Agriculture is undergoing a rapid change. "Today, farmers and their problems get more prominence thanks to media exposure. Though modern intensive agriculture using pesticides and fertilisers resulted in self sufficiency in food production, it made farming an expensive activity. The quality of the produce in terms of its safety for consumption has also become a question, " says Mrs. Radha Parthasarathy, Managing Trustee, Thandalam Yogakshema trust, Chennai.
However, In order to make both ends meet, farmers now are left with no other option than to practice chemical agriculture.
With practically little help on the appropriate way of modern eco-friendly agricultural practices, many small and marginal farmers sell their lands and migrate, a development of serious concern, which if not addressed properly and at the right time, may lead to food crises and a set back in the rural ecosystem, thereby strangulating our fragile village economy, according to Mrs. Radha.
The trust, at present, is encouraging farmers in sustainable agricultural practices and also helping them to market their produce at Thandalam village on the Arakonam-Kuminipettai road in Vellore district. The village (about 3 kms from Arakonam town), situated in a remote area, is connected to the nearest town by just one private operated mini bus.
"Though at first our work involved some renovation work in the village, I realized during my several interactions with the villagers there, that the it is the farmers who need awaremness on sustainable practices and marketing the produce. Unless these two are not practised, the future of rural economy is definitely dark for our country, explains Mrs. Radha.
"Initially, convincing the villagers proved to be a daunting task. We wanted to initiate these proven organic systems of cultivation and for that we had to go their way and slowly started emphasizing the need for organic methods among them. Though many pooh-poohed our ideas, the positive results such as good yield from a neighbouring field made them curious and interested. Once they expressed their willingness to practise organic methods it was quite easy for us to train them," says Mr. Harish Krishnamoorthy, consultant horticulturist.
Generally, today in many places the general situation is that, once some infestation occurs, farmers take the infested part of the crop to the nearby pesticide shop and buy the spray. In many cases several of these sprays are spurious and often pose a threat to both the farmer and his crop in terms of cost and quality of the produce.
"As part of our activities, whenever we interact with the farmers, we always stress the need for natural farming and at the same time are careful not to compel any of them to adopt it for our sake. This is because, we believe that the farmers must get convinced first and then start on it," says Mr. Harish.
The trust trains some farmers to prepare their own pest repellents and plant growth promoters such as Panchagavya which control a number of infestations according to the farmers.
Giving details on how the pest repellants are made Mr. Harish says: "Leaves of custard apple and nochi, neem leaves, garlic, green chilli, ginger are all ground into a fine paste and boiled in cow's urine. It is then filtered and sprayed. It controls some common infestations such as, shoot and fruit borer in brinjal and tomato crops. In addition, they are trained in manufacturing vermicompost, which they sell."
The trust also encourages the women by forming a self-help group which makes a variety of food items and spices.
For more information and a visit to the village readers can contact Thandalam yogakshema trust, Regd office: No 14, Satyanarayana Avenue,Off Boat Club Road, Raja Annamalai Puram, Chennai- 600 028, phone: 044- 24340448, email: email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org, mobile- 98412-75883.