A silver lining in times of distress

Reaping it rich:The farmers who grew a diverse mix of 18 traditional crops including jowar, foxtail, finger and barnyard millets and pulses on their land.- PHOTOS: Mohd Arif  

Amidst gloomy reports of 1,400 farmers committing suicide all over Telangana this kharif, 145 of them in this near bone-dry district alone, the scene here offers a glimmer of hope. No farmer from this and other villages raising time-tested traditional crops has shown such tendencies.

Surprising but reasons are not hard to seek for this study in contrast. While a switch to capital, water, input intensive crops seemed to have drawn more and more farmers into abyss of suicides, those from Nagvar, Yelgoi, Hoseeli, Tekur and Ippapalli villages in as many mandals who have continued to grow hardy age-old millets requiring much less natural and financial resources survived worst of the times. In retrospect, growing such crops seem to have lent them a dependable protective ring, virtually guarding them against suicides.

Vinoda of this village in Raikod mandal is one such example. She has grown a diverse mix of 18 traditional crops including jowar, foxtail, finger and barnyard millets and pulses on her three acre land. The investment she made was minimal Rs. 12,000, using her own seed and fertilizer. Yet she is expecting a bountiful crop of millets in a month or two which could fetch her about Rs. 1 lakh.

“My farm gives me enough to take care of my family, besides ensuring fodder for my cattle.” She never felt the need for sinking more borewells, the failure of which turned out to be one of the main reasons for farmer suicides in this drought-hit district that shot into fame for returning Telangana’s first Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao.

In contrast, Yadaiah raised Bt cotton just besides Vinoda’s farm, spending Rs. 50,000 on outsourced seed, fertilizer and pesticide, and may get Rs. 80,000, hardly enough to feed his family all through the year. With no food and fodder crops, he and his cattle cannot depend on the farm and a crop failure could turn him debt-ridden and make him vulnerable. Vinoda and Yadaiah stand out as contrasting symbols of crop choices and raise fundamental questions.

Raising farm productivity and crop production is for whom? Should food crops grown in healthy organic way be for local consumption or for others too? Should capital intensive commercial crops like cotton be encouraged at the expense of food crops threatening food security and farmer’s life as well?

Like Vinoda, another traditional crop grower, Samamma, had the answer: By encouraging commercial crops which involve heavy expenditure, we are simply adding to our woes. Instead, if every farmer is given incentive to grow a mix of food crops, there will be enough to feed themselves and others, leaving no scope for suicides at all.

P. V. Satheesh, director of Deccan Development Society, which has been motivating farmers to grow traditional millets in several villages in Zaheerabad region and created an assured market for them says the remedy lies in going back to the roots. “The mistake we are making is to look at economic value of the crops to the exclusion of other parameters like nutrition value of the crop raised, the soil fertility, fodder for cattle, water consumption and environmental security.”

Now that it is proven that farmers growing traditional crops have a sort of immunity from sliding into crisis, the government should boost their self- confidence by announcing incentive of Rs. 5,000 per acre and declare Telangana as a millet State to usher in “Bangaru Telangana,” he adds.

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Printable version | May 16, 2021 3:35:12 PM |

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