Global warming is beginning to seriously affect farmers throughout India. Many have already suffered considerable harvest-time losses due to excessive rains, on the one hand, or extreme heat and dryness during the summer, on the other.
A needs assessment conducted among farmers of the Sooranadu Panchayath in Kollam District in Kerala concluded, “Farmers are well aware of the climatic change that is taking place and its devastating consequences for agricultural production, but most don’t know its cause or what they can do to reduce its effects.”
They don’t know, for instance, that the chemical fertilizers and pesticides that they have come to depend on, also play a major role in exacerbating climate change. The manufacture and distribution of these petro-chemical based products results in greenhouse gas emissions.
Now farmers in Kerala, however, are beginning to understand. The credit goes to a six-month organic farming awareness program initiated by second-year students of Master of Social Work at Amritapuri, Chitra J., Ashwati S. G., Surya Krishna and Swafina D. S.
These students are studying community development and organization as their field of specialty.
“In order to get an accurate picture of farmers’ needs, we made house visits for several weeks,” they shared. “This gave us the opportunity to exchange ideas with the farmers’ wives as well, who were keen to start organic vegetable gardens in their backyards.
“The visits helped us in becoming accepted by the community, they all started treating us like family members.”
The students found that most farmers wanted to make the switch to organic farming, but that they lacked the necessary know-how.
Organic farming was practiced in India for thousands of years and fertilizers, pesticides, nutrients were all obtained from plant and animal products. The Green Revolution introduced into the country in the 1960s brought several thousand hectares of land under cultivation by introducing chemical fertilizers and pesticides.
As a result of extensive chemical farming, land began to lose its fertility and pests started becoming immune, necessitating the use of stronger and costlier pesticides. This, in turn, increased the cost to farmers. In many parts of India, countless farmers committed suicide, unable to cope with their debts.
For the farmers in Kollam though, expert help finally seems close at hand. The students arranged for them to learn from Sri. C. M. Ravi, an enthusiastic organic farmer of the Sooranadu North Panchayat, who won the Haritha Mithra award for being Kerala’s the best vegetable farmer last year.
Subsequently, the students also organized an interaction with the agricultural officer of the Panchayat, Ms. Sindhu, who spoke to the farmers on several aspects of organic farming.
The students’ long-term goal is to set up a seed bank with all traditional varieties of seeds. They also want to build a virtual knowledge platform in cooperation with the Amrita Village Resource Center in Puthiyakavu, which could help farmers easily access expert information and advice.
December 3, 2010
Dept of Social Work, Amritapuri