Mitigation of Agrarian Crisis

The present report elaborates the efforts carried out by Deendayal Bahu-uddeshiya Prasarak Mandal, Yavatmal from April 2016 to March 2017 with 573 farmers from 53 villages in order to mitigate the prevailing agrarian crisis in the region through a team of seven full time field level social workers, 5 researchers, and 36 village level volunteers. The efforts involved two parts, namely, dissemination of low cost farming practices and developing or improving low cost input practices and dissemination methods. The activities involved soil testing, carrying out village level meetings, cluster level workshops, individual meetings with farmers, farm tours, making various low cost and agro ecologically healthy agricultural inputs with farmers, making a plan for the farmers’ cultivation practices by carrying out visits to his/her farm, and a documentation of various details of the farmers’ practices. The farmers observed a reduction in investment in pesticides and fertilizers (an average of 3300 rupees, a total of around 18.2 lakh rupees) and an average increase in yield by around 25 %. The total increase in the documented income of the 558 farmers due to the adoption of the low cost practices is around 88 lakh rupees. Farmers witnessed a reduction in the total number of required sprays, increased presence of bees, an arrival of friendly bugs in the farms after six to eight years, and arrival of earth worms in a few cases after eight years. The overall trend of the outcomes of the adopted practices of the participant farmers showed a movement towards reduction in the investment in agriculture, a reduction in the dependence on the centralized market and an increased self-reliance, revival of agro-ecological indicators, and thus a march towards getting rid of the agrarian crisis.

Introduction

The problem of farmers’ suicides, which has sprouted over a much deeper and wider problem of agrarian crisis has been daunting Indian farmers for more than eighteen years. According to the records of National Crime Bureau, more than 2 lakh farmers across India have committed suicides over the period of last eighteen years. There were 48.6% indebted farmers across India in year 2011 with an outstanding debt of around 25.9 thousand rupees per indebted farmer. Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Kerala, and Punjab witnessed more than 65% of farmers’ indebtedness in 2011 which is highest in India. The problem of farmers’ suicides is just a tip of the iceberg and a much wider, multifaceted, and growing leviathan of agrarian crisis lies at the base. Agriculture had never been nonviable to such a high degree in the early reported history of India. Farmers get trapped in the vicious cycle of crop failure and indebtedness.

In this regard, Vidarbha is one of the most affected regions in India and Yavatmal is the most affected district in Vidarbha. Deendayal Bahu-uddeshiya Prasarak Mandal has been working on the problem of farmers’ suicides in Yavatmal since 2007. Up until now, the organization has been instrumental in the generation of sustainable livelihood for more than 260 agrarian families whose member/s had committed suicide/s due to indebtedness. The organization has its presence in more than 150 villages in Yavatmal district.

DBPM has been trying to address the root causes of the crisis since 2014. An action research carried out by the organization during the period of June 2014 to March 2015 in four selected villages unveiled the nature of the multi-dimensional, dynamics, and complex nature of the crisis The organization carried out experiments with forty farmers from the four villages in the next one year (June 2015-March 2016) to explore and learn various tools, techniques, and processes to be disseminated for the mitigation of the crisis. Based on the learning of the first two years’ of efforts, DBPM disseminated the practices to 573 farmers in 53 villages from four different blocks in Yavatmal. The organization also carried out a set of experiments at their field centre at Nilona and with a set of farmers to devise a set of additional practices to make farming inputs. A set of dissemination methods were also developed. The present report details the methodology and outcomes of the work carried out from April 2016 to March 2017.

Work carried out by the organization to mitigate the agrarian crisis is detailed in section 2. Section 3 describes a methodology followed by the organization to accomplish the work for the year. Outcomes of the efforts of the year to disseminate the low cost and agro ecologically healthy agrarian practices were elaborated in section 4. Section five concludes the report.

Discussion and conclusion

Overall, the work carried out during April 2016 to March 2017 for the dissemination and developing low cost and agro-ecologically healthy agrarian practices has produced a number of beneficial outcomes that include, 1) dissemination of the practices to 573 farmers from 53 villages in Yavatmal district, 2) reduction in the investment in agriculture by an average of around 3300 rupees per farmer 3) a total increase in the yield of around 25% and a net increase in the total income of around 88.1 lakh rupees, 4) detailed processes for the preparations of various inputs were developed, 5) a methodology was developed for the dissemination of the practices to increase both quality and the quantity of the farmers, 6) A number of agro-ecological indicators including the population of bees, friendly bugs, and earth worms have also found to be increased after the adoption of the practices.

The comparison of the efforts carried out from June 2014. It shows a gradual increment in the understanding of the complex and multidimensional aspects of the crisis. This is accompanied by the development and practice of various mitigation efforts with a gradually increasing number of farmers from different villages.

Way ahead

We have planned to disseminate the adopted/adapted agricultural practices to 5500 farmers from 120 villages in 15 different village clusters till March 2019. We would focus on increasing the level of capabilities of the participant farmers in order to attain sustainability of the use of the practices by the farmers irrespective of the support of the organization. We are going to focus on building the capacity of our field level social workers and village level volunteers through a set of training camps, regular meetings, and field visits to accomplish the goal. We would reduce the number of villages per field level social worker to improve the quality of our work. We are going to develop a regular process of documenting the details of cultivation of a farmer to avail timely assessment and planning for getting optimum results. A number of processes, tools, methods of various agricultural inputs and dissemination practices would be constantly improved and developed. We would attempt to increase the level of participation of women in the farming practices, at least, in the villages where we have already worked for at least one year.