If You Ate Today, Thank a Farmer!

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India?s economy has experienced tremendous growth in urban industries such as services and information technology. However, around 172 million Indians continue to live in poverty and of these, 69 percent live in rural areas. More than two-thirds of the population depends on agriculture?mostly at a small-scale or subsistence level?for their livelihoods.

TechnoServe works with women and men across rural India to:

Strengthen value chains: We work closely with smallholder farmers to enable them to grow high-value products, engage with private-sector companies and sell in profitable markets.

Foster entrepreneurship in poor communities: We provide business training and skills development support to women and men who want to create thriving, sustainable enterprises.

Support sustainable local economic development: Our market-led approach increases incomes for target groups, while also catalyzing economic and social development for the whole community.

Promote gender-inclusive communities: We integrate a gender lens throughout our programs and provide tailored support for women to expand their opportunities for sustainable livelihoods.

A study by a premier social sciences research institute reinforces what policymakers and media have been talking about the past few years?that India is going through a deep agrarian crisis. The Centre for Study of Developing Societies (CSDS), based in Delhi, found that given an option majority of farmers in the country would prefer to take up some other work. Poor income, bleak future, and stress are the main reasons why they want to give up farming. Around 18 percent of respondents surveyed said it was because of family pressure that they are continuing with farming. The CSDS study report, ?State of Indian Farmers?, was released in Delhi on Tuesday.

Why they want to give up farming

The survey of 5,000 farm households across 18 states says that 76 percent of farmers would prefer to do some work other than farming. Sixty-one percent of these farmers would prefer to be employed in cities because of better education, health and employment avenues there. A high percentage of farmers complained of repeated losses; 70 percent of respondents said their crops were destroyed because of unseasonal rains, drought, floods and pest attack.

The sample size of the study is not very large?just 36 households per district. National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) and Census surveys, which also pointed to the agrarian crisis and the increasing number of people giving up farming, covered hundreds of thousands of respondents. None the less the CSDS study lends further credence to reports of the poor state of India?s farmers

Survey findings

70 percent of farmers never heard about direct cash transfer Only 19 want subsidies to continue as it is Only 27 percent have heard about the land acquisition law 83 percent of farmers clueless about foreign direct investment (FDI) 70 percent of farmers never contacted any Kisan call centers 47 percent of farmers say that the overall condition of farmers in the country is bad

CSDS director Sanjay Kumar says the sample size is not an issue for any survey. ?It?s how you select the sample, which matters most. The survey intends to give you an idea and not understand why.?

?If the government finds merit in this survey, they can commission a bigger following the same parameters,? he adds. The districts for the study were selected randomly from the list of districts that had high rural population and villages that had a high dependence on agriculture, says Kumar. Over 11,000 interviews were conducted for the report, which included one female and one young member of the respondent household. The idea was to have insight into the socio-economic conditions, expectations, and hopes of the farmers to understand what is ailing them.

The report says that the benefits of government schemes and policies are being mostly given to big farmers having landholding of 10 acres (4.05 hectare) and above. Only 10 percent of poor and small farmers with average land holding of 1-4 acres (0.4 to 1.6 ha) have benefited from government schemes and subsidies. The farmers blamed the state and Central governments for their present condition as 74 percent of those interviewed alleged they do not get any farming-related information from officials of the agriculture department.

The survey shows that 62 percent of interviewed farmers were not aware of the minimum support price (MSP) and among those who have heard about MSP, 64 percent were not satisfied with the price government offers.

Popularising agro-ecological practices and sustainable agriculture and making farming stress-free for small farmers and agricultural labor.

Agriculture continues to be an important source of livelihood for almost two-thirds of India?s rural population. But the sector is in two-third distress. According to the 2011 Census, the number of farmers has gone down by nearly 9 million since 2001. Acclaimed Indian journalist and the Ramon Magsaysay awardee, P Sainath who writes on social issues has analyzed Census figures to show that 2035 farmers are quitting farming every day in our country. The reasons behind this trend are many ? including increasing input cost, inadequate support price, lack of both institutional credit and comprehensive risk coverage, and lack of investment in the agrarian sector. The most tragic consequence of this neglect is farmer suicides. From 1995 to 2013, a total of 296,438 Indian farmers have committed suicide ? which translates into almost 42 farmer suicides a day.

Some people argue that India should replicate the population shift away from agriculture seen in developed economies, however, that is now a historical impossibility and an ecological dead-end. Industrialized agriculture has created ecological crises in the form of lowering water tables, the spread of dangerous pesticides have ruined ecosystems. At the same time, food prices have increased and the small farmer has found agricultural too risky and with very low returns. Farmer suicides are a symptom of the extreme distress faced in the agrarian sector.

We need to build agriculture into a stress-free, ecologically sound and sustainable process that provides dignified livelihood and also builds both food security and food sovereignty for all.

ActionAid India with its allied organizations is working towards:

Creating sustainable solutions for farmers, reducing drudgery in agriculture by promoting appropriate technology, preserving seed diversity, building seed banks and ensure farmers? access to good seeds, encouraging agro-ecological practices and low input processes of crop intensification, preserving pasture lands, forests, water bodies as commons to ensure ecological diversity within which low ecological impact agriculture can be practiced, Building farming and producer collectives so that agriculturalists can increase earnings from agriculture.

?It was not that people were happy with the pesticides and the chemical fertilizers, but they had lost contact with their traditional practices. Particularly, the new generation farmers do not have the knowledge of sustainable farming practiced decades ago.?

? TapanBaishya of LOTUS, an organization allied with ActionAidIndia in Assam.

ActionAid has accomplished the following in recent years:

4457 men and more than 3000 women are today practicing sustainable forms of agriculture in the areas we work in Indigenous seeds are now stored in 200 villages promoting the practice of conserving indigenous seeds.

Disclaimer- This information is entirely by a computer program and has not been created or edited by Just Learning.

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