The feeling when you are rescued
Essays, exams, speeches and debates on the great Indian agriculture formed a common part of our school curriculum. Some would reflect pride over the vast lush green fields that Punjab possesses and quote figures of wheat production. While some would feel sorry over the barren lands of Maharashtra or ponder over the excessive use of chemicals and fertilizers. The latter did more harm not only to the farm but also the farmers.
The Maharashtra incident was an eye-opener for urban India. In worrisome times, farmers had no hope from their acres of lands to ever yield a solution for their debts. They did not know the answer to prevent the soil from losing its fertility or bring back the days when the store room would be filled with sacks of grains.
In dire need of a solution to the crisis (or even otherwise), organic farming is the new super technology for our farmers. When a farmer is saved from multiple problems, he may be able to give you an insight into how it finally happened, yet the feeling cannot be entirely put to words.
We may not get an opportunity to visit the farms and see for ourselves the drastic change that organic method has infused into their lives. Nevertheless, here is an attempt to take you through the journey from being a slave of chemicals to the king of organic miracles!
America asks India for it
Shrimant Ganu Shelake, a humble farmer from the holy land of Pandharpur, is one such farmer who feels blessed after being saved from the menace of chemicals. His five acres of land requires less water, labor and investment than that required in chemical farming. “Earlier, only one acre would cost me approximately a whopping Rs 25,000, but now it is very less! Let me also tell you, my yearly income is now Rs. 1.5 lakhs,” his grateful voice starts choking as he further adds, “my family is very happy now!”
He dismisses the statement that organic farming cannot be a national solution for all the farmers, “Every farmer can start with it and it’s suitable for the Indian soil, for any crop.” Ironically, America is demanding five lakh tonnes of organic custard apple from India; however, there is not enough supply from the farmers. “It will be good for our nation; farmers lack awareness and this has stopped the progress for us,” mutters Shelake. He owns a three-acre spread of banana field and one-and-a-half acres of red berries and custard apples each. “My custard apple and banana land will increase to five acres in January, all thanks to organic farming,” his voice expresses the much-felt happiness.
Shelake‘s counterpart Ranjith goes a step further and is creating awareness about organic farming among other farmers in the state. “I have been practicing chemical free farming for just two years now but I am very happy with the progress I have made. I have even reached out to the rest of the farmers in Maharashtra, guiding them on the same,” his voice expresses the confidence even on the phone.
I am not selfish, I know how to share
“Earlier, with chemical farming, I faced too many issues. I used to produce about 13 sacks of rice but now it’s 20. Increase in production is the highlight and that is the answer to all the farmers’ problems,” Ranjith laughs out loud over the phone, making his intense joy clear!
It was two years ago in Nagpur when he invited a random man who walked around the village talking about chemical-free farming. “I welcomed him at my place and he started telling me the benefits of organic farming. I was impressed to see a few pictures of lands post organic farming. People in my village warned me that I am making a mistake and I would repent later. But I switched. Now I am miles away from chemicals, only too glad to realize their hidden benefits. Increased output, less investment, both in terms of cost and labor, and a major impact on health are some of the gains that organic farming brought into my life,” exclaims Ranjith.
He has a deep sense of responsibility towards his fellow-farmers. He has even created a group called ‘Mrugdhaara’. “The quality of my organic produce in terms of taste and nutrition improved tremendously, so I increased the cost. But people refused to buy from me! Then after a few months, the demand grew viral, money started flowing and family and friends were very happy,” he beams.
Interestingly, even Zila Parishad heads visited his land asking him about the process and encouraged him to visit other villages to spread awareness about the same.
Speaking of statistics, Ranjith saves Rs 4,000 per acre more than what he did from chemical farming. The expenditure and savings vary as they depend on certain parameters such as climate, soil texture and land condition. “It is such a boon to the village farmers that they will increase their farming to one more acre next year. I feel I am blessed and I want others to be blessed too.” Ranjith envisions working harder in the future.
An open challenge
Another farmer, Dinesh, from Shrirampur Taluka had once challenged his fellow farmers to hunt for a disease in his one-acre farm of lady finger but not even a single insect could be found! “There are 10 farmers now who have switched to organic farming.” He further goes on to share another incident, “There was a farmer from Sangli who had a brinjal field which was destroyed by chemicals. He called me a month ago asking for help. There is something called Enzymes and the solution worked so well that he now earns double the money and the brinjals are good quality too.”
Dinesh started organic farming three years ago. He now has five acres of pomegranate and banana fields each. A year ago, he invested Rs 70,000 per acre which has now reduced to Rs 15,000 per acre.
He further says that even people at Vidarbha (the host of mass suicide in Maharashtra a couple of years ago) are now more interested in knowing about chemical-free farming.
A movement for the hard workers
A farmer puts in his invaluable effort to produce grains to feed us, whether we eat at a small roadside stall or a five-star restaurant. Maharashtra is one of the states whose farmers today, have become an example of how effort can be reduced, production increased and the result: chemical-free, healthy food!
The land of saints, Maratha warriors, legendary poets and rich culture couldn’t be trapped in the darkness of time for long. As its history reads, it again rose from the downfall only to witness a wave of transformation. Farmers owe their experiences, profits, happiness and better lives to Sri Sri Ravi Shankar ji, who initiated the movement along with his volunteers, to impart the technique that needs no trial. “You must spend one day at the field and you will have so much gratitude towards these farmers who work so hard to fill your stomach,” Sri Sri said post his address to one lakh farmers during his recent Maharashtra tour.
YOU are the game-changer
Everyone has a dream. Everyone has a belief. Everyone has the potential to fulfill what they envision. India is a land of achievers. These farmers are new entrants to the list of visionaries in rural India. We are their pillar of strength. It’s only when we, as individuals, choose to pick an organic apple in the supermarket that a Shelake or a Ranjith would bow down to us in gratitude for making their happiness grow by leaps and bounds!
Writer: Monica Patel, Graphics: Gurudatt Anvekar
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