Concerns in Indian agriculture today
Over the years it has become increasingly difficult for the more than 250 million Indians whose livelihood depends on agriculture, to make a sustainable income. Overcome by their extreme economic pressures, many take drastic steps to end their suffering. Reports suggest that, burdened by the debts of unsustainable farming, thousands have committed suicide out of sheer desperation over the years.
We believe that the root of their problems can be traced back to the ‘Green Revolution’ of the mid-’70s which resulted in the introduction of new, exotic seed varieties. Lured by the possibilities of better yields higher and incomes that these seeds promised, many marginal and small scale farmers chose to cultivate them over indigenous seed varieties. Easily susceptible to pests and diseases, the new varieties needed extensive inputs, such as chemical fertilizers, pesticides, etc. in order to produce the promised high yields. The already impoverished farmer then had to invest in these inputs, availing loans in order to meet his expenses. Stuck in an unsustainable cycle of agriculture, with a debt that becomes increasingly difficult to pay off, many farmers face the harsh reality of poverty. Ironically, despite cultivating crops in their farms, their families face malnutrition and hunger.
Addressing these concerns
GREEN Foundation’s work is based on the fact that farmers with small landholdings of less than a hectare cannot meet the food requirements of their family by growing a single crop. Nor can they sustain that type of agriculture for long without widespread ecological devastation. Biodiversity is therefore essential to the food and economic security of small and marginal farmers. Conservation of biodiversity, especially of indigenous varieties well adapted to local climatic conditions, holds the key to securing agrarian livelihoods. Along with this, a holistic approach that incorporates water and soil conservation methods, nutrition enrichment, economic security and endogenous development of communities is crucial.
The challenges we encountered
One of the biggest challenges we faced was the belief many farmers held that traditional seeds would result in reduced yields. They had also forgotten much of the collective indigenous knowledge that held the key to sustainability. We had to show them through the practical demonstration that organic farming through indigenous seed varieties was more beneficial to them.