This year, under the roof of a small hut in a remote village in Maharashtra, there were smiles on the faces of the little children. After a long time, they had seen new clothes for themselves on Diwali, bought by their father. The father had never hoped that one day, he as a farmer, would be able to light the lamp of prosperity and smiles for his family. He is yielding the fruits of the organic farming that he took up few years ago.
When Vasundhara, a home maker from Bangalore city, saw the health issues with her friend's kid, she decided to go organic. "It's been few years since I have switched to organic food. I was concerned for my daughter's health, so I immediately switched!" She even travels to shops far from her house, if needed, so that her family gets only organic food. "I can even tell the difference just by looking at the food.." She says with a proud smile.
As for the farmers who have shown the strength to use the desi (indigenous) knowledge of organic farming, they have seen tremendous improvement in the fertility of the soil (that was reduced to a great extent due to the use of chemicals).
Most of the farmers are now empowered with the technique of organic farming. “Around 20 years back, I started farming and I was completely dependent on chemicals. But luckily, I came across the knowledge of organic farming and it has been a blessing. I started organic farming around eight years ago, as I was introduced to The Art of Living and since then I have been following it 100 percent with full confidence,” beams Dr. Shashikant Salunkhe, a farmer based in Maharashtra. When he could have also been one of the farmers caught up in the debts, stress and depression, he chose to exhibit strength. “Rather than telling by word of mouth, I am setting an example for the rest of the farmers. I have done this successful experiment called organic farming and by practice, I know that it is the answer to many agricultural questions today. There are ten Taluks in Satara district out of which five are successfully following me and they are also in profit,” informs the doctor.
Being a part of The Art of Living’s Seed Bank program, Sandeep Pawar is of the opinion that to mould a farmer to stop using chemicals is a challenge. “Farmers are in the most crucial business and it is very difficult to alter their farming practices. So to gain their trust, first our farmers built their knowledge, a model that is practically visible for the rest to see for themselves,” he said.
Many farmers have survived through hard times. There are some farmers who have crossed the deep valleys of darkness and failures of their agricultural occupation to see the vast lands filled with blossoming green leaves and red fruits, the roots of which are nurtured by the fertile soil underneath.
One such farmer resides in Shreelampur, a small village 40 km from Shirdi, who has a pomegranate farm. While the farmers in that area invested around Rs 60,000 to Rs 65,000 per acre as input cost, this farmer invested just about Rs. 1,20,000 for a huge 5 acres. “So, when we do chemical free farming, we not only get an awesome production of healthy and natural food, the residues are also next to negligible. He did use 20% of chemicals in the beginning out of fear, but since were no residues, his product got the market rate of Rs 70 against the normal rate of Rs 40 to Rs 45,” Sandeep added.
The farmers did know that the chemicals cause harm, but they were helpless until the right technique came their way. Today, The Art of Living has reached out to more than 20 Lakh farmers who have been trained in organic farming.
“When I heard about organic farming, I was skeptical too. People told me that it’s not worth and they also scared me of the performance. But I went ahead with it somehow! I had never thought that I could get rid of the 20 years of chemical farming that had reduced the fertility of my soil and its quality. I am very happy that I am yearning a lot of profit now ,” Dr. Salunkhe shares with the sigh of relief and gratitude audible in his tone!
Sandeep and many other youth of the Youth Leadership Training Program, work on the field tirelessly to spread this knowledge to every farmer of India. Hence, we not only have happy farmers in villages, but also healthy people in the cities who are saved from consuming the harmful chemicals or genetically modified food.
Started by H H Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, in the wake of the farmers’ suicides that happened in the state of Maharashtra, Sandeep shares that he has seen the transformation happen through this project in the lives of farmers in many villages. In the course of time, The Art of Living has introduced a program exclusively on Zero Budget Natural Farming(ZBNF). The government of Maharashtra has undertaken the Youth Leadership Training Program for morale increase in farmers and also on Zero Budget Natural Farming training. Last year, in 10 districts of Maharashtra, the team has distributed 3 tonnes of wheat seeds and it is progressing ahead very efficiently.**
A national level training on ZBNF happened in the year 2007, where 700 farmers from all over India participated. Through three more such workshops, the team has reached out to villages to 25 states, across India. Recently, in Madya Pradesh, a total of 1,500 farmers were present to attend a session on how to practice the beneficial method of Zero Budget Natural Farming.
“We are inspired by the vision of Gurudev that every man should get chemical free food. It is said that every gram has some milligram of chemicals, due to which even the doctors cannot diagnose the diseases that occur,” Sandeep shares with a strong conviction and a tone with a sense of huge responsibility.
So the next time when you grab a bite to fill the hungry tummy, you need not worry about the quality. It might be the grain from the organic farm, natural, chemical free, healthy, nutritious and grown by a happy farmer! With the right knowledge, correct technique and support, we can give a shoulder to our farmers making them strong to say a YES to all that’s natural!
**More about this, Coming soon...
Writer: Monica Patel, Graphics: Gurudatt Anvekar
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