For Tata Tea Jaago Re

Saving one life at a time: Rescuing Indian farmers

By HT Brand Studio | Feb 14, 2017

SOURCE: Tata Tea

Alarm Bajne Se Pehle, Jaago Re

Anyone who has snoozed the alarm one too many times, and then missed a crucial flight, must be familiar with how no amount of pleas, threats, or arguments before the airline staff can reverse your fortunes once the plane has taken off. What's harder still is shaking off that sense of regret for the rest of the day — the one where you wish you'd woken up just 15 minutes earlier.

Meet Babu P, Chief functionary at ICRA (Institute for Cultural Research and Action (ICRA) in Bangalore.

ICRA is a developmental Organisation working with over 3000 marginalised farmers in rainfed regions of Karnataka for over 15 years. His associate V Gayathri, edits the bimonthly Sahaja Saguvali, a bimonthly farm magazine in Kannada.

A serious issue of farmers committing suicide has been reduced to just another mundane piece of news item. It doesn't disturb us at least not any more, it has become routine to hear of these news stories.

At a time like this Babu P. and his colleagues have transformed the lives of farmers and in turn, made our countryside more fertile than ever before. Babu P. explains the issues on the ground for us.

ICRA and sustainable farming with over 3000 farmers

"Right from the 1990s, we were highly concerned about environmental issues. Through ICRA, we have begun a sustainable organic culture across several parts of Karnataka. We have been working with tribes and farmers, indigenous communities and hold trainings and workshops for them.

Through ICRA, the first generation of organic farmers are now working in the fields of the State.

SOURCE: Tata Tea

An unforgiving land: why farmers are driven to suicide

We have carried a study on farmer's suicide over the years. It is hard to explain to someone who is unfamiliar with farming about the issues related with it.

Heavy loans are something farmers cannot escape. The social pressures and taboos that come with loans are hard for them to bear. The farming community are driven by certain values that we may not relate to.

Recurring crop failures can make the farmer migrate to cities in search of jobs. Some migrate to mine factories. Men that move to mining have faced several health hazards.

Once they migrate and abandon their lands, they cannot go back. The lands turn infertile.

How they turned around the lives of farmers

We attempt to create an environment where farming is creative, profitable and secure.

In Bellary district, over 500 farmers had migrated to mining and were working under hazardous conditions.

We reintroduced them back to farming by first clearing their lands and turning them productive. We created community based 'sanghas' to rope them back into farming.

There are several new agricultural practices that farmers are unaware of. We train them in this regard.

Often, we try to get them to raise funds and loans within the 'sanghas' itself and the people in the community themselves look out for each other.

We also help them make their soil more fertile, help them adjust their crops and plantings to the changes in climate.

Today even droughts don't affect farmers. Many of them are well-equipped to handle extreme situations. These are the real heroes.

We have also acquired land titles for many farmers that had no prior documentation or proof of their land holdings.

What can ordinary citizens do to help them?

To begin with, youngsters can start consuming and promoting organic farming.

Secondly there needs to be a system in place, an organisational structure where people can volunteer, meet farmers, teach them, learn from them as to how they survive in the toughest of conditions. Many attempt to volunteer and go to their villages but can't stay there for even a week.

When citizen's groups come together and pressurise the Government, a state intervention could finally come in place, which is of dire need now Society and the State both have to change their policy and approach.

If they can do it, why can't we?

There's no money for farmers, no respect for them, a grim future full of uncertainties. In such a scenario, individuals like Babu stepped in to make a real difference in the lives of many farmers.

Yet many of us remain disconnected to this reality. This is said to be the last generation of farmers. It's time for us to go back to the roots. We can bridge the divide and we can save a generation of farmers and farms. We can save our countryside, before its too late.

Before yet another farm turns dry. Before yet another life is lost.

Alarm bajne se pehle Jaagore!

Tags #JaagoreTata TeaFarmer suicideICRABabu P