"My father is a farmer but he doesn't want me to become one. Is farming a bad occupation?"- I was asked this question by a five year old school boy in village 'Baag', Karsog district of Himachal Pradesh. I decided that day that I am going to work to change this. Farming after all, cannot be bad. It is in fact, the very basis of civilization and the true way of living with nature.
Then what is it, that our farmers are running away from? The answer, i discovered, lies in the way our modern markets are functioning. The farmers are forced to give up their native cultivations and take to chemical intensive farming, which makes them susceptible to market risks and gradually lose yields over time. The skewed policies have made them abandon the sustainable methods of traditional agri systems. This has increased the cost of cultivation and has put their own income/ food security at risk.
It has been six years now,since I first started working in this district. The movement to strengthen the traditional agri roots has gained pace and the farmers have formed a self-help group (SHG) to work together. The SHG is snowballing its influence into other villages and around 150 farmer families have come together.
The SHG needs these funds for two things:
1 - To build and repair the 'gharat' i.e. the water mill, so as to process the grains in the village itself. The cost of this is approx Rs 1.25 lacs. This will go a long way to bring these farmers up the value chain, make the produce high in nutrition and get their incomes to a respectable level.
2- To take up a training program for more than a 100 farmers from the area, focused on sustainable hill rice cultivation methods. An amount of 25000 would cover transport, boarding and lodging of the resource persons and the participants. The impact of this training can reach up to 1000 cultivators through farmer to farmer exchanges.
If they are able to do these, then the children of these villages will not have to leave their homes, and can take up their family farms with pride and dignity.
They are trying to help themselves. Can you lend a hand?
(Village Baag - site location)