Rajasthan Farmers go Organic
Economic Times 15-Sep-07
NAWALGARH (RAJASTHAN): Farmers in villages in Jhunjhunu district are not affected by the problems that have driven their counterparts in Andhra Pradesh and Maharastra's Vidharbha region to suicide, thanks to the steady incomes generated by organic farming.
There are like other farmers across the country. The only difference is that they pursue organic farming, in which they use natural manure or vermicast - which is made from the process of vermiculture - instead of chemical fertilizers and pesticides.
Though organic farming is not new to India, it is yet to become popular enough to be followed by farmers on a large scale. But those who have adopted it in this region certainly show signs of a better life.
Murli Prasad Saini of Jamalpuria Organic Krishi farm talks of how his life changed after he adopted this method of farming seven years ago on his two-acre field.
"Due to the use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides and urea, the soil in my field had become hard. The soil started turning barren, and its capacity to hold water decreased sharply. These side effects resulted in a drop in the quantity and quality of produce," he said.
His investments now too are lower than before. "It has reduced drastically as we don't need to buy costly fertilizers and pesticides. And we prepare vermicast on our own from natural waste and cow dung with the help of earthworms which decompose them to vermicast," he said.
"Now the soil's water retention capacity has increased, and our profits have increased one-and-a-half times," said a smiling Saini, who sells his vegetables, pulses and wheat in the local and Delhi markets.
Another farmer in the region, Satvir Lamba of Lamba Krishi Farm, who sells his produce in Delhi and Mumbai, said farmers in other states usually invest too much without thinking about whether they will be able to recover the amount through their produce.
"We have to decide the cost of investment through proper planning," said Lamba, adding that farmers commit suicide as they are unable to repay loans taken at high rates of interest from banks and end up landing in debt.
"In organic farming, there is a major cost cut as far as investing in fertilizers and pesticides is concerned. Then, the production increases due to natural and healthy way of cultivation," he said.
Any other advantages? "Yes," he said. "We are known in the entire village for our organic farming."
The concept of organic farming was introduced in this region by the M R Morarka-GDC Rural Research Foundation, which is propagating such farming in other parts of the country too. The NGO, which claims to be a leaders in vermicast production worldwide, provides the farmers the organic manure to help them pursue the environment-friendly way of cultivation.
However, unlike some places like Azamgarh in Uttar Pradesh, where it took a lot of time and resources to treat the soil to prepare it for organic farming, things were comparatively easier here.
"It was easier for farmers here to switch to organic farming because the land was not contaminated by the excessive use of chemicals," said Mukesh Gupta, executive director of the Foundation.
"Moreover, farmers loans were never publicised in the state. Their propensity to take credit is low and this ultimately became a blessing in disguised as farmers couldn't afford fertilizers and pesticides. So it didn't take much to treat the soil for organic farming and subsequently it's certification was easier," said Gupta, adding that these factors gave the farmers here a competitive advantage.
He agreed that a major reason for distress among farmers in other parts of the country is the huge amount of credit provided to them through political influence.
"The root cause there is huge credit flow since the 1960s. Their entire occupation is based on borrowing money and taking risks. Then it all depends on rains and if the harvest is good, everything goes well. Otherwise it leads to distress," he said.
The NGO also helps farmers get their farms certified, but the only link missing here is the market.
But with the Foundation contemplating marketing plans with an eye on big corporates like Reliance and Bharti, things are expected to get better for the farmers.