HERD Foundation Celebrates Kite Flying Festivities For Makar Sankranti

January 14 is celebrated as Makar Sankranti Festival each year all over India. It is said to be one of the most ancient of Hindu festivals. Devoted to the Sun God the day heralds the change of seasons and welcomes the soon-to-come spring time. The festival is associated with communities cutting across the country who all follow diverse traditions with great enthusiasm. The one tradition in common above all, all over, is that of flying kites!!

HERD Foundation HR unit had the staff celebrating the kite flying festivities with great fanfare. Members were invited to go up on the office terrace to enjoy flying of colourful kites.  Soon everyone was busy drawing strings on the paper kites and attempting to get them up in the air to adorn the sky. Colourful kites were to waft amid music and cheers from the staff members.

Wondering why the tradition of flying kites is associated with Sankranti, soon many thoughts began floating around. Some had been taught traditionally that since winters brought in the cold along with illness, the sun offered relief. While it is common to lounge in the warmth of the winter sun to be rid of the chill and disease causing germs, kite flying added a new dimension to enjoying the sun. In fact the act of flying kites is said to be a more proactive way of enjoying the sun.

A yet more symbolic reason on offer is that flying kites up in the high skies is to reach up to the heavens on Makar Sankranti day to offer obeisance and thankfulness to the gods. It is also seen to be a signal to help awaken the Gods who as per mythology go to sleep for six months. Makar Sankranti is the day they wake up and the blue skies are dotted with colourful kites to welcome them.

Taking these reasons with a pinch of salt, the fact remains that all across the country kites fly high on this day. Regarded as the first big festival of the calendar year, (the Hindu New Year is in March on Gudi Padwa day), young and old people participate with great fervor for this annual ritual. Preparations for the celebrations begin days in advance to stock up kites, strings and all other needed paraphernalia.

Makar Sankranti festival is celebrated with great joy by rich and poor alike. The festival marks the onset of spring and thereafter summer after the cold winter which makes it’s a harbinger of good times ahead. The festival in particular gets everyone out in the sun offering health benefits and enjoying special treats prepares especially for the day. The sun offers medicinal support, exposing people with good doses of Vitamin D.

HERD Foundation staff enjoyed the day amid gaiety, laughter and music in the sun, enjoying fun, special fare and togetherness in a spirit of bonhomie offered by the Human Resources unit. Special thanks are due to Nisha Mishra, HR Manager and Latika Vadher, HR Executive for contributing to the success of the event.

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Spread the Circle of Organic Farming

Most of us are aware of the hubbub in the wake of the disquieting news of DDT being found in human milk. Four decades back when this information first hit out that human breast milk was contaminated with the pesticide DDT, it had created a furore across the world. Strict restrictions on its use lowered DDT concentrations in human milk.

The pesticide DDT was used since 1940s to control typhus and agricultural pests. However the harmful effects led to a strict ban on its use after the 1970’s. But we still remain riddled with concerns over its existence in the environment for causing irreversible health problems. Similarly conventional farming too remains troubled with the continued use of chemicals in agriculture that affect health of people eating chemical laden food.

Several countries are safely transitioning back to organic methods of farming to obtain healthy produce. Organic farming reverts back to traditional approaches in farming to cultivate food without using fertilizers, synthetic pesticides, growth hormones, chemicals or genetically modified organisms. Organic farming ensures crops do not harbor harmful residues of toxic chemicals. It deploys methods of farming that are sustainable and in sync with nature.

HERD Organic Farms undertakes organic farming and we realize that soil fertility improves dramatically as does productivity over time. We have been making use of natural manure that is produced at the farm by organic practices of composting and production of green manure that makes the soil more productive and fertile. Farm manager Anil Khare states: “Soil treated with organic fertilizers hosts billions of useful bacteria that are useful in breaking down plant residues and livestock wastes into useful soil nutrients to improve soil binding.”

We have also discovered that organic farming establishes biodiversity and that our methodologies have ensured development of a resilient bio-diverse landscape. These natural practices have helped in minimizing erosion of agricultural biodiversity and enhanced species richness and abundance. With absolutely no chemical usage in the farms the landscape has become rich with organic flora and fauna like pollinators and pest pillagers!

In fact organic practices have also prevented water contamination. Since we do not allow water to get exposed to any kind of toxins the soil remains rich in organic matter with salubrious moisture content. It is further a matter of deep satisfaction that ground water retention and infiltration is toxic free. Healthy soil acts like a sponge to keep vegetation well moisturized with unsoiled recharged underground water.

Last but not the least organic farming diminishes conventional energy use by minimizing agricultural chemical needs and addresses the issue of emissions and global warming by repossessing carbon in the soil. Good practices like reduced tillage, crop rotation, nitrogen fixing legumes and so on maximize the carbon concentration in soil. We all know that the more organic carbon stored in soil the more mitigation ability of agriculture against climate change.

Organic farming is truly a win-win situation. Aside from it improving soil binding and reducing runoff, the soil remains nutrient rich resulting in increased soil density causing less runoff. Organic farming also boosts bacteria that help plants fix nitrogen and help utilize and convert these nutrients before they get an opportunity to run-off. With so many benefits why then is organic farming taking so much time to be adopted by all. The fact is that many farmers remain apprehensive about adopting it due to high production costs. Add to this the burden of competing with low prices of conventional produce.

HERD Organic Farms contends with this issue but remains resolute to stand for sustainable organic farming. Even though the yield may be low we know that long term profitability and environmental benefits are in store. Upcoming studies portend that desired yields will come in good time. It is for this reason that we need to extend the circle of influence for promoting organic farming and bring conventional farmers into the fold. To this end HERD Foundation remains committed.

 

 

Importance of Modern Medicine

For all our bonhomie, congeniality and carry-on-living lifestyles, the fact remains that majority of the people around the world are ailing. Statistics as per a new analysis tells us that just one in twenty are healthy in any given year! This new analysis based on the 2013 Global Burden of Disease Study finds that more than 95 per cent of the world’s population is ill. Alarmingly, over a third suffers from more than five chronic illnesses.

These findings while certainly very distressing should be taken with some equanimity. The availability of modern medicines provides health care by offering ease to help people recover and experience wellness again. The importance of medicines cannot be discounted nor disregarded in coping with infection or disease so widely rampant among human beings. The past century has seen modern medicine increasingly provide respite and succor to mankind. Allopathic medicines have truly proved to be a boon for human health.

The very word medicine is derived from the Latin word ‘ ars medicina’ that means ‘the art of healing’. The middle of the 20th century saw real advancement in medical science. Ever since then to this day research and developments have continuously advanced the medicinal field. It is absolutely true that human knowledge has accelerated the study of medicine making it one of the most important areas in safeguarding human health. Modern scientific medical drugs help in properly assisting patients to recover from their sickness.

Modern medicines remain a reliable source for treating human diseases. Alongside, the availability of advanced diagnostic technology has been a value-added facet to medical science. With state of art medical equipment that can probe and gauge disorders in the human body, it is only a matter of time that appropriate medication helps in healing the body. Another wonderful dimension of modern medicine is the way it helps in prevention of diseases. Maladies are prevented by ingesting or injecting proper medicines and inoculations.

Since detection of disease has become so much easier and less time consuming, proper dosage of necessary medicines assist in fighting diseases to offer complete treatment. Doctors now do not have to go by trial and error since human body diagnosis and profiling by modern methods help in identifying the exact ailment or syndrome. With cutting edge tools and technologies available today for detection of diseases, precise medications help in curing a patient quickly, even before the problem can grow bigger.

It is all thanks to medical science that we are treating patients so much more successfully than before. With treatments available for most diseases today, medications offer respite for health issues ranging from physical, mental to psychosomatic. With medicines offering healing opportunity to patients, people feel more secure because they know that the treatments are available. Pharmaceutical companies ensure that medicines and drugs are always available on a large scale and can be provided to people at low costs.

Pharmacology science has actually revolutionized the medical world. Medications now offer cures for common illnesses and also for critical diseases giving better health benefits to people everywhere. Pharmaceutical medicine is the medical scientific discipline concerned with the discovery, development, evaluation, registration, monitoring and medical aspects of marketing of medicines for the benefit of patients and public health.

HERD Pharmacy medical stores salute to this indefatigable spirit of Pharmacology in rendering yeoman service to people in need of modern medicines to reclaim their good health.

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/

Demonetization Revisited

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Images – Courtesy Google 

This day, last year, majority of us Indians were going haywire after news that 500 and 1000 rupee notes were to be banned past midnight. The news broadcast on television in the evening hours had everyone unsure and anguished. The coming couple of months went by in complete mayhem and chaos for the common man. Targeted to get black money out of the way, millions and millions of poor and low income people suffered in the mad rush to exchange notes into trade-worthy denominations. Reportedly over hundred people perished in the process to get their money changed.

The news created a real scare that in 50 days’ time 86% of India’s currency in circulation would be invalid. It was the poor public at large that suffered the cash crunch as never before. A panicked citizenry queued up passively to hand over worthless notes in exchange for the valid sanctioned amounts. Demonetization was said to reduce bribery and end black money with the hope that India would shift to a digitized monetary system that was traceable and taxable.

And so began a spate of government sponsored advertisements for people to adopt digital mode of banking transactions! But the fact of the matter is that incomes in our country are decidedly below the tax threshold in the first place. This then left the laboring workforce and low income groups to bear the brunt of the scrapping the 500 and 1000 rupee note overnight. Apart from the reported deaths, people suffered in more ways.

It is true that ours is a cash-driven country. Despite the push to open bank accounts, as yet a certain segment does not have bank accounts. Even new bank accounts that were opened remain bare and reportedly only 15% use their accounts to make or receive payments. Even the vast middle class of account holders in India does not use credit or debit card. Bank tellers still continue to undertake transactions. Online shopping in India is done in cash too! Nearly 70% of e-commerce runs through COD or cash on delivery!

It was the poor rural folk that were most hard hit and who suffered the most. It was a struggle for them to keep up with their lives and occupations. Agriculture relies on availability of ready cash in rural areas and left with little or no resources at hand, cultivation and marketing of produce relapsed for the longest time. The ensuing helplessness was self-defeating. Elsewhere too demonetization caused utter chaos. It is a moot question whether demonetization was worth the price Indians had to pay. What remains in the mind of people is the feeling of disparagement they were made to undergo to draw out their own hard earned money.

In the final count it appears that the Indian economy that was known to be one of the fastest growing economies in the world has slowed down after the demonetization shocker. Growth figures, both official and unofficial show a slowdown. This is surely a cause for concern. More disconcerting is the fact that former Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh, a reputed economist in his own right, states that the attempt has scaled down nearly 2% of our Gross Domestic Product. National think-tanks and policy-research institutions make grim assessments of the fallouts of demonetization. The spectre continues to haunt us even after a year has gone by.

 

Let There Be Light

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Image – Courtesy Google 

Deepawali, the festival of lights is just round the corner. It ritualistically begins with cleansing. Every household gets busy with this annual cleaning frenzy to rid abodes of months of dust, cobwebs, dirt, grime and filth that go nearly unnoticed, until now. Hidden corners, high ceilings, ceiling fans, shut cupboards, lofts, store rooms, and bathrooms are all cleaned up vigorously. The deep-cleaning spree is to turn our homes come out shining and new!

But while we are so enthusiastic about welcoming the festive season with a home that is spruced up and squeaky clean, should we also not be concerned about keeping our surroundings pollution free too? Should we not pause and question as to why we make use of fire-crackers that will be polluting not only the environment but also our bodies. Should our bodies not need more attention to be kept clean along with our households?

Fire-crackers are synonymous with Diwali celebrations that environmentalists for years have been attempting to warn off. Intelligent people certainly welcome the Supreme Court decision prohibiting sale of firecrackers in Delhi-NCR. Why don’t other cities follow suit and look forward to a relatively cleaner Diwali. Don’t we all want relief from the annual rise in air pollution levels during Diwali? It is true that in India pollution levels go up much higher than national standards just as soon as the winters begin. It is for this reason alone that there should be comprehensive control on air pollution all over the country.

Pollution after Diwali fireworks affects all parts of the body. Your skin, eyes, nose, heart and even lungs may get affected. Chronic diseases like asthma and other lung related allergies get seriously aggravated after Diwali pollution. Warns Dr. Suchika Gupta, co-founder and Managing Director of HERD Foundation: “There is little doubt that the numbers of patients suffering from respiratory diseases spikes up tremendously after Diwali, not to speak of fire related accidents that get victims rushed to hospitals. It is therefore best to light lamps and celebrate peacefully rather that invite hazardous substances in our bodies and our environment”.

Aside from risk of skin burns or similar suffering that may follow burning firecrackers, the other hazard comes from smog that soon engulfs surrounding areas. It makes breathing difficult. Yet house after house goes berserk lighting up all kinds of fire crackers that aside from profusely littering the streets also affects air quality. Smog filled up with chemicals from fireworks fills up the environment and continues to hit residents particularly during early mornings and late evenings. The concentrations of ultra-fine PM2.5 reach as high as 1,000 ug/m3, nearly 17 times the safe limit of 60 ug/m3.

So even when Diwali is over, the smog continues to affect morning walkers, school-going children, and anyone else who comes in contact with this pollution-laden air. How then does it help anyone to first take part in such hazardous activity, and then get affected by the toxic fumes? Think especially of the damage that occurs to people suffering from chronic respiratory diseases or those having weak immunity?

Anyone experiencing breathlessness, coughing fits, chest tightness or watery eyes after Diwali can be sure that these are after effects of high levels of air pollution. Such people should not be going about outdoors early morning and late evening. Additionally they should invest in a quality face mask. It is true that prolonged exposure to concentrated metal particles may cause serious lung diseases.

India’s Central Pollution Control Board routinely monitors four air pollutants namely sulphur dioxide (SO2), oxides of nitrogen (NOx), suspended particulate matter (SPM) and respirable particulate matter (PM10). Bursting firecrackers during Diwali sends PM2.5 levels soaring. New Delhi, the capital city ranks notoriously high on unhealthy levels of particulate matter pollution. So while the recent judgment is a step in the right direction, other Indian cities ought to follow strict norms too. Unfortunately air quality levels are monitored by the government in only a handful of cities!

HERD Foundation suggests – let there be light this Diwali in your homes and also in your minds! Go for a fire-cracker free Diwali and do yourself, your neigbourhood, and your city a huge favour. We take this opportunity to wish everyone a peaceful and fun-filled Deepawali. May the festive season ahead be one that paves the way for better health, cleaner environment and breathable air.

Images – Courtesy Google

 

Agony & Ecstasy of Organic Farming

HERD Organic Farms (HOF) has been working on organic farming practices right from day one. Knowing full well about the hazards caused by chemical-based farming, HOF was all prepared to face the distress of diminished production, lengthy transition period and unavailability of ready market. The grim picture did not discourage the team that went on ahead to rally around teething problems of organic farming. Tiding over the hindrances in organic farming the team worked with due diligence and relentless efforts to promote organic farming production.

The team pushed forward even as the fear of less production and unavailability of a premium market loomed large. It was a sense of inner conviction that had HOF promoting its organic produce and it has been a real struggle to survive in the face of the wider non-organic market. Joining hands with other organic growers who banded themselves under a common group, the intention became to make people aware of the positive health benefits of organic produce and to cull out a consumer clientele keen on demanding organic fruits and vegetables.

Approximately 42 acres of farmland spreading around the periphery of buffer areas of the Pench forests is marked out for phased organic cultivation. As of now vegetables are being grown under half-acre covered net structures with complete organic inputs. The team headed by Mr Anil Khare has also created a small open-structured radial vegetable garden that can grow up to 15 kinds of different vegetables within its circular layout. This well-laid out round plot of land includes rows of beds of flowers, fruits and vegetables that are grown with organic fertilizers and pesticides. It is a delightful spot.

HOF organic produce is free from pesticides and insecticides and absolutely safe for healthy eating. It may not be wrong to suggest that you could pluck cucumbers and tomatoes right off the plants and eat them straight away. They are that uncontaminated and this is also because the region is cut off from the main road and still pretty pristine. The monsoons made it clear that the area can also get disconnected a brief way from the road in case of heavy showers, making it challenging to commute to and fro.

HOF has been motivating the surrounding local farmers settled in the nearby Chargaon village to adopt organic farming methods. Majority of the farmers are following suit. The team felt that spreading awareness and creating a hub for organic farming would be an appropriate measure to promote organic farming in this region. Despite having earlier used chemical inputs to increase production several farmers are now joining hands for the more arduous task of following organic farming practices.

Farm manager Anil Khare feels that there is a need of cohesive efforts from all angles for promoting organic farming. Decidedly a disturbed rain cycle has added to the farmers’ woes and therefore better water management becomes the number one priority. Next, it would be fruitful to move away from mono-cultures in which crops are farmed in single-species plots. This is why HOF is now venturing into crop rotations and mixed planting that is a better alternative for conserving soil and enhancing environmental conditions.

HERD Organic Farms is currently following its well chalked-out and unambiguous directives for sustained organic farming practices. Working on both financial and technical provisions for the planned outcomes, the team is well aware that mere regulated inputs will not be enough to garner desired output. The path to organic farming is tough and it is definitely a more demanding occupation than conventional farming, that itself is so grueling.

HOF prepares and uses bio-fertilizers and bio pesticides to enrich the soil. The team is attentive in application of composts/organic manure that is produced right on the farm. Appropriate infrastructure has been set up for organic matter to be duly processed and prepared. These operations are of course quite labour intensive and costly as well. HERD Organic Farm is committed to gain the desired results by working every step of the way to enhance organic cultivation. These initial years will be tough and despite loss in yield and lack of fluid marketing processes the team presses on, on its chosen track.