Foreign kings, who saw a great amount of wealth in India, plundered this wealth, starting from the 12th century until India got Independence in 1947. How did the Indian region accumulate so much wealth? Did Indian kings invade other countries? No, the answer is simple, Sustainable Agriculture Practices!
The distinguished British economist Lt Angus Maddison, who has written about the world economy, writes that India’s GDP was in first place from the 1st century to 1750AD -- that’s about 1,750 years. All thanks to our ancestral sustainable organic (natural) farming practices.
After the British left India, Indian agricultural universities taught Western agriculture practices such as mono-cropping, the usage of pesticides and chemical fertilisers, etc.
Today, Indian farmers are in distress, and as the days go by, they are becoming poorer and some farmers have even committed suicide due to a massive amount of debt. Farmer communities are in a continuous struggle with governments, and government representatives are clueless on how to handle the crisis. Expert advisers who have practiced agriculture over the internet, advise the government on possible solutions like doubling the price, Minimum Support Price (MSPs) etc. None of these will solve the farmer crisis until we carefully understand the scenario deep in the villages of India.
Around 3,500 people live in my village (Sunagahally, Mandya, Karnataka). Collectively, our farmers hold about 1,000-1,500 acres of land in the village, the average holding per individual is about one-third of an acre. While 70%-75% of the land is utilised for sugarcane, 15%-20% is used for paddy and the remaining is used for ragi, coconuts and bananas.
Our village consumes about 70-90 types of pulses, cereals, greens, vegetables, spices and fruits; 95%-99% of the consumables are not produced within the village, only a small portion is produced here. The irony is that even the small produce like ragi, bananas, coconuts or rice is not directly sold within the village. The agents buy their produce or the farmers sell them in the local mandi, which is far from the village. The same products come back to the village kirana stores and the villagers buy from the kirana stores. Imagine the additional costs added because of the middlemen and the logistics, isn’t it stupidity?
Our farmers struggle to find markets and the best price, they produce single crops at once and try to find a market outside the villages. It’s a simple fact that the village itself needs 70-90 types of products in a staggered manner. The government should permit the formation of multi-produce Farmer Produce Organisations (FPOs) -- today, single-produce FPOs are permissible but not multi-produce FPOs. Farmers of the village should form a multi-produce Farmer Produce Organisation, assess the consumption patterns of the village and the required intervals. Accordingly, they should come up with a comprehensive annual plan and distribute the production loads among themselves.
As I said earlier, farmers in my village hold about 1,000-1,500 acres of land. If our farmers produce 90% of what the village consumes, they won’t be able to sell the produce to outside markets or agents. ‘Produce Local, Buy Local and Sell Local’, this should be the mantra and governments should start focusing on these models rather than fighting with farmers on an ongoing basis. This is true Grama Swarajya, Mahatma Gandhi, for once after his death, will be happy if this is implemented.
Madhu Chandan SC
Farmer and Founder, Organic Mandya