Uttarakhand has wisely declared several districts organic, which means the farmers must undertake only organic farming. The good news is, it isn’t just any old government order. The farmers, it seems, agree with this order entirely. Just a few days ago, in a conversation with one of the women leaders of a farmers’ collective, I realized how much of a farmers’ initiative organic here is, despite their travails.
The woman leader, Tahla Moin , who represents over 3,000 farmers in the three districts, mentioned that one of the hardest challenges farmers faced were wild animals who destroyed their crop.
But another challenge that irked them was the ease with which urea was still available. In fact, Talat Moin, a farmer leading the Mahila Umang Producers Company in Ranikhet, Uttarakhand, pointed out that free urea was doled out with seeds .
Even worse, many farmers took this freebee. But then, most of them stored it, but refused to use it because it didn’t help them.
For one, anyone found to be using urea by anyone else is typically reported to the collective and their membership is revoked. This is an economic blow, because they lose market access. As it is, organic food is hard to market and this makes it stupid for the farmer to use urea.
What makes this vignette special is that it allows us a glimpse into the mind of this set of farmers. They too, want to stop handling poisons and return to a safer occupation and prosper.
They have state legislation on their side, but the case of Tahla shows how no state legislation matters without public support.
(The writer is director, Chintan Environmental Research and Action Group)