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Farmers need helping hand to deal with markets

Published: Oct. 28, 2023
Updated: Nov. 29, 2023

WHEN the Kuttiattoor mango was given geographical indicator status there was reason to celebrate. Its unique qualities had been documented and recognized. Commercial success seemed round the corner. But it hasn’t happened that way. It is one thing to be recognized as unique and an altogether different challenge to carve out a place in the marketplace.

Farmers are the rightful owners of the biodiversity they nurture over generations. A banana here, a mango there, grains with special properties — these are the outcome of community traditions and practices. They are further defined by the soil, water and the plants and other organisms of an area.

Modern intellectual property laws recognize the rights over innovations by individuals and corporations. But they also provide for recognition of geographical indicators and community ownership. People collectively can be creators of something unique through a long process of innovation.

However, to help farmers assert their rights is the work of governments, which need to pass enabling domestic laws and rules. Farmers need handholding as well because the process is complex and requires going into legal and scientific details.

Dr C.R. Elsy, formerly of the Kerala Agricultural University, has been helping farmers get geographical indicator status for their produce. But it is not enough, as we have seen with the Kuttiattoor mango. The farmers haven’t been able to get a viable commercial strategy together. Their incomes have been stagnant and their mango is not as widely admired and sought after as it deserves to be.

In this magazine we have been keenly interested in small hospitals and other healthcare initiatives in the voluntary sector. We see these as meeting the healthcare needs of people in remote areas where neither the government nor the private sector manages to go with optimum services.

It is important that small hospitals be made visible, assessed and supported. Dr Vijay Anand Ismavel, who has a long record in rural healthcare, suggests that small hospitals be judged on their potential for transformational impact. Small bits of funding at critical junctures can make all the difference between success and failure. A good effort that collapses for want of support leaves thousands of potential beneficiaries in the lurch.     

Stray dogs are back in the news because of more unprovoked attacks on people. We ask once again if the problem has spiralled completely out of control. Are there so many stray dogs that their conflicts with humans have become inevitable and will keep increasing?


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