Monday, November 13, 2017

Rain rain go away!!!

The continuation of monsoon into October was seen as a nuisance by many of us…our romance with rains was over and we were looking forward to bright sunny days. But I was anxious. I was remembering the bright faces of women who said “yeh bar achchi fasal hui madam” and the heavy loss of standing rice crop that followed such unseasonal rains a few years back. I was praying that there should be no repetition of that year this time.

 So, when I visited our villages I was very nervous…as expected there was deafening silence, people going about their work with a sense of resignation. “Koi bhi diwali nahi manaya madam… poori fasal Kharab hogai hai” said Sadhna, our village volunteer. And it was heart wrenching to see stretches and stretches of farms with the crop flattened and drowned in water, the rice plants growing wild and the rice kernels turned black with fungus. I was told that the grain cannot be used even by the family as it has not hardened yet. Now, most families are coping with the burden of paying for labour to clear the fields to prepare for the vegetable crops which they hope will sustain them through the year. Not all families engage in a second crop.  For them the only hope is the grains saved from last year and the PDS supplies.

Crops damaged by excess and untimely rains
For villages which have kitchen gardens, farms and forests surrounding them, we hardly find any sparrows, butterflies and bees. We had to abandon a bee keeping project because we could not find and retain bees required for bee-keeping. The heavy and indiscriminate use of chemical fertilisers and pesticides could be a cause. The white sediment on hard cracked fields during summers that we see also indicates the havoc that is being played by chemical fertilisers on the soil. The rising cost of farming and poor returns are making the villagers sell their land to realtors to develop gated communities. Many of the small hills are blasted and flattened for road extensions and timber lobby has cut hundreds of trees in the interiors of forests taking advantage of the desperation and ignorance of the very poor tribals in these interior villages of Shahapur. Is it any wonder that the rain patterns have changed in the last few years?

But in this desperate situation I was surprised to see small plots of rice fields which were intact. I was told those were the fields where they have not used hybrid seeds or chemical fertilisers. The plants are short and sturdy and could withstand the heavy unseasonal rains. It reminded us to go back to our old methods of farming.

To address some of the issues mentioned above Population First, through its field project AMCHI has been promoting production of vermi compost and organic farming in villages through women’s groups for the past few years. Women are trained not just on production process but also to undertake promotion, marketing and organise farmer melavas to educate other farmers. The transformation this is bringing about in the women is tremendous and slowly but steadily the farmers are showing an inclination to use organic manure in their fields after seeing the results in the demonstration plots where only the organic manure produced by the women is used.

Currently, our women engaged in vermi compost project are working towards taking land from landlords on crop sharing basis and do organic farming. We are excited about it. This is just the beginning and we are hoping that we would succeed in making women farmers spearhead the change in the farming sector.

Women engaged in vermi-compost enterprise
You could be part of this movement. If you are involved in organic farming or marketing organic products you could provide us technical and marketing support, if you are a journalist, photographer or a film maker you could help us document the process, if you have disposable income and the heart to support us financially you could do that small act of signing that cheque. And I am sure all of you can wish us well. Please draw a cheque on the name of Population First and can send it to us at our office address: Ratan Manzil, Ground Floor, 64, Wodehouse road, Colaba, Opp Hotel Happy Home, Mumbai – 400005.
Contributions to Population First are exempt from tax under section 80-G (5) of the Income Tax Act. Population First is registered under Foreign Contributions (Regulation) Act 1976.


Written by Dr. A.L. Sharada, Director, Population First


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