The main aim of this year’s effort was to spread the word about organic farming amongst adivasi farmers of Barwani district, revive the traditional knowledge about farming techniques and encourage youth towards farming.
Although the traditional methods of farming of the adivasis were based on manure, mixed cropping, crop rotation, crops for fodder etc., the fragmentation of farms and families coupled with the need for more and more cash due to integration in the market economy, has led to an almost complete erosion of the traditional practices in this area.
Various efforts were made this year to achieve these goals. As a result of this many farmers have shown an interest in experimenting with organic farming techniques. A brief report of the activities undertaken under the project is as follows –
Seeing is Believing
Two exposure tours and trainings were conducted to interact with farmers who have demonstrated the success of organic farming.
Training – Wardha, Centre for Sustainable Agriculture. Three farmers participated in a 4 day training and exposure. The training focused on the techniques and the importance of organic farming to remove the plight of the farmers and from the environmental angle. They were also taken to visit organic farms around Wardha.
Exposure – Another group of teachers and farmers were sent on an exposure tour to visit Shri Vasant Phutane’s Organic Farm and other farms around Wardha. They visited farmers in 3 villages. They were especially impressed by a couple who had grown Papaya on one acre using organic farming techniques and reaped huge profits. They also visited some marginal farmers around Wardha to see if organic farming was feasible for small farms.
Nagpur Seed Festival – A team from Adharshila went to participate in the Nagpur Seed Festival where they met with a lot of like minded people, exchanged seeds of traditional varieties.
About 100 -120 farmers of the Sendhwa, Nevali and Pansemal blocks of Barwani district visited the Adharshila farm and the techniques of making organic pesticides, growth promoters and Jeevamrut were explained to them. Mostly this was done through the parents who come to meet the children. The parents were encouraged to bring other people, relatives to see the school and farm. Many parents have shown interest in experimenting with these low cost techniques.
Some farmers of Khargone district who are already trying out these techniques also visited the Adharshila Organic Farm.
Meetings, Discussions and Yaatra
The issue of farming was raised in the parents meetings and children were encouraged to talk to their parents about organic farming practices when they went home during the holidays. Many parents showed willingness to start experimenting. The traditional techniques were still in their memory and they realized the usefulness of those techniques but found themselves stuck in the market based farming system and the increased need for cash.
It was decided that they will start an experimental plot in the next agricultural season.
Ex Students’ Meeting
Two meetings with ex students of Adharshila were organised regarding promoting organic farming techniques on their farms and in their villages. But due to some issue or the other only 10 – 12 students were able to participate. Though they agreed in principle to the idea but said that it was difficult to implement as their parents would not listen to them or not risk it.
New innovations in farming, value addition and marketing of farm produce were also shared with the participants as sources of employment and income generation. Ideas of growing herbal medicines, horticulture and vegetables, bee keeping etc. were also discussed.
Only one or two students who were doing farming independently agreed to do it as they were able to take independent decisions. The others agreed that they will try to at least help in spreading the word and convince their parents to do it on a small patch for a start.
It was felt that for greater impact some success stories have to be created in the area by working intensively with some families .One ex student and his family agreed to take up these techniques in the coming agricultural season.
A yaatra was taken out to talk to people and learn what they think about the idea of doing farming organically. The yaatra covered about 10 -12 villages. Talking to groups of people in villages and on the way the main thing that came out was that people seem to know of the ill effects of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. They have a sort of romantic notion of putting manure and getting good yields. But there is a whole new generation which has grown up seeing only this market based farming. They don’t know anything else. But the main point was that people felt stuck in the market based system and felt it was impossible to come out of it. There were some oldies who still stick to traditional crops, manure etc at least in some part of their land.
Propagating the idea through curriculum
Organic Farming is a daily activity for the children of Adharshila. The children are divided into groups and they take part in farm practices for almost one hour daily. The practices include everything from collecting mulch to making pesticide or jeevamrut, composting, pruning of trees, ploughing, weeding, watering..almost everything that is to be done.
This year it was made sure that each class has learnt at least some basic things in a more structured manner also. They were also made to write the processes of making Jeevamrut, pesticide and a growth promoter. They wrote essays on the advantages of organic farming and some children made posters on various related topics. Two short films were also shown on the theme and discussions held on the topic.
The children were also introduced to the idea that tree planting, animal husbandry and recycling of urine and cow dung through a biogas plant or other techniques were also essential parts of the farm project without which it was difficult to do organic farming.
Poems and songs depicting pride of farmers are being taught to the children for the annual function.
Many children used these techniques at their homes during the holidays and impressed their parents and neighbors.
Information dissemination through film and mobile
Film show – A video on the ill effects of chemical farming were shown in villages of our ex students. After the film people talked about their experiences. Most of them were already convinced that pesticides are very harmful for health but didn’t know of any alternatives. The film show and discussions were held in schools, villages and college youth.
Messaging – Short messages about the importance of organic farming were given thrice to about 400 farmers. Later this was abandoned as it was very cumbersome. We replaced this by Adharshila Radio i.e. voice messaging through the net.
Adharshila Radio – A three to four minute message was given to about 350 farmers once a week. We are targeting to reach about 1000 farmers before the monsoons. The messages were in the local Bareli language and dealt with the themes of problems of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, ways of making organic pesticide, making Jeevamrut, making the soil loose and porous, traditional techniques of farming etc. The students and teachers of Adharshila were involved in making the scripts and recording with the help of a volunteer.
The people enjoyed the voice messages as they were based on two humorous characters of local folktales.
Internet Downloading – A group of college students collected in Sendhwa through two of our ex students. A short half day discussion/training was held with them and they were encouraged to search for videos on organic farming. In the next week they downloaded some videos and showed it to friends in their villages. They liked the idea of going around in villages to show the videos to villagers and talk to them.
Demonstration in Local Area
School Farm – The purpose of the Adharshila Organic Farm is to provide vegetables for the mess of 110 students and teachers. Unless we show production children and visitors don’t believe that anything real can come out from these low cost techniques. It is much more convincing to see something happening in one’s own area than hear stories of distant lands.
We were able to harvest about 15 quintals of vegetables and about 200kg pulses. The actual production of the vegetables must have been much more as teachers and staff also take for their personal cooking and there is a lot of direct consumption of radish, tomatoes and urinals by children from the farm.
Seed Distribution –We distributed traditional wheat seeds of varieties requiring less water – Munda Pissi variety and . They were given to an ex student to increase the seeds for wider distribution next year. The production and growth of both varieties was good. One variety with long stalks was spoilt due to strong winds and a hailstorm although it had more grains per stalk. Actually this too added to its weight at the top which became a disadvantage in the wind. The new variety became an item of curiosity with lots of people coming to see it. Due to the use of Jeevamrut the number of stalks per plant had also increased.
Propagation of traditional seeds – We collected about 25 – 30 varieties of traditional vegetable seeds and grew them on the Adharshila Farm. It was fun to see pumpkins, beans, tomatoes, chilly, brinjals and gourds of various sizes, shapes and colours. Hopefully we will be able to pass on some to other farmers in the area next year.
- Organic farming, processing and direct marketing by farmers are one of the main keys to strengthening rural economies and helping farmers become strong. It is a key strategy to help them get out of debt cycles and forced migration.
- We need to show successes in the area by choosing some farmers and work intensively with them while spreading awareness about these ideas in the larger area. Success not just monetarily but in the sense that one should want to live on the farm and not feel deprived for basics.
- Many times the programs that we make rely only on volunteers and hence are not executed fully. We need at least one full time local person to go to villages, houses, schools to talk to people and also to monitor and guide those farmers who have shown willingness to experiment with organic farming techniques.
- More exposure trips are needed for people to see successes of small and marginal farmers.
- A training should also be organised in the area so that more people can benefit.