Transitioning to Sustainability: Vignettes from the Field
Centre for microfinance, in collaboration with National Coalition for Natural Farming for the past 2 years has been trying to bring about a sustainable transition in the region of Pindwara. The routes to sustainable transition are plural and diverse and is reflected in the three transition journeys of farmers from Sirohi district in Pindwara, Rajasthan.
Sirohi, sandwiched between the erstwhile kingdoms of Mewar and Marwar, presents a contrast to earlier sustainable transition stories from Mewar (Dungarpur) and Marwar (Barmer). Centre for microFinance (CmF), in Pindwara block of Sirohi, got introduced to the National Coalition for Natural Farming in 2021 and is promoting sustainable agricultural practices in the region.
Pindwara is semi-humid with a rainfall of 600 – 800 mm. The farmers of Pindwara depend mostly on rainwater, but there has been an increasing trend in irrigating lands through wells/tubewells. About one-third of the population is tribal, mainly, the Garasiyas. Farmers, historically, have used gobar-khaad to fertilise their agricultural land but with introduction of chemical fertilisers and the many subsidies, gobar-khaad got slowly replaced with chemical-fertilisers. Sirohi is famous for its namesake goat breed, however, the use of goat-faeces in preparation of biologically active recipes like Jeevamrut is something that has not yet been fully explored.
CmF has been trying to promote natural farming in this region through support from Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVK), Sirohi and NCNF. In the absence of a differentiated market for organic or naturally-farmed produce in the district, the reason for transition becomes cost-saving rather than profits. A few vignettes from the field demonstrate a new dawn in Pindwara.
“She wants to join me too” – Dasubai, an inspiration to others
Dasubai is a farmer of the Garasiya tribe from Thandiveri village in Pindwaraand stopped using any chemical inputs on her 3 bigha land, for the last three years. Around the same time, she received a training from Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVK) on producing bio-inputs like Jeevamrut and Khaati Chhas. In the Kharif season, she grows wheat for sale and self-consumption and grows various pulses and corn during Rabi. Apart from that, she has many tall papaya shrubs, and is growing brinjal and tomato on her field. She is also raising 3 buffaloes and has 9 goats. She has a borewell at her disposal for irrigation and other purposes.
She procures her seeds from both CmF and KVK, and regularly calls CmF for the deworming and vaccination of her animals. Ever since she switched to using bio-inputs, she has saved a lot of money (estimating around Rs 4000) from not having to use Urea or DAP. Not only that, but she has also found a channel to sell her wheat to the factory workers of the nearby UltraTech Cement Factory.
Her customers are willing to pay a premium as they trust her produce and she sells the wheat at Rs 35 per Kg, compared to the market price which is Rs 20 per Kg. The same, however, is not true for the chickpea she grows, and she is yet to find a more profitable market for it.
Seeing Dasubai’s success with bioinputs, her neighbour wants to follow in her footsteps. She was skeptical of her methods initially but after seeing the length and health of her wheat crops, she too is considering using bioinputs.
Kalaram – the Persistent Natural Farming Champion
Kalaram, from Mori village, is not very educated but possesses immense farming knowledge. Two years back he started using Jeevamrut on his 2 bigha land (1.2 acres) after he started seeing cracks on his land. Although, he has been making use of gobar-khaad for even longer. While his wife is employed in MGNREGA and works as a wage labourer, he is more active on the field and prefers to spend at least an hour every day in his farm. Their family farms entirely for sustenance and also has three cows for their own use. They get their seeds from the nursery in Pindwara. Last year, they also got a tubewell to quench their water needs and he plans on adding solar panels for it as currently the electricity is erratic. His family is food secure and the only things they purchase from the market are turmeric and salt.
He came across CmF and they later took him for a training at KVK, Sirohi, where he learnt how to make Jeevamrut and Khaati Chhaas. Ever since switching to bio-inputs, the effort he puts on the field has increased but he has no complains and instead finds it ‘relaxing’. Kalaram is a ‘Resource Farmer’ for CmF and his field is often used for exposure visits by other farmers.
Basubai’s ongoing journey from an FPO staff to natural farming
Basubai has been a member of the Samruddhi FPO for the past six years. She has 1.5 bigha land. There are five members in her family. Both her husband and son used to be employed in silica mining. However, her husband developed silicosis and that severely impacted their finances. She took a loan of Rs 30,000 from RMGV Bank and is repaying Rs 2030/month. She has 3 cows, 3 buffaloes, 3 goats (which she had bought 12 months back for about Rs 3000 each). She hopes to sell them at Rs 10,000 each. Earlier, she used to sell her goats to Samruddhi. She grows ‘Desi gehun’ which gets sold at Rs 30 per Kg. She is also growing garlic, onions and goat feed. She uses urea, DAP and also gobar-khaad. She would like to switch to natural inputs but says that the soil is too conditioned to the Urea and DAP and so the transition cannot be immediate. When asked, when she thinks she can start the transition, she shares that having a proper fence is a priority as her efforts on the farm will be rendered useless if animals enter her field. Previously, she got a 100ft fence from CmF but requires 200-300ft more to cover her entire plot. CmF had also given her a vermicompost training but she has not yet started doing it.
She used to be a community support person for the FPO and had a salary of Rs 1,500 per month. There are about 55 shareholders in the FPO from her village and used to share a common tractor. However, the FPO has stopped procuring from their village for the past 1.5 years as they are skeptical of the quality and quantity the village can guarantee, due to constant disturbance caused by loose livestock that would enter the farmers’ fields and spoil the produce.
When the FPO was still active, they used to take tomatoes and ladyfinger and their seeds from her. She estimates that if for 1 Kg, they would get a market price of Rs 200, then through the FPO the rate was Rs 300 per Kg.
Managing Diverse Sustainable Transitions
It is encouraging to find traditional practices still alive in Pindwara but at large, these must be documented. The presence of CmF and a strong FPO like Samruddhi, add to it the strong SHG network built by CmF over the years can pave the road to moving towards sustainable agriculture. However, It is important to acknowledge and address small local issues in farming to ensure sustainable transitions, as plural practices may be required for diverse farms. Women are considered natural leaders in facilitating transitions towards sustainable agriculture. However, the journey of resource farmers like Kalaram suggests that men can also play a significant role in this process.
Aneesh Mohan is a Research Assistant in the SFI project at IRMA.