The Art of Living has been working towards stopping farmer suicides in the Vidarbha, an agricultural belt in Maharashtra. Many of its farmers had taken to committing suicide owing to poor crop and rising debts. The Art of Living implemented a program specially devised to create a sense of confidence in farmers and educated them in organic farming methods.
PREVENTING FARMER SUICIDES
An agricultural region in Maharashtra, India, Vidarbha has been witnessing tremendous turmoil over the last few years. Many of its farmers had taken to committing suicide owing to poor crop and rising debts. Estimates suggest that 1,920 farmers ended their lives between January 1, 2001 and August 19, 2006. The mental despair and helplessness kept escalating with the year 2006 showing a grim prognosis: one suicide every eight hours.
Alarmed by the spate of suicides in the Vidarbha, the Government of Maharashtra invited a few NGOs to initiate motivational programs to stem the suicide rate. After the first meeting with the Chief Secretary in June 2006 Vyakti Vikas Kendra India (The Art of Living) constituted a task force with a mandate to start on a war footing not only the motivational programs but also other practical time-tested initiatives like organic farming methods, water conversation techniques, health and hygiene, and others to form a part of the internationally known 5H program of AOL.
A group of 35 well-trained and motivated youth, were brought together from all parts of Maharashtra. They underwent a four-day orientation program.
These Yuvacharyas then implemented the program specially devised to create a forum for community oneness and paving the way to live life with self-esteem and dignity.
This project gave them:
- Improved health through tools to combat depression and fear
- Economic prosperity by techniques to improve agricultural produce
- Better quality of life by building the relevant infrastructure
“Before Art of Living, there was depression and debt everywhere. I'm confident that with the zero budget farming taught in the course, the produce will improve and debts will be cleared” Devendra Borde, a farmer from Vidarbha.
The Swavalamban project involves
- Stage I: Stress-elimination by trauma relief workshops
- Stage II: Workshops on chemical-free farming which teach techniques that lower production costs and increase yield, thereby increasing profits
- Stage III: Rainwater harvesting projects and soak pits to overcome water shortages
Special programs are carried out for village youth to inspire them to become a part of the solution. The Youth Leadership Training Program (YLTP) is being carried out on a large scale. Around 3,725 youth have been trained.
The project in the meantime gathered more steam and as of October 10, 2007, Art of Living has covered 507 villages. 3000 ft of CCT farming has been done, 65 field ponds (10x10x10m) have been completed. This number went up to 500 by March 2007.
What is more important is that the urge to live has returned. Not a single case of suicide has been reported in the 507 villages since The Art of Living commenced its work. An ongoing initiative, this project has made a huge difference in the region.