Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Young farmer growing miracle paddy crop in Tumkur, Karnataka

The paddy is almost 6 feet high!
Mahesh, a 35 year old youth farmer is practitioner of Zero Budget Natural Farming on his two acre plot. He is also a youth member of the farmer movement KRRS and dons its symbolic green shawl.  Mahesh went to a Zero Budget Natural Farming training camp two years ago and happened to meet Prasanna Murthy, one of the conveners  and trainers of ZBNF movement. Mahesh was inspired after the training session and started to do some experiments on his paddy field two years ago.

At first he didn’t succeed with a local rice variety called “deva mallige”, “my mistake was that the distance was too close between the crops. But, the next year I put a distance of almost one foot between seedlings. The yield growth has been phenomenal.”  Mahesh has been growing the local 'rajmudi' variety. The cost of cultivation is almost 15000 Rs less per acre compared to chemical farming and everything he earned has been a profit . As he has just two acres of land he could do all the labor work himself or by taking help from his own family members. As there are no external inputs in Zero Budget farming, Mahesh's expenses were very low. 

Mahesh is now an inspiration to many other young farmers in the district and at least four other KRRS youth farmers are now shifting to zero budget farming in the area with support from Mahesh.

Mahesh has never met or seen Palekar, the main teacher of the ZBNF movement in person. “This is interesting,” says Chukki Nanjundasway of Amrita Bhoomi farmer training school and a woman farmer leader from KRRS. “In our experience Palekar has a great influence on the farmers. But there are many who shift to ZBNF without attending Palekar’s talks also. They read books on ZBNF, exchange with other local farmers, meet the other trainers, and they become major experts through their own experiments. Mahesh is a living example of farmer innovation and I am proud to see a young farmer like him succeed.”

Chukki Nanjundaswamy and friends visit Mahesh and get
 lost in the tall rice
Mahesh himself does not have any problems with marketing and has found many loyal local consumers who buy his local rice varieties. “I don’t need to sell to any particular organic market. I think there is a problem with credibility there, many times fake certifications are given by paying bribe, and sometime farmers sell for a higher premium and the quality can be questionable.” Mahesh says that he prefers to have direct relationships with the local consumers in his own village and they are welcome to visit his farm anytime.

Recently the Karnataka agriculture department organized a Field Day in Mahesh’s farm. “They really appreciated his work. Mahesh’s paddy is amazing- its almost 6 feet high and one can disappear in it. I have never seen paddy like this in my life,”said Chukki Nanjundaswamy.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Farmers storm India’s national capital, demanding freedom from debt and better price for their produce

Farmers storm India’s national capital, demanding freedom from debt and better price for their produce

Several thousand small-holder farmers from across India held a massive demonstration in New Delhi, from 20-21 November to draw attention to the acute agrarian distress plaguing the countryside and seeking immediate intervention by the Union Government.
Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha and South Indian Coordination Committee of Farmers Movements – who are also part of the global peasant movement La Via Campesina, joined in large numbers.
For long, farmers movements and civil society organisations in India have been pointing out the problem of mounting debt in rural farm households.
A steady and steep increase in cost of production over the last three decades, near-stagnant farm incomes and increasing cost of rural household expenses, which are exacerbated by crumbling public welfare services and privatisation drives, have resulted in nearly 60% of the farm households trapped in a cycle of debt. Back-to-back droughts and unseasonal rains since 2012 resulting in severe crop losses, a crash in farm prices over the last several seasons have only worsened the crisis.
On a set of 25 crops, the Government of India offer a guaranteed and minimum support price across to the country’s farmers. However, for several years now as social movements have pointed out, this support price is marginally above – in some instances below – the cost of production.
In 2014, while campaigning for general elections, Narendra Modi who is currently the Prime Minister, had publicly promised to procure farm produces at a higher rate, which would be at least 1.5 times the cost of production. Yet, this is far from reality. What is worse is also that farmers are right now forced to sell their produces at levels that are even lower than the minimum support price.

Green revolution and the subsequent opening up of Indian agriculture to the global free market, has exposed the country’s small-farmers to unfair and unequal competition on the world scene. Agricultural policies that are focused on exporting food, rather than promoting local production and distribution has only favoured agribusinesses and severely marginalised the peasants and small-holder farmers. Despite this, global institutions such as the WTO continue to mount pressure on the Indian government to reduce the support price further and to lower the import tariffs!

The consequences have been devastating. Since 1995, at least 300,000 farmers in India have been forced to commit suicide unable to bear their piling debt and harassments from lenders. Government data shows that on an average 2000 farmers are forced to quit agriculture everyday and migrate to cities in search of work in factories and construction sites.
The resurgence of farmers’ movements in India
The discontent, which has long been brewing in the countryside is now knocking at the doors of the national capital.
Over 180 farmers’ organisations across India have come together under the banner of All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC) to ensure that the farmers present a united resistance against the government’s apathy and ill conceived policies.
India has a rich history of massive farmers’ mobilisations – including those led by Mahendra Singh Tikait of Bhartiya Kisan Union (BKU) and of the ones led by Prof. Nanjundaswamy of Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha (KRRS) and several others.
The current crisis in rural India has led to a resurgence of these struggles and organisations from almost all regions of India are in solidarity to stick together and fight until their demands are met.
Speaking to a massive gathering of several thousand farmers, Chamarasa Patil, a farmer and senior leader of KRRS thundered,
“We know you have police on your side. We know that the police have guns. We know that those guns have bullets, never hesitating to pierce through the flesh of innocent farmers. But you must know that if the 750 million farmers of this country decide to hit the streets, your bullets wont be enough and your governments will vanish in no time. Do not test our patience”.
Mr. Patil was referring to the recent incidents of state atrocities on protesting farmers in Mandsaur, Madhya Pradesh – which resulted in the shooting and killing of farmers.
During the two days, women and men who were assembled at the site of the mobilisation also held a simulated parliamentary-style discussion, in which they collectively placed their demands in the form of a Bill, which they want the Union Government to take up in the upcoming winter session of the Indian Parliament.
During the mobilisations the protesting farmers, also faxed an invitation to the Prime Minister, inviting him to the street and listen in to their demands and concerns. While it did not elicit any response from the Prime Minister’s office, the organisations have now planned to resume the next leg of the agitation from Gujarat, the home state of the Prime Minister and where state elections are to be held soon.
Cover Image by: Gopalakrishnan Manicandan