Skip to main content

How Madhya Pradesh women 'shifted' from fertiliser-pesticide to natural-organic farming

By Bharat Dogra* 
Women farmers of Neemkhera village (Niwari district and block, Madhya Pradesh) gather near their ancient water tank built during the times of Chandel kings several centuries ago. Most of them are very small farmers, owning one to three acres of land or even less, yet the work they have taken up is not small, it is big. This work is mostly related to strengthening sustainable farming and water conservation.
As Girija Devi explains, their efforts started with getting together and holding regular meetings to discuss development problems and challenges. One of the first initiatives to emerge from these was to arrange for the removal of a part of the accumulated silt of several years from the main village tank.
A voluntary organization, Srijan, helped with the heavier desilting work, taken up as a part of a wider effort the Bundelkhand Initiative for Water, Agriculture and Livelihoods (BIWAL), farmers made their own arrangements to carry the much in demand fertile silt to their fields. Women played an important part in ensuring that the entire work could proceed in a just and hassle-free way.
While this helped to increase the fertility of farms, perhaps an even bigger contribution was made to increasing the water holding and conservation capacity of the water tank. As more rain water collected and stayed in the tank for a longer time, this led to more direct irrigation and, what is even more important, to better recharge. There was now more water in the wells and hand pumps. Drinking water situation improved for villagers as well as for animals, bringing much relief to women who have to bear much of the water responsibilities in the household.
The water situation, including recharge further improved with 15 pits (called dohas) dug in a water channel, in a well-measured way and at places identified carefully by the community. Innovative tree planting and bunds further added to water conservation.
This was followed up by sustained efforts to shift from a fertilizer-pesticide system with little diversity to a very different system based on natural/organic farming with immense biodiversity, this change led by women farmers. Several farmers have more or less completed this shift, while some more are in the process of doing so, carefully trying the new system on a part of their land first before covering their entire land with this.
This change is taking place in conditions of free well-informed choice, with a lot of discussion among farmers and with Srijan activists, and therefore the rapid strides made by natural farming speaks a lot for genuine acceptance of natural farming by small farmers without anything being imposed.
In my group discussion, women farmers spoke about the productivity gains they have achieved on several farms, and even where these have not yet been realized at least the production has not declined while expenses (earlier incurred on expensive, entirely market purchased chemical pesticides and chemical fertilizers) have definitely declined, and the health and nutrition quality of food produced on their farms has definitely increased.
Several farmers have moved over entirely to natural farming based on making better scientific use of locally available cow dung and urine. Ram Kunwar has established a natural farming centre on her farm where she stores extra quantity of cow dung and urine based manure as well as pest repellant for those farmers who need it, at a low and affordable price.
What appears to enthuse women farmers most is scientifically practiced vegetable farming on small plots of land, including kitchen gardens. Some women are playing a prominent role in the entire chain from preparing manure to planting to marketing to preserving seeds for the next crop. As many as 15 or even more vegetables are being grown on small plots of land, contributing much to family nutrition and cash earnings.
The main principle is to plant various vegetable plants in such a way that these tend to be protective and helpful towards each other’s growth. Hence plants which need shade are grown under a bigger, taller plant while those creeper vegetables which need more exposure to sun are given the support of bamboos and wires to remain in the top layer of the garden. Similarly orchards with local fruits like papaya, mango, guava and lemon are being grown following a similar pattern.
Gayatri says that some farms have even been able to almost double their production. An elderly woman says that millets like kodon, sawan and cheena were very useful and will be revived now. Srijan activist Mamta says that this village has many ‘lead’ natural farmers who are already committed to various aspects of natural farming and they in turn are helping ‘associate’ natural farmers to progress further in this direction.
With several demonstration plots of natural farming spread across the village, it is humming with tunes of various ecologically protective changes. This is best captured in group meetings of women farmers where women farmers are full of enthusiasm and creative ideas.
These efforts have extended further to several other villages of Niwari district, helped by a generous grant from Indus Ind Bank. In Gulenda village of Prithvipur block several of these activities are almost equally visible, while the water conservation effort here has been particularly impressive. The water tank here has been not just desilted but also repaired, a well has also been renovated and pits or dohas in water channel have contributed much to water recharge.
These efforts have helped to reduce the dependence on migration. In Bahera village of Niwari block, the 22 dohas created in water channels have given very encouraging results. Changes in these and a few other villages of Niwari district are attracting farmers in other villages as well and deserve wider support, with key elements being water conservation and natural farming with special emphasis on smaller farmers and women farmers.
---
*Honorary convener, Campaign to Save Earth Now. His recent books include ‘India’s Quest for Sustainable Farming and Healthy Food’, ‘Planet in Peril’, ‘Man over Machine’ and ‘Hindi Cinema and Society’

Comments

TRENDING

What's Bill Gates up to? Have 'irregularities' found in funding HPV vaccine trials faded?

By Colin Gonsalves*  After having read the 72nd report of the Department Related Parliamentary Standing Committee on alleged irregularities in the conduct of studies using HPV vaccines by PATH in India, it was startling to see Bill Gates bobbing his head up and down and smiling ingratiatingly on prime time television while the Prime Minister lectured him in Hindi on his plans for the country. 

Muted profit margins, moderate increase in costs and sales: IIM-A survey of 1000 cos

By Our Representative  The Indian Institute of Management-Ahmedabad’s (IIM-A's) latest Business Inflation Expectations Survey (BIES) has said that the cost perceptions data obtained from India’s business executives suggests that there is “mild increase in cost pressures”.

Magnetic, stunning, Protima Bedi 'exposed' malice of sexual repression in society

By Harsh Thakor*  Protima Bedi was born to a baniya businessman and a Bengali mother as Protima Gupta in Delhi in 1949. Her father was a small-time trader, who was thrown out of his family for marrying a dark Bengali women. The theme of her early life was to rebel against traditional bondage. It was extraordinary how Protima underwent a metamorphosis from a conventional convent-educated girl into a freak. On October 12th was her 75th birthday; earlier this year, on August 18th it was her 25th death anniversary.

Alleged killing of another Bangladesh youth inside Indian territory: NHRC inquiry sought

By Kirity Roy* There was yet another incident of the killing of a Bangladeshi youth by the Border Security Force personnel attached with ‘Barthar’ BOP of ‘G’ Company of 75 BSF Battalion. In last five years several incidents of killings happened under this police station’s jurisdiction and the cases will get the award as “Not Guilty” as usual.

Govt putting India's professionals, skilled, unskilled labour 'at mercy of' big business

By Thomas Franco, Dinesh Abrol*  As it is impossible to refute the report of the International Labour Organisation, Chief Economic Advisor Anantha Nageswaran recently said that the government cannot solve all social, economic problems like unemployment and social security. He blamed the youth for not acquiring enough skills to get employment. Then can’t the people ask, ‘Why do we have a government? Is it not the government’s responsibility to provide adequate employment to its citizens?’

IMA vs Ramdev: Why what's good or bad for goose should be good or bad for gander

By Dr Amitav Banerjee, MD* Baba Ramdev and his associate Balkrishna faced the wrath of the Supreme Court for their propaganda about their Ayurvedic products and belittling mainstream medicine. Baba Ramdev had to apologize in court. His apology was not accepted and he may face the contempt of court with harsher punishment. The Supreme Court acted on a public interest litigation (PIL) moved by the Indian Medical Association (IMA).

A Hindu alternative to Valentine's Day? 'Shiv-Parvati was first love marriage in Universe'

By Rajiv Shah*   The other day, I was searching on Google a quote on Maha Shivratri which I wanted to send to someone, a confirmed Shiv Bhakt, quite close to me -- with an underlying message to act positively instead of being negative. On top of the search, I chanced upon an article in, imagine!, a Nashik Corporation site which offered me something very unusual. 

Modi model, Hindutva icon 'justified' alliance with Muslim League before Independence

By Shamsul Islam*  Our PM describes himself as ‘Hindu’ nationalist and member of RSS. He proudly shares the fact that he was groomed to be a political leader by one of the two fathers of the Hindutva politics, MS Golwalkar (the other being VD Savarkar) and given the task of establishing Hindutva polity in India after eradicating secularism.

'Flawed' argument: Gandhi had minimal role, naval mutinies alone led to Independence

Counterview Desk Reacting to a Counterview  story , "Rewiring history? Bose, not Gandhi, was real Father of Nation: British PM Attlee 'cited'" (January 26, 2016), an avid reader has forwarded  reaction  in the form of a  link , which carries the article "Did Atlee say Gandhi had minimal role in Independence? #FactCheck", published in the site satyagrahis.in. The satyagraha.in article seeks to debunk the view, reported in the Counterview story, taken by retired army officer GD Bakshi in his book, “Bose: An Indian Samurai”, which claims that Gandhiji had a minimal role to play in India's freedom struggle, and that it was Netaji who played the crucial role. We reproduce the satyagraha.in article here. Text: Nowadays it is said by many MK Gandhi critics that Clement Atlee made a statement in which he said Gandhi has ‘minimal’ role in India's independence and gave credit to naval mutinies and with this statement, they concluded the whole freedom struggle.

Youth as game changers in Lok Sabha polls? Young voter registration 'is so very low'

By Dr Mansee Bal Bhargava*  Young voters will be the game changers in 2024. Do they realise this? Does it matter to them? If it does, what they should/must vote for? India’s population of nearly 1.3 billion has about one-fifth 19.1% as youth. With 66% of its population (808 million) below the age of 35, India has the world's largest youth population. Among them, less than 40% of those who turned 18 or 19 have registered themselves for 2024 election. According to the Election Commission of India (ECI), just above 1.8 crore new voters (18-and 19-year-olds) are on the electoral rolls/registration out of the total projected 4.9 crore new voters in this age group.