Vidarbha Region especially Yavatmal district of Maharashtra is known as Farmers’ Suicide prone area. More than 5000 farmers of the district have committed suicides during last decade and a half due to agriculture distress. Analysis of reasons for high incidence of suicide have prominently brought out that high cost of agriculture inputs, lack of irrigation and uncertainty about production are main reasons of the distress among farmers, particularly small and marginal farmers. Absence of economic activities allied to agriculture also contributes to the distress significantly.
Deendayal Seva Pratishthan (DSP), Yavatmal has been working for more than a decade for sustainable rehabilitation of families of the farmers who committed suicides. We observe that agriculture distress is mainly due to unviable farm models adopted by farmers. The farmers tend to cultivate cash crops with high breed seeds requiring intensive crop management including pest management. This is practiced without any extension service. The inputs, particularly pesticides are purchased as per advice of the vendor and applied indiscriminately. Chemical fertilizers are also applied without assessing requirement by soil testing. Lack of irrigation facilities and irregular monsoon precipitation make the investment in the high cost inputs more vulnerable. There is a general agreement that in the absence of worthwhile extension services, indiscriminate use of chemical fertilizers has deteriorated soil texture and use of pesticides has destroyed the soil flora and fauna affecting soil fertility and crop productivity. Thus high investment made by the farmer in inputs is always at risk. This results in increase in liabilities which cumulatively mount to unserviceable level.
While working among villages and farmers we felt the need for a farm model with minimum input cost without compromising on productivity, leaving higher surplus with the farmer. A model which will reduce farmers’ dependence on others. A model which will divide the risk. DBPM has been working in more than 165 villages and farmers experimenting the results of Nimboli Arka and Dashaparni Arka, biological pesticides and Biological Micronutrient supplement. The results in terms of reduction in cost of pesticides and increase in productivity are quite encouraging. The experiment is being closely monitored and documented by a team of IIT engineers. The demand for these products is generated through these experiments.
Our search for such model took us to Shri Subhash Sharma a farmer of village Tiwasa of Yavatmal Distt. Subhash Sharma is successfully practicing Natural Farming for last 10 years. He claims to have achieved sustainable production levels with minimum outside inputs and cultural operations. He emphasizes importance of humus content and microbial activity in soil, in situ water conservation, multi crop and crop rotation. Shri Subhash Palekar of Amaravati, Malpani Trust of Devas, Madhya Pradesh and others also propagate similar kind of farming. Sh Subhash Sharma’s model includes rearing of cow and farm animals, plantation of trees and natural pest management. Sh. Sharma claims that this type of farming achieves economic, ecological and social benefits like higher surplus with the farmer, carbon sequestration, recharging of ground water and providing healthy food to the society. The model is more suitable for small and marginal farmers who can manage the farm with family labor.