Skip to main content

Madhya Pradesh small farmers adopt natural farming sustainably, 'improve' savings

Water conservation effort in Bahera village
By Bharat Dogra* 
Phoola Devi and Devidayal work hard on their small plot of less than two acres of farmland in Larvari village, in Niwari district of Madhya Pradesh. Despite their best efforts, things had been becoming quite difficult, but then some important changes they initiated in recent times have given them new hope.
Firstly, they have given up using chemical fertilizers and pesticides purchased at ever increasing price from market. Instead they now use scientific methods to produce organic fertilizer right in their own backyard, using cow dung, cow urine as the basic ingredients with a little gram flour and jaggery added. Hence they were able to retain their earlier productivity while at the same time reducing their expenses to a significant extent.
Secondly, they are now using a part of their farmland to grow a multi-layer garden, mainly of vegetables. Here at various layers creepers, small plants and vegetables growing under the soil can together contribute to harvesting a richer and more diverse yield from even a very small plot of land.
Thirdly, they are now in the process of devoting some land to planting many fruit trees, mainly guavas and to a lesser extent lemons, the species being selected on the basis of soil testing and the suitability of local conditions. The natural farming approach is being followed in the case of vegetables and fruits as well, keeping costs low.
Munni Devi and Lalaram are another couple who have followed these three phases to a more promising future. Munni Devi related that migrant workers who go from this work to far-away places to seek work are sometimes cheated quite badly and so she believes in improving her farming as much as possible.
Can these changes you have initiated bring enough earnings so that you can meet your needs within your village? Yes, we have high hopes, she replies as the other three nod in agreement. These changes, which are still in an early stage, could be possible because of the wider efforts initiated by a social organization Srijan.
As our group discussion leads to the nitty gritty of how much earnings can increase, villagers emphasize that it is earnings minus costs ie the net savings which are important, and this is where natural farming is a winner. 
Another factor they bring out is the big improvement in family nutrition due to the plentiful availability of diverse vegetables now, an important improvement that can be missed out if only cash earnings are considered. When cultivated using natural methods, the nutrition and health benefits of these vegetable are much better, and so is the taste.
Farmers of Larwari village
Another village in the same district Bahera brings out some of these aspects more vividly. Surendra Kumar, a farmer with a keen interest in natural farming, says that on account of avoiding chemical fertilizers and pesticides a saving of about Rs. 3,500 per acre has been achieved on the basis of the prevailing average level of agro-chemical use in this village in the context of small farmers. While several farmers who are taking up natural farming prepare their own organic fertilizer, those who are unable to do so can buy this at a low cost from a natural farming centre.
This is being managed by Vandana, a woman with a very keen interest in natural farming. She and her husband Surendra are together playing an important role in initiating several such changes.
However, several gains achieved by this village in recent times would not have been possible but for the prior initiation of important steps of water conservation. A check dam had been constructed on a stream flowing in this village earlier but there was no gate. Srijan helped in the construction of a gate and then also took up the digging of about 21 ‘doha’ pits at various places in the stream with the aim of conserving more rainwater, in consultation with villagers.
While more water was conserved now for a longer period, this also contributed to recharging wells and the water level in them rose. All this helped farmers in the village to provide better irrigation to their fields. In fact, several of them who were unable to cultivate the rabi crop earlier and grew only the kharif crop were now able to cultivate the rabi crop as well.
In the course of the last two years of the efforts of Srijan, about 30 farmer households have fully adopted natural farming while about 20 others have adopted natural farming practices on a part of their fields. Work relating to multi-layer vegetable garden and guava fruit trees is also spreading.
Farmers in this village are in the middle of important changes and they often compare the fields of natural farming with other fields. The discussion generally turns in favor of natural farming, but some others feel that they may not be able to give the kind of care that natural farming involves. In fact some farmers of neighbouring villages also come here to see the progress of natural farming.
Farmers of Bahera village
Ajay and Janki from nearby Nimchauni village said that several farmers in their village are now ready to adopt natural farming after seeing the progress and the results here.
Here as in Larvari discussion also turns to health benefits. As Ram Kumari says, the food we get from natural farming is certainly healthier and ultimately this will help to save the costs we incur in treating illness. Soil also gets healthier with natural farming, farmers say we can already see earthworms returning. Hence sustainability of good yields will be achieved by soil and water conservation.
Efforts of Srijan, in turn supported by funds from IndusInd Bank, have raised high hopes among many farmers of these and nearby villages and the experiences so far indicate that these are likely to be realized to a large extent. There may be dampeners like adverse weather, but the model being promoted here also helps in increasing resilience in times of bad weather.
*Honorary convener, Campaign to Save Earth Now. His recent books include ‘Planet in Peril', ‘Man over Machine' and ‘India’s Quest for Sustainable Farming and Healthy Food'



Avoidable Narmada floods: Modi birthday fete caused long wait for release of dam waters

Counterview Desk  Top advocacy group, South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People (SANDRP), has accused the Sardar Sarovar dam operators for once again acting in an "unaccountable" manner, bringing "avoidable floods in downstream Gujarat."  In a detailed analysis, SANDRP has said that the water level at the Golden Bridge in Bharuch approached the highest flood level on September 17, 2023, but these "could have been significantly lower and much less disastrous" both for the upstream and downstream areas of the dam, if the authorities had taken action earlier based on available actionable information.

Biden urged to warn Modi: US can declare India as worst religious freedom offender

By Our Representative  During a Congressional Briefing held on Capitol Hill, Washington DC, Nadine Maenza, former Chair of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), has wondered why the Biden administration should raise issues of mass anti-minority mob violence  -- particularly in Haryana and Manipur -- with Modi. Modi should be told that if such violence continues, the US will be “compelled by law” to designate India as one of the world’s worst offenders of religious freedom, she urged.

From 'Naatu-Naatu' to 'Nipah-Nipah': Dancing to the tune of western pipers?

By Dr Amitav Banerjee, MD*  Some critics have commented that the ecstatic response of most Indians to the Oscar for the racy Indian song, “Naatu-Naatu” from the film, “RRR” reeks of sheer racism, insulting visuals and a colonial hangover. It was perhaps these ingredients that impressed the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, one critic says.

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. 

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

Asset managers hold '2.8 times more equity' in fossil fuel cos than in green investments

By Deepanwita Gita Niyogi*  The world’s largest asset managers are far off track to meet the  2050 net zero commitments , a new study  released by InfluenceMap , a London-based think tank working on climate change and sustainability, says. Released on August 1, the Asset Managers and Climate Change 2023 report by FinanceMap, a work stream of InfluenceMap, finds that the world’s largest asset managers have not improved on their climate performance in the past two years.

Evading primary responsibility, ONGC decides to invest Rs 15,000 crore in sick subsidiary

By NS Venkataraman*  It is reported that Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) will infuse about Rs 15,000 crore in ONGC Petro-additions Ltd (OPaL) as part of a financial restructuring exercise. ONGC currently holds 49.36 per cent stake in (OPaL), which operates a mega petrochemical plant at Dahej in Gujarat. GAIL (India) Ltd has 49.21 per cent interest and Gujarat State Petrochemical Corporation (GSPC) has the remaining 1.43 per cent.

Savarkar 'criminally betrayed' Netaji and his INA by siding with the British rulers

By Shamsul Islam* RSS-BJP rulers of India have been trying to show off as great fans of Netaji. But Indians must know what role ideological parents of today's RSS/BJP played against Netaji and Indian National Army (INA). The Hindu Mahasabha and RSS which always had prominent lawyers on their rolls made no attempt to defend the INA accused at Red Fort trials.

Sales, profits of Indian firms 'deteriorate', yet no significant increase in cost pressures

By Our Representative  The Indian Institute of Management-Ahmedabad's (IIM-A's) latest Business Inflation Expectations Survey (BIES), a monthly exercise, has said that while cost perceptions data does not indicate significant increase of cost pressures, sales and profits of the Indian firms have deteriorated.

'State-sanctioned terror': Stop drone attack on Adivasis, urge over 80 world academics

Counterview Desk  A joint statement, “Indigenous Peoples’ Un-Freedoms and Our Academic Freedom: A Call for Solidarity”, endorsed by over 80 signatories, including international academics, activists and civil society organizations, as well as diasporic Indian academics and researchers, working with Adivasi (indigenous) communities in India, has made an urgent appeal to prevent future drone bomb attacks by the Indian state on Adivasi villages.