Until a decade back several farmers had mounting debts to be repaid

Drought, financial strain and scarcity of labour all make the life of a farmer difficult. The choices for a farmer are quite bleak. He can neither get a job in the town nor sell his lands as it would mean the end of life for him.

“The only option available for him is to use inputs that are not costly, at the same time increase yield and also make use of his family labour (if possible) to work in the fields,” says Dr. J.H.S. Ponnaya, President, Suviseshapuram and neighbouring development organisation (Sands) an NGO in Tirunelveli.

Sands has been conducting training programmes in different villages in and around Tirunelveli for farmers in making their own inputs.

Street plays

They have also been conducting street plays to highlight the efficiency of these natural inputs that can help farmers.

Until a decade back, several farmers in and around this region had either sold off their fields or left them barren because for them farming proved too costly and the government was just not pro-active in its outlook to help them.

But today more than 27-odd villages are successfully cultivating different crops and vegetables and make their own inputs, according to him.

Mr. Jason Dharmaraj, a farmer in the area, says that he used to trudge many miles some years back for potable water. “what can be said about crops? When we did not have even water to drink how could we water our crops? he asks and adds, “we left our fields fallow for some years and went to nearby towns to work.

“But after some time the pull of our native soil was strong and we came back to do farming,” he says.

Training

Mr. Dharmaraj undertook training from Sands on making his own inputs and today like several other farmers in the area vouches for the efficiency of farm yard manure and Panchagavya (simple inputs that can be easily made by farmers and found effective in increasing crop yield.)

In fact Sands has been advocating the use of both these inputs among farmers for the last decade. “Especially in a drought prone area like ours we find that both these local inputs are quite encouraging and effective. In addition to increasing crop yield they also prevent water erosion on the fields,” says Dr. Ponnaya.

Many of the farmers in the region had debts ranging from a few hundred to thousands some time back.

They could not pay the retail fertilizer shop as rainfall was scarce, and crops failed.

Accumulating interest

“Naturally the interest on their debts also accumulated. Added to this burden was the responsibility of taking care of their family. So one could easily imagine how difficult it could have been for them,” says Dr.Ponnaya.

And he adds, “We felt that the solution lay in using an efficient alternative that could be beneficial and at the same time eco-friendly to the farmer.

We found out that panchagavya (a combination of milk, ghee, curd, rotten fruits) and farm yard manure made with locally available materials is bet suited for our farmers and encouraged them to use it.

Today hundreds of farmers in this region and surrounding areas are using it and experiencing personally its benefits.”

“I use these inputs for my one acre field and find it useful. More importantly it helps me save some money and also increases yield,” says Mrs. Madha Dhanasekaran, another farmer.

Changed outlook

“We find that the outlook of the farmers has changed today. They are willing to adopt any good practice that is pocket-friendly and at the same time effective.

“If one farmer succeeds, then there are many in line wanting to try it out. This is how we have been able to make these practices popular here,” smiles Dr. Ponnaya

To know more readers can contact , Dr. J.H.S. Ponnaya, President, Suviseshapuram and neighbouring development organisation (Sands),Suviseshapuram (via) Ittamozhi-627652, email: sands_suviseshapuram@yahoo.com, phone: 04637-278173, mobile: 9444582911.