Dec 22, 2010

Tiding over farm woes: Reaping the advantage

Farmers’ unions, who only organise protests demanding higher prices, have failed to educate their members.

As 2010 fades into history, I wonder whether the New Year will bring any hope for farmers. For several years now I have been silently praying and hoping that at least this New Year farmers will have something to cheer. But, unfortunately, it has not happened. With every passing year, their economic condition has further deteriorated.

Excessive use and abuse of chemical fertilisers has poisoned the soils; hybrid crop varieties being pushed at a subsidised price have destroyed the soil fertility and sucked the groundwater dry; drenching crop fields with all kinds of chemical pesticides has not only poisoned the food that we eat but have also brought in more pests; and finally the farmer is left high and dry with no income in hand.

There is no denying that much of the blame would rest with farm officials and university scientists for creating a bloodbath that we witness on the agriculture front. There is hardly a day when dozens of farmers across the country are not drinking chemical pesticides to end their lives. In the past 15 years, more than 2,00,000 farmers have committed suicide. Millions of farmers continue to somehow live in perpetual indebtedness.

Blaming the government is not without any reason. But somewhere deep down, farmers do know that they are equally at fault. The greed to make a fast buck has lured them to unsustainable farming systems. Over the years, farmers have become completely dependent upon what seems to be a well laid out trap by the agribusiness industry. No wonder, the profits of the industry grew whereas farmers were left to die.

However, much of the farm crisis has in many ways been created by farmers themselves. How long can you go on passing the buck to the government and the agricultural university? Why can’t you resolve to turn agriculture more income-generating and sustainable in the long-run? And don’t tell me it is not possible. If you had refrained from following the herd, and adopted low-external input sustainable faming systems you would have been the role model.

Here is a farmer who has shown the way. Meet Subhash Sharma, a farmer from Daroli in Yavatmal district in the heart of the suicide belt of Vidharba. At a time when thousands of farmers in Vidharba have taken the fatal route to escape the humiliation that comes along with increasing indebtedness, he provides his farm workers with bonus and leave travel concession. If this farmer can do it, there is no reason why others cannot live in eternal happiness.

Sharma is not a big landlord. He owns only 16 acres of farm land. And like most of the farmers in the country, he too was in the thick of a vicious cycle of external inputs and perpetual indebtedness. Fed up, he then decided to abandon the fertiliser-pesticides model of farming, and shift the organic cultivation, and the turnaround has led him to a new beginning.

He says that the only way to pull out farmers from the vicious cycle of indebtedness is to push them out of the Green Revolution model of farming. It is during the workshops that he is conducting in several parts of the country that he teaches them by practical training on how to shift to natural farming practices and thereby emerge out of indebtedness.

From 16 acres of land, if Sharma can demonstrate an economically viable model, with inclusive social equity and justice, you too can do it. Here lies the answer to agricultural growth and also to country’s food security. He has even built up a corpus, a Social Security Fund, of approximately Rs 15 lakh, for meeting any eventuality that the workers might encounter. Some death in their family or the marriage of the girl child does bring additional burden, and some relief comes from the Social Security Fund. He also shares the cost of education of their children and other health expenses. Isn’t this a dream that every farmer cherishes but is never able to realise?

Well, when was the last time you heard farm labourers being given an annual bonus and leave travel allowance? Now, don’t be startled, Sharma provides an annual bonus to his team of workers — 16 men and 35 women — who labour on his farm. They get something like Rs 4.5 lakh every year as bonus, which means roughly Rs 9,000 per person. How many farmers, including big landlords, in Karnataka and for that matter in the rest of the country provide bonus to farm workers?

The problem is that farmers’ unions have failed to educate their members. They only organise protests demanding higher prices or opposing trade policies, but rarely do you find them taking upon themselves the monumental task of reviving agriculture. Instead of spending energies to contest elections, ryot sanghas need to take on the responsibility of holding ryot pathshalaas to resurrect farming, bring in natural farming system which are not only sustainable but profitable. There is no reason why every ryot in Karnataka cannot aspire to be the new generation farmer like Sharma.

Source: Deccan Herald


Anonymous said...

I have a question Devinder Ji. You know how farmers don't like to keep trees around there land . They say that Shade of trees decreases production. Is there a way to plant more trees and not affect production?

lvcsouthasia said...

very true. Farmers orgs need to start promoting natural farming- set up their own schools and promoters, and also mobilize for this mode of farming. We cant keep waiting for institutions like the government or ag university to make the change. Even the most progressive folks in these institutions ultimately have their hands tied after a certain extent and thus no substantial change can be expected from them. Its time to start highlighting and promoting the alternatives ourselves...

Ramesh Dubey said...

आदरणीय देवेंद्र जी आपने नए साल में किसानों को सशक्‍त बनाने का जो सुझाव दिया है उसकी सफलता असंदिग्‍ध है । इससे न केवल खाद्य व पोषण सुरक्षा सुनिश्‍चित होगी अपितु मिट्टी, पानी, पेड़-पौधे और मनुष्‍य सभी स्‍वस्‍थ रहेंगे । लेकिन इस राह में बाधाएं भी कम नहीं हैं । लाभ कमाने की एकसूत्रीय मुहिम में जुटी एग्रीबिजनेस कंपनियां किसानों को कभी भी आत्‍मनिर्भर नहीं बनने देंगी, क्‍योंकि इससे उनकी दुकान बंद हो जाएगी । रसायन, कीटनाशक, उर्वरक आदि के माध्‍यम से खेती-किसानी को अपने कब्‍जे में कर चुकीं ये कंपनियां अब खेती के मूल आधार (बीज) को नष्‍ट करने पर तुली हुई हैं । आप भारत के किसी भी गांव में चले जाइए वहां बिजली, पानी के दर्शन भले ही न हों मोंसेटो, सिन्‍जेटा, पायनियर जैसी कंपनियों के हाइब्रिड बीज अवश्‍य मिल जाएंगे । यह नजारा तीसरी दुनिया के किसी भी देश में देखा जा सकता है । इस प्रक्रिया में देसी बीज तेजी से लुप्‍त होते जा रहे हैं । ये कंपनियां किसानों को समृद्धि का ख्‍वाब दिखाकर कंगाल बना रही हैं । धीरे-धीरे ही सही इनकी कुटिल चाल उजागर हो रही हैं । यह शुभ संकेत है ।

रमेश दुबे

JJ said...

thanks for sharing your views.