. It is recommended that maintaining a healthy routine is fundamental to staying fit and well.

Nothing like restful sleep at night for a good 7-8 hours to wake up early morning absolutely refreshed. Findings of a minor study done eight years back suggest that people getting less than seven hours of sleep were three times more likely to catch a cold than those who got at least eight hours. So sleep well and half your winter troubles will take care of themselves.

Colds and flu are spread through droplets in sneezes and coughs which means anyone within a three-foot radius is at risk for contracting it! But flu can also live on hard surfaces for 24 hours. Remember to keep washing your hands all the time as it is still the best method of protection. So every time you come in make sure you wash your hands with water and soap. Also make it a habit to keep all surfaces indoors clean by regular dusting. This will reduce the spread of flu microbes around the household or the workplace. This is crucial especially for people who can’t afford to be sick – moms and caregivers with family responsibilities, and dads and breadwinners who can’t skip their jobs.

The best thing to do is to keep handy a cold and flu survival kit early on. It would be great to put together necessary items sooner than later so that you are well prepared before the season catches you unawares. Colds and coughs are contagious illnesses and you can feel the uneasy signs – itchy throats, watery eyes and moist nasal cavities prior to it hitting you head on. So before the fever breaks get this together so you don’t have to step out when you are really sick.

  • Anti-fever medicines
  • Nasal drops
  • Cold and sinus infection medicines
  • Cough drops or syrup
  • Antiviral treatment remedies

It’s a good idea to have other essential things like a thermometer, paper tissues, cold compresses, or a hot water bottle and so on. Natural honey is great for reducing throat irritation. Keep yourself well hydrated with plentiful fluids – water, herbal teas, juices and soups. When in bed you could always complete your reading so get a good book that will keep your mind away from your sickness. Or you could indulge yourself with binge watching TV. But make sure you sleep well and long at night.

The Changing Interview Process

There are interesting changes happening within HERD HR unit that is looking to adopt more efficient and quick processes to being more techno-savvy in its working. From processing and filing resumes efficiently to going online through Skype and Facetime to interview prospective candidates – the team is taking on exciting options. They are also exploring all kinds of technical opportunities that may best assist in sourcing employees with the required skills to be able to collate highly effective business teams.

It is management at the top that is at the heart for bringing about these futuristic trends and transformations. Wanting more efficient methods with the idea to do away with traditional interview techniques that focused too much on factors that allowed for delays and postponements, the new-age techniques help in identifying tech friendly and tech-users required in today’s increasingly digital world.

Online interviews are now the staple of many tech-savvy recruiters. Besides saving time, money and resources on personal interviews they allow for instant real-world feel and conditions without the hassle of arranging a formal face to face discussion.  It seems okay to do away with the rigors of regular interviews and adopt the perceivable superficiality of online interviews. One of the best things to happen is that there is a lot less stress for interviewees and the digital barrier makes them free and open to stating their mind

It then appears to be a life-line in this day and age to be able to recruit tech savvy candidates who are more than willing to go through screen interviews to explain their inclinations to be keen for the job profile. For HERD HR it is now increasingly becoming a neat hiring process to scan candidates and be able to adjudge on screen what they do not want to opt for. Yes the declining route certainly becomes easier.

There is naturally many a pitfall between the resume and the real person. And if one is able to discern this while talking online you may gather as much as you would from a face to face consultation and say no to the person without much compunction. While it is true that HERD HR hiring practices have earlier scrutinized qualified candidates and noted them wanting in certain areas as to required credentials, but in online cases it just becomes so much easier to say no.

We are also aware that the digital way may have them in a position to access answers with online information to give all the correct technical responses. Also we may not be able to really comprehend the culture fit talking to a person online. However the team keeps an open mind on this count to be aware that while they look for people who fit in with what the culture is but it is also a good idea to keep ourselves open to new prospects and new perspectives.

With varied business units under the belt, HERD Group of Companies can very well do with a mix and match of talent recruiting. Online talent scouting and interviews are just another convenient process to scout for a good thing if it comes by. The important thing is to ensure that anyone with the requisite skills and matching credentials will get an equal if not quicker shot at being taken in through this hiring process. This will not only be good for the person it will be good for the company and the business too.

The HERD HR team is quite accustomed by now to this recruiting procedure and recruiters too are more open to it than in-person interviews. With advances in modern technology our HR professionals make the process easier and more efficient and fortunately they do not dilute the human element. Video interviews do away with travel costs and allow for scheduling at everyone’s convenience.

The convenience provided by this technology is readily being acknowledged and spurring the team to adopt it more extensively. It is especially great for far flung and even out-station candidates. It allows for visibility into a candidate’s qualifications, presence, and skills in a more convenient atmosphere for the recruiter. In a world of greater connectivity it is just the thing to happen more and more now.

World Diabetes Day 2017

 

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Images – Courtesy Google

November 14, observed as World Diabetes Day is the biggest diabetes awareness campaign that has run since 1991. Initiated by International Diabetes Federation (IDF) and World Health Organization (WHO) it reaches out to a global audience of more than one billion people of over 160 countries. The day is earmarked to respond to concerns about escalating health hazards caused by diabetes.

The UNO declared the day to be noted as the official World Diabetes Day. The date was identified to coincide with the birth anniversary of scientist and Nobel laureate Frederick Banting, the co-discoverer of insulin. A number of awareness activities get organized around the theme identified for a particular year. In 2016 the theme was – Eyes on Diabetes, and this year’s theme is – Women and Diabetes: Our Right to a Healthy Future.

The 2017 World Diabetes Day promotes the significance of inexpensive and equitable access for all women patients to required diabetes medicines, self-management education and information for optimizing diabetes outcomes. The aim is to ensure and strengthen their capacity to prevent type 2 diabetes. The focus is especially on women living with diabetes or those who are likely to be afflicted by the disease.

It appears there are about 199 million women suffering and this figure will escalate to 313 million by 2040. Two out of every five women with diabetes are in reproductive age group, totaling to 60 million women worldwide. Diabetes is the ninth leading cause of death in women globally, causing 2.1 million deaths each year. Women with type 2 diabetes are ten times more likely to suffer coronary heart disease than non-diabetic women. Women with type 1 diabetes are also at risk of early miscarriage or to have babies with malformations.

It is imperative to combat this situation and for this reason medical help needs to pay complete attention to the specific needs of women. Women with diabetes must have access to medication and treatment options to be able to handle the management of the disease. More importantly women with diabetes should have access to pre-conception planning services to reduce risk during pregnancy.

This day also emphasizes the importance of physical exercise for women and girls for them to improve their condition. It lays stress that pregnant women should get screening and every information for achieving positive outcomes for both themselves and their baby. The fact of the matter is that 1 in 7 births are affected by gestational diabetes. Nearly 20.9 million live births to women in 2015 suffered from some form of hyperglycemia in pregnancy.

Approximately half of diabetic women go on to develop type 2 diabetes within five to ten years after delivery. And, half of all cases of hyperglycemia in pregnancy occur in women under the age of 30. Studies indicate that majority of cases of hyperglycemia in pregnancy come from low and middle-income respondents having limited access to maternal care.

There are a number of strategies that need to be taken up on priority basis. Type 2 diabetes prevention strategies have to focus on maternal health and nutrition both before and during pregnancy, as well as infant and early childhood nutrition. Antenatal care visits during pregnancy must take into account early detection of diabetes. Screening for diabetes should be integrated into other maternal health interventions to ensure reduced maternal mortality.

World Diabetes Day is therefore marked to raise awareness and provide information on diabetes; more so if there is a family history of diabetes. In such case one has the genetic disposition to get the disease that may also be triggered by lifestyle conditions. Diagnosis and due diligence manages the disease well. Lifestyle modifications, controlling obesity, balanced diet, regular exercise, adequate sleep, stress management and regular checkups for blood sugar monitoring and intake of medicines allows diabetics to live reasonably healthy lives.

Smog-Apocalypse: Death by Breathing

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It was the London of the 20th century mired in low hanging pollution that infiltrated the foggy city, when the word “smog” was coined for the first time. Today many Indian cities face this lethal condition. And many more will soon face yet more dire consequences if corrective steps are not taken. A known reason for pollution laden air is of course our ever increasing vehicular traffic. Add to this industrial smoke and effluents coming out everywhere. Lace this with construction dust, crop burning smoke and mushrooming thermal power stations. Soon our towns and villages too will be engulfed in this all pervasive smoggy grip.

There was a time when we actually romanticized the morning mist and thought of it as clouds settled on earth! The charming smoky invisible pall was actually cast by water droplets in the air! Sunlight reflecting off this hazy atmosphere was sans pollution. With the land cooling down, air became less able to hold moisture and water condensed in the air. This is the fog that happens in early winter mornings that automatically gets erased when the sun comes out.

There are all kinds of fog. Radiation fog is when temperatures are cold and there are no winds. Valley fog is fog that fills a valley and may last up to days because of the unique topographical layout. Upslope fog happens on hillsides while coastal fog occurs on coastlines. When fog forms ice crystals over surfaces it’s known as freezing fog. But fog turns into nasty haze when pollutants carried by wind currents gather and settle with the fog. This pollution laden hazy fog full of low-lying ozone is what is now commonly known as smog.

Smog is a killer. It makes you cough and burns eyes since it’s made up of ozone. When pollutants like nitrogen oxides react with the sunlight to form ozone then it’s not such a good idea to breathe it. Aside from sore throats and eye irritation it can lead up to chronic asthma. It also severely impacts productivity of agriculture in rural areas. These symptoms are now very common in most Indian towns and cities.

Smog is now a real threat to our social and ecological damage. Air pollution is certainly a very serious issue. In rural areas it is fuel-wood and biomass burning and in urban sites it is adulterated fuel, vehicle emission, traffic congestion and factory smoke that are major sources of pollutants that smog up particulate pollution to gag people. Although India has a low per capita emissions of greenhouse gases but the country as a whole is the third largest polluter after China and USA.

Continued exposure to particulate matter leads to respiratory and cardiovascular diseases such as asthma, bronchitis, lung cancer and heart attacks. Since 2010 studies have been revealing that outdoor air pollution is the fifth-largest killer in India. Around 620,000 early-deaths occurred from air pollution-related diseases in 2010 itself. According to a WHO study 13 of the 20 most-polluted cities in the world are in India. And the 2016 Environmental Performance Index ranked India 141 out of 180 countries.

There has been vociferous activism mostly by science backed NGOs that spurred action for improvements in air quality testing and monitoring. The Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act was passed in 1981 to regulate air pollution. In 2015 the government together with IIT Kanpur launched the National Air Quality Index. In the last fifteen years India has been working unremittingly on regulatory reforms for improving its air quality. Most Indian cities however continue to violate air quality PM10 targets.

Respirable particulate matter pollution continues to be a key challenge. In May 2014 the World Health Organisation announced New Delhi as the most polluted city in the world. In November 2016, the great smog of Delhi created an environmental event that saw the city and neighboring region covered in dense smog. The present scenario is not much different and once again north India is struck by smoggy conditions with thick haze and air quality remaining at hazardous levels. Aside from the NCR area many more cities are experiencing smog with people literally gasping for breath. Smog-apocalypse or death by breathing is actually a fact now. Click on the link below to check out air pollution in India – Real-time Air Quality Index Visual Map:

http://aqicn.org/map/india/#@g/10.5933/91.0986/4z