Today, more than ever, farmers across the globe are being subjected to the vagaries of adverse market forces over which he has no control. In this scenario, Prof Jajoo introduced the concept of self-help in agriculture and cultivation in 2008. He felt, that embracing the gift of nature, shunning market oriented man-made practices and abstaining from materialistic living, paved the way towards qualitative change in perspective towards life. This narrative describes the steps taken in this initiative for self-help in agricultural practices…
Scope of the problem…
Sustenance-based farmers in today’s world, more than ever are facing the onslaught of multiple market forces which include concerted efforts to introduce genetically- modified seeds, problems of pesticide use, global warming and its impact on seasonal weather and monsoons, and economic global recessions and financial crises.
The Green Revolution in the 1960s ushered a new era of food surplus from the famines which previously ravaged India. In less than 20 years the grain production doubled and previously marginalized regions of rural India became breadbaskets, producing enough wheat and rice to export a surplus. Farmers adopted techniques of monoculture (growing only one cash crop) and double-cropping (harvesting twice a year by generating a second rainy season through irrigation), increasing their yields enormously.
However, these fundamental shifts in agricultural techniques have created a new set of problems for farmers in rural India. In a land that once grew 100,000 varieties of rice, one is now hard-pressed to find anything outside a few popular varieties in the country’s urban markets thus stripping regions of their biodiversity. And now there’s the increasing threat of genetically modified food crop seeds entering the Indian markets. Methods of high-yield double-cropping, which use non-native seeds and require extensive irrigation, have caused steep drops in water tables and severe land degradation. What was once nutrient-rich soil has become anemic, salinized, and dangerously expensive to maintain.
Around 2008, Prof Jajoo started seriously pondering on this aspect of the impact of uncontrollable market forces and the spate of debt-driven suicides in Vidarbha and other parts of rural India and its impact on thriving rural communities. Rather than being exploited by market forces and not get a fair price for their crops the concept of priority of cultivating for one’s own sustenance, was introduced. The idea was to convert agriculture into an act of faith, where one produces for self-consumption only and thus get freedom from unpredictable market forces.
Once the plan was formulated a multi-pronged time-tested comprehensive approach was put in place which included novel agricultural (the existing heritage) practices like seed exchange and seed festival programmes, soil and water conservation including vermicompost , green manure , kitchen gardens along with participatory educational input to help the villagers.
Prior to instituting a paradigm shift in existing agricultural practices, an intense period of participatory educational input was started. As the concept was expounded by those who practiced it, educative tours to such role models were arranged and emulative actions adopted.