Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture or ASHA is an alliance of about 400 diverse organizations drawn from more than twenty states across India, that initially came together through the Kisan Swaraj Yatra (Oct-Dec 2010), a nation-wide mobilization around Food-Farmers-Freedom.
About the Kisan Swaraj Yatra:
The Kisan Swaraj Yatra taken up by ASHA was driven by a collective realization that the prevailing agricultural model and policies have resulted in an enormous crisis of many dimensions – soils are depleted of fertility and life itself; health is deeply affected due to poisoning of water and food; farmers are in deep distress, caught in a cycle of high risk and debt; youth in rural areas and even practising cultivators find no dignity in the profession of farming; distress migration is resulting in huge exploited population in urban areas. This is atop a situation that has already been laden with various inequities in rural India. There is a sense of urgency that we need a whole revamp of our approach to agriculture.
The Yatra was also driven by a sense of hope that many elements of a new paradigm for Indian agriculture have already been demonstrated, even on a large scale. India can and should chart a new course for building a pro-farmer, ecologically sustainable agricultural economy that will keep our rural economy thriving and the urban areas manageable even as we as a country are able to feed ourselves with adequate, safe, nutritious and diverse foods. The market support systems and structures for agricultural produce have to be recast in favor of farmers. The nationwide outreach and mobilisation effort during Kisan Swaraj Yatra resulted in the creation of the Kisan Swaraj Neeti as the guiding and overarching framework for ASHA’s work.
Why was ASHA created….:
ASHA was created in May 2010, as a response to the felt need amongst many civil society organisations that as a Nation, we are not doing enough to address the issues of rural livelihoods, food and seed sovereignty and security and thereby, sustainable development. ASHA believes that the problems of cultivators in India today are the entire Nation’s problems and cannot be neglected – unless we ensure dignified lives and livelihoods for our cultivators (apart from the moral imperative of taking care of those who feed us all and keep us alive, our anna daatas), the other edifices being built on other fronts – either by the State or civil society – like employment generation, food and nutrition security, self-governance, better healthcare etc., cannot be strong or complete or sustainable.
ASHA seeks to draw the attention of the nation towards the continuing agrarian crisis in India, where adequate attention is not being paid to reviving the farm-based rural economy and livelihoods, even as the current state of degradation of natural resources threatens farm livelihoods further. We believe urgent and immediate action is required on this front, which also includes the need to ward off corporate takeover of Indian food and farming systems and consequent displacement of our rural populace. We believe that this can be done by joining hands and through out collective strength.
ASHA stands for:
ASHA has been created as a broad based, inclusive, democratic platform for all individuals and organisations committed to promoting sustainable agriculture in the country and all those who seek to ensure rights and entitlements of cultivators over their productive resources, in pursuit of poverty reduction, sustainable development, diversity, plurality and justice.
As a network, we believe in collective leadership and democratic functioning.
ASHA works for:
Through grassroots work, trainings, campaigns and policy advocacy, ASHA seeks to promote practices and policies that make Indian agriculture ecologically sustainable, ensure dignified livelihoods to its farmers including the small and marginal, preserve their control over agricultural resources like seed, land and water, and ensure adequate, safe food to all citizens. These form the four pillars of Kisan Swaraj Policy.
ASHA’s advocacy efforts in particular centre around securing an assured income for all farm households in the country; promoting and scaling up ecological farming around the country through appropriate policies, legal/regulatory frameworks and programmes; ensuring that rights of farming communities over their productive resources like land, water and seed are not denied or violated; and through the above, assuring that all Indians have access to adequate, safe, nutritious and diverse foods.
The work of ASHA is centred around (1) setting up ecological farming alternatives, building capacities and campaigning for replicating the same on a large scale, (2) to ensure seed diversity revival and seed self reliance and campaign for large scale scaling up of the efforts including through consumer awareness and empowerment, (3) watching out for any negative unsustainable approaches in Government of India’s BGREI programme (Bringing Green Revolution to Eastern India) related to corporatisation of seed resources, chemicalisation of eastern Indian agriculture, water use intensification etc., (4) making a clear case for ensuring minimum living incomes for farm households and campaigning to achieve the same, (5) understanding and advocating a different dispensation to adivasi agriculture and food security, and (6) campaigning against hazardous agri-chemicals including pesticides and fertilisers through the India For Safe Food platform. A recent initiative has been to join hands with other like-minded groups to ensure women’s rights and visibility as farmers.
ASHA consists of:
The network consists of farmers’ organizations, consumer groups, women’s organizations, environmental organizations, organic farmers’ cooperatives, individual scientists, social activists, doctors, health activists, journalists, artists and others. It has been consciously decided to keep the network informal and loose and most of the work in the network is driven by thematic working groups on areas of importance and concern (on Agri-Chemicals in our farming; on Corporatisation of Agriculture, particularly Seed; on Green Revolution in Eastern India; on Farmers’ Income Security; on Ecological Farming etc.).
At the national level, ASHA has a 12-member Steering Group, in addition to thematic Convenors.
ASHA’s National Secretariat is located in Indian Social Action Forum (INSAF), New Delhi, managed by a Secretariat Coordinator. ASHA is not a registered entity and only an informal advocacy platform – individual associated members of ASHA tap into various sources of support available to them, while the key advocacy work of ASHA is supported by funds collected from friends and the general public as and when needed.