Coping with the climate change, government interventions and the demands of companies: A tribal self-help organization’s experience with organic orchards – West Bengal

Boro Baski, D+C Development and Cooperation, 26/05/2014

The Green Revolution has changed life in Indian villages, but the main beneficiaries were the landlords. Daily labourers remain poor and marginalised. The limits of using ever more fertiliser and pesticides are becoming apparent. Many farmers are confused because extension services want them to re-consider practices they were told to abandon not that long ago. A member of the Santal tribe, an Adivasi community, assesses things from the village perspective. […]

Policymakers’ focus on agriculture has delivered results. The Green Revolution that set in in the mid-sixties has dramatically raised productivity. It was based on mechanisation, irrigation, improved seed, fertilisers and related matters. India’s harvests of rice, wheat and potatoes have risen spectacularly.

In recent decades, the nation has been producing enough food to feed itself even though the population has more than doubled from 550 million in 1971 to more than 1.2 billion in 2011. […]

The most important change, however, is that the farmers no longer work in a basically self-sufficient manner. They used to depend on the landlords, now they depend on the government and various private-sector companies as well. […]

Groundwater resources are being depleted. Biological diversity has suffered tremendously, and there are hardly any forests left in our region.

Climate change compounds these worries. The weather has been becoming increasingly erratic in recent years, and the Monsoon rains seem less predictable than they used to be. […]

But the tribal and marginalised people, who account for at least five percent of West Bengal’s population, are landless, though some do own very little plots. […]

Realising the problems, the state government is now trying to motivate farmers to cultivate crops that need less water. Moreover, extension officers promote rainwater harvesting and the use of vermin and bio compost. They also advise farmers to gear their production to market demand, emphasising high-value goods such as vegetables and fruits. The basic idea is to use natural and human resources more economically.

However, many farmers are not convinced. They feel confused: “We did what the government officials told us,” says one Santal farmer. “We experimented with new seed, fertilisers, pesticides, and we sold off our oxen and now use the tractor. But after seeing these side effects they tell us to return to the former methods.” […]

Our own self-help organisation, the Ghosaldanga Adibasi Seva Sangha, is doing its best to support farmers too. We are running an organic orchard for example. Moreover, we have begun mushroom cultivation and aquaculture fishery. We promote chemical-free vegetables cultivation, bee keeping and farming. […]

Boro Baski works for the Ghoshaldanga Adibasi Seva Sangha, a community-based organisation in two Santal villages. It gets support from the German NGO Freundeskreis Ghosaldanga and Bishnbati.

Source: As the limits of the Green Revolution are becoming ever more obvious, Indian agriculture faces huge challenges | D+C – Development + Cooperation
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Date Visited: Tue Jul 08 2014 09:48:00 GMT+0200 (CEST)

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