This year, under the roof of a small hut in a remote village in Maharashtra, there were big smiles on the faces of little children. After a long time, their father had bought them new clothes on Diwali. A farmer by profession, the father was pleased with the reactions around - never imagining that this was possible up until a few years ago.
At the other end of the spectrum are consumers like Vasundhara from Bengaluru. When she saw her friend’s child struggling with health issues, Vasundhara decided to opt for food produces, sans chemicals.
“I was concerned about my daughter's health,” she shares and even traveled far to source grains produced using natural farming techniques. I can even tell the difference just by looking at the food,” she says.
Her family members lives have changed too.
A slow shift in farming methods - from chemical farming to using the indigenous knowledge of natural farming - has altered the lifestyles of thousands of families.
A successful experiment
“Around 20 years ago, I started farming and I was completely dependent on chemicals. But luckily, around eight years ago, I came across the Art of Living which introduced me to Sri Sri Natural Farming. Since then I have been following it completely with full confidence,” beams Dr. Shashikant Salunkhe, a farmer based in Maharashtra. While he narrowly missed being caught in debt, stress, and depression, Salunkhe decided to set an example. “I experimented with the natural methods taught in the Sri Sri Natural Farming program and realized that it was the solutions to many problems faced by agriculturalists today. Out of 10 talukas in Satara, five talukas followed my example and are making profit,” informs the doctor.
A step in time
A part of The Art of Living’s Seed Bank program, Sandeep Pawar, says, “Farmers are in the most crucial business and it is very difficult to alter their farming practices. We first share the knowledge of natural farming along with small experiments to test that knowledge.”
“When I heard about Sri Sri Natural Farming program, I was skeptical too. People told me that it’s not worth and they also scared me with theories about poor yield. But, I went ahead with it. I had never thought that I could get rid of 20 years of chemical farming which had reduced fertility and quality of my soil. I am happy that I am earning a high profit now,” Dr. Salunkhe shares with the sigh of relief and gratitude.
Many farmers have survived through hard times. One such farmer resides in Shreelampur, a small village 40 km from Shirdi. While the farmers in that area invested around Rs 60,000 to Rs 65,000 per acre as an input cost, this farmer invested just about Rs. 1,20,000 for a huge 5-acre land. “Thanks to natural farming, we not only get a significant production of healthy and natural food, but also the residues are negligible.”
The negligible residue further encouraged farmers to completely wean off chemical pesticides. The produce was rich, leading to higher sales at the markets. This, in turn, encouraged more farmers to follow suit. The Art of Living has reached out to more than 20 lakh farmers and trained them in natural farming under its Sri Sri Natural Farming program.
Providing for the farmer
The Art of Living also taught self-empowerment programs to farmers. The techniques taught in this program helped to build their morale and confidence. Sandeep and many other youth from the Youth Leadership Training Program (YLTP) wing have been working in the villages in India.
Started by Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, in the wake of the farmers’ suicides 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. Over the course of time, The Art of Living introduced several initiatives for farmers, including:
A program exclusively on Sri Sri Natural Farming.
Last year, in 10 districts of Maharashtra, the team distributed 3 tons of wheat seeds.
700 farmers took part in a national level training on natural farming in 2007.
Through three more such workshops, the team has reached out to villages to 25 states across India.
Recently in Madhya Pradesh, a total of 1,500 farmers were present to attend a session on how to practice the beneficial method of 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 which could lead to diseases,” shares Sandeep.
So the next time when you grab a bite, you need not worry about the quality. A happy, satisfied farmer is tilling his land using natural farming methods and the labor of his work is reaching your table.
Story credit: Monica Patel
Published on: November 20, 2012