For many farmers of India, farming remains to be a gamble due to erratic monsoon. The challengs multiplied due to pandemic triggered lockdowns. In such situations, farmers like Kaalu Singh have to reckon with the forces of nature..
Kaalu Singh, a diligent farmer from Kanka Khajuria, district Dewas, sows soybean regularly to increase his revenue from a geographical location known for soybean cultivation. Farming is his only means of livelihood. His experience in farming has been full of ups and downs, and he often recalls how farming changes in a short span of time. Many important events in soybean farming have taken place since the last decade.
New advancements in farming techniques and the choices in variety has changed the face of agriculture as we know it. With improved fertilisers, pesticides, and sowing techniques, farmers have witnessed remarkable growth in soybean cultivation. Despite all the novel advancements in farming, farmers are still vulnerable to the unbridled calamities arising from climate-induced challenges. Incessant and intermittent rains, sudden and unforeseen hail storms have even riddled the experts from the field of climatology. Against this background, the best way to understand climate is by addressing it as “unpredictable”.
This unpredictability of monsoon has left several farmers in considerable losses due to the decrease in productivity. Almost everycrop would show evidence of a reduction in final yield triggered by excessive moisture, increased pestilence, drought and dry spells. Soybean is no different. Kaalu, like other farmers from the district, was on the receiving end for the longest of time. His losses peaked at almost 60 per cent of the decline in total productivity due to prolonged dry spells and diseases triggered by the erratic monsoon.
Kaalu shares his doleful journey – “My friends and I have been observing the severity of climate change for a long time. These unforeseen changes left us in distress every time we thought of starting afresh.” Kaalu admits that the price of agricultural inputs has also been a massive hurdle. In his small piece of land, the cost of production has grown exponentially with an increase in the prices of agricultural inputs, labour, and fuel. The rising price of transportation and the precarious state of Mandi (APMC – Agriculture Produce Market Committee) due to Covid-19 lockdowns has further bred farmers’ insecurities. “The pandemic has been like a nightmare. It is incredibly challenging to procure chemicals, fertilizers, and pesticides during and around the lockdowns.”
Kaalu and his farmer friends have realized that the erratic monsoon and pandemic challenges are meant to last for a long time, and the best way forward is to brave the challenge. Under the guidance of knowledge partners like Krishi Vigyan Kendra and CIAE, Solidaridad has conducted numerous training exercises for the farmers of the Dewas district. The activities aim to minimize production costs, increase productivity, and improve soil health by using organically produced bio fertilizers and growth enhancers. With the use of waste decomposer, farmers have developed a habit of enhancing soil fertility using organic compost. Along with soil conditioning, farmers like Kaalu also learned to prepare their field with climate-resilient techniques like Broad Bed and Furrow. They preferred seed varieties resilient to pest and torrential rains and received an overwhelming response in the final production. Many farmers, along with Kaalu, are advancing towards the coming Kharif season with a renewed confidence in farming.
This confidence is a direct result of training, demonstration, and awareness sessions. Calculated moves which are planned well in advance can pave the road to sustainable farming for the smallholder community of Madhya Pradesh. Several farmers are still oblivious to the climate-resilient practices and place their bets on uncertainties of monsoon. Adopting new and improved farming techniques by smallholder farmers is bound to encourage sustainability in the long run.
A contest with the forces of nature is unavoidable, but with proper guidance and support, farmers like Kaalu gets a fighting chance that was earlier out of their reach. Good Farming – Good Food committed to improving the face of agriculture in the rural farming community of Madhya Pradesh. With support from leading partners, the programme aims to touch thousands of farmers and improve their livelihood.