Small farmers in the new state of Telangana

Peter Melchett of the Soil Association sent this link to an interesting blog by one of the National Geographic ‘young explorers’, Andrew Flachs, a student at Washington University who is undertaking research into agricultural change and the adaptation of ecological knowledge among small farmers in the new state of Telangana, India.

Relaxing after an interview

Relaxing after an interview

CHS-Sachetan founder, Winin Pereira would have valued many insights mentioned in these blogs, such as the one below, revealing the far from obvious advantages of this slow & painstaking traditional rice harvesting.

hand harvesting rice

bullock power for contructing rice paddiesAbove, from a later blog:

Andrew refers to one village using agri-farming methods, renaming it “Matenjerapet”.  It was ravaged by erra bommadi (red disease); farmers watched as their cotton plants turned red and stopped fruiting and pesticide sprays had no effect.

Another village 60kms away – “Daggiravi” – has declared itself to be organic and chemical free, adopting low-cost methods to maintain soil health and kill bugs. An NGO has been training farmers, supplying them with access to materials, and marketing their produce to people who are willing to pay a little extra for chemical-free food or cotton. Since this declaration, more than 10,000 people have visited this village of 50 households.

marketing rice to traders or governmentPhoto by Andrew Flachs

Another insight Pereira would have appreciated: farmers will take a lower price from market traders than they could get from government, because, after assessing each crop for quality, size, and durability traders offer a price – usually a few hundred rupees below the price set by the government that day – and pay immediately in cash, whereas the government can take up to a month to deliver.

Andrew Flachs ends “Farming is hard for both organic and GM farmers but the organic farmers (in “Daggiravi”) have traded a small measure of freedom in technique for an extra safety net to help with difficult problems and provide security in the face of crop failure. The NGO provides marketing and training assistance make – and benefits alongside the farmers as more press means more visitors, more grants, more state support, and more resources to help build the organization and attract more farmers with more programs. Here in India, sometimes it’s not the farm, but the forces behind it that make all the difference”.


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