Harnessing the Power of Research to Support the Farmers in India
Amidst the lockdown and fear of COVID 19, few passionate Scholars from Kristu Jayanti College (India), a member institution of the United Nations Academic Impact (UNAI) that has been chosen as the SDG Hub for Goal 1, took a bold step to visit the small scale farmers in Karnataka to analyze their lives and livelihood during the time of Pandemic. The study put a spotlight on an area in need of immediate attention. The prosperity of the small-scale farmers who feed the whole country is at stake due to multiple reasons like; lack of irrigation, unpredictable weather changes, the increased expenditure on agricultural inputs and a decline in soil fertility. The scholars of Kristu Jayanti identified that their agony is beyond the pandemic.
66-year-old Sharadamma, a resident of Nelamangala village said, “Earlier, I used to cultivate fruits and vegetables in my land. Due to the lack of manpower to cultivate and increased expenditure, my land is given for lease to large producers and my family survives on the lease amount and the government pension.
“Most of the villages we visited had only elderly members living and involved in the cultivation. The majority of the youth are leaving the villages in search of greener pastures and serve as migrant laborers in urban areas. This distress propelled our attention towards the need of empowering the youth on the necessity of agriculture and providing them with alternative solutions,” opined Dr. Juby Thomas, an Indian Social scientist who currently serves as Coordinator for Media Studies (PG), Kristu Jayanti College. She led the team of scholars from Kristu Jayanti College to harness the power of research to support the farmers in Karnataka.
After the death of his father, a 30 year Dayanand Swami, who took up farming as a career at an early age, could easily manage his family during the pandemic because of multitasking; he systematically planted areca nuts besides finger millet. Also, set up a small dairy farm that provided daily revenue to the family. Amidst the hardship, he still thinks of himself as unsuccessful in finding a bride, due to the profession.
“After the seasonal crops, almost six months our lands remain unused due to lack of sufficient irrigation,” said Shankarayya, a 74-year-old finger Millet grower from Kammasandra Village. He also added that due to lack of land fertility, the quality and quantity of the crops have reduced and as a result, we end up consuming most of the things we cultivate. Due to the increased expenditure on agricultural inputs, most of the farmers take loans for cultivation.
“Subsidized easy solutions to solve the issues of fertility loss and water are going to lead to a major crisis in the long run. The farmers are given subsidies to construct bore wells, as a result, the number of bore wells constructions is increasing and that may lead to the entire groundwater depletion in that area forever,” added Dr. Juby Thomas.
The scholars also identified that even though most of them possess all forms of government documents, unfortunately when asked about the process of claiming the government health and crop insurance through the cards they possess, the majority remained unaware. “The college is preparing effective strategies to increase the awareness amongst farmers regarding the various government schemes so that the maximum number of farmers can enroll and avail such benefits. We will also take all possible measures to bring it to the notice of the concerned authority,” said Dr. Augustine George, Principal, Kristu Jayanti College, Bengaluru.
Fertility management, effective strategies to attract the Youngsters towards farming and the side effects of prolonged usage of two commonly used fertilizers, DAP (diammonium phosphate) and Urea and drafting sustainable solutions are the suggested areas for further studies.
Photo credit: Nitin Sharma, I MA JMC, student, Kristu Jayanti College, Bengaluru
Reference: United Nation report