India. The largest democracy in the world. The second most populous nation. As of 2003, 42% of the population is strict vegetarian (no eggs) and much of the remaining are simply less strict (FAO). Though much has changed in seven years, including the prevalence of meat, dairy, and eggs in the diet of wealthier households, the country's undernourished population is still moderately high.
That said, there are a lot of exciting and innovative agricultural projects taking place across the country. One of the organizations that does incredible work on agriculture in developing countries, the Worldwatch Institute, recently documented two encouraging stories in rural areas of India.
The first touches upon an issue on which I mused for Blog Action Day: water. Agriculture largely depends on this resource, and frankly, if we don't start using the water available to us wisely, we will (and already have) start feeling the repercussions in the form of conflicts and famines. India, with many drought-prone regions, is trying to be proactive about this problem and is implementing a more-integrated watershed management strategy - using water-conserving technologies and appropriate agricultural practices.
Nearer and dearer to my heart is the topic of the second post on the blog. It discusses the failings of rice harvests on land cultivated via slash-and-burn methods in northeast India. As with this agricultural method in many tropical regions, in India jhum (the local name) worked well on a small scale with few people. But it requires extensive land in order for the nutrient-poor tropical soils to replenish over decades...and India is not sparsely populated! So, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) is providing assistance to these farmers to shift to methods that are more sustainable in the long-term.
So I hope I have left you a little more enlightened, and hungry for me. Hungry you say? Well, in light of my choice of topic today, I concocted a lazy-girl's version of baigan bartha (sadly, not for tonight's dinner, as I was out collecting material for a post next week). This dish takes about 30 minutes from start to finish and requires one pan and no separate roasting of the eggplant!
Cheater's Baigan Bartha (eggplant curry)
1 medium eggplant (Asian is preferred)
1/4 large onion
1 cup chopped tomatoes in juice (used my jarred tomatoes!)
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp curry powder
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
Pinch cayenne (optional)
2 tsp vegetable oil
1. Chop eggplant into 1/4 inch cubes. Salt and let stand.
2. Heat oil in frying pan over medium-high heat. Add mustard seeds and wait until they start to "pop." Add roughly chopped onions.
3. Cook onions until they start to get translucent. Add eggplant. Cook until starting to get soft (you may have to add some water occasionally).
4. When it starts to soften, add tomatoes and spices. Cook covered until eggplant is really soft.
5. Serve warm over rice...or with that tasty sweet potato naan. mmm.
Here is a more traditional baigan bartha recipe, if you are more into that kind of thing.