In the second part of our series on the World Food Day celebrations, we aim to shed light on the inconspicuous struggles of the Indian farmer, and understand how rural rejuvenation as a process ties together with the thought ‘your food is as good as your soil’.
In the case of the soil, the scarecrow spoke with sadness on his face, but in the case of the farmer, he is seen to be expressionless and silent, perhaps as an analogy to the drowned voice of his master.
Having said that, silence does speak louder than words, and so we might just find the reasons for our farmers’ plight in the direction of the scarecrow’s pointing.
Yes, brothers and sisters, it is in the direction of society.
Yes, we do have immense responsibilities in our urban lives, but such are the trials and tribulations being faced by our farmers, and such are the deep rooted ties between our lives and theirs, that we must direct our thoughts, our time, and our awareness towards our original (OG?) annadatas.
Did you know? The very people who fuel our busy lives with nutrition are divided on lines of caste and political affiliations? Indeed, they are viewed as potential targets to be recruited by local political hooligans to serve their own cause and live with complete erosion of self dignity and self worth.
The child in us warmly remembers the hands of our mother as the first spoon that fed us, and yet the hands of those who provide to her have now been tied.
Farmers subsidise food production through their unaccounted and cheap labour and other resources, but agriculture prices are not fixed based on cost of production.
Moreover, there is the ineffectiveness of the government extension mechanism to make agriculture based vocations attractive to village youth.
How do all these factors ultimately end up affecting the quality of the soil and the produce?
Well, agriculture tends to be the last option for the village youth, and those who do take to it resort to archaic farming practices such as monocropping, which is the practice of growing the same crop on the same plot all the time. This depletes the soil of nutrients and eventually produces food that is of very low nutritional content.
There is an indiscriminate use of chemicals in farming in the form of manure and spray, which has a direct impact on soil and human health. Use of antibiotics in the animal treatment leads to development of antibiotic resistance in human body.
What can we as a society do to kickstart the process of rural rejuvenation and uplift our farmers?
At Akshayakalpa, we believe that the key to achieving this is to ensure that agricultural produce is not sold as raw material, but as a product of a self-sufficient entrepreneurial model that truly emancipates villagers.
To start with, we have put together a cluster of 400+ farmers to set up integrated organic dairy farms to produce 100 to 200 litres of milk per day from each farm. The selected families stay on the farm and operate the farm with the family labour, and the entire operation is backed by a central team of veterinarians, fodder experts, service engineers and extension personnel.
The result? Farmers gain the freedom to express their knowledge and skills. The net earning per farmer will be approx Rs 50000 per month from a fully functional farm. Also, the fodder for our cows is grown only with organic manures and utilizing the best regenerative farming practices.
All in all, this process leads to happier farmers, healthier livestock and a thriving soil ecosystem, all of which ultimately adds up to healthier food!