Life of an NPM practicing farmer

Life of an NPM practicing farmer

Life of an NPM practicing farmer

Author: Nivedita Arumugaswamy
Read time: 3mins 59 secs

“Peene ke liye Mauwa hai, phukkne ke liye tobacco hai, khane ke liye anaaj hai, subji hai, Jeene ke liye biwi aur bachhe hai aur kya chahiye insaan ko. Kush raho.”

“We have Mahua (local alcoholic beverage) to drink, tobacco to smoke, food to eat, vegetables to consume, a wife and kids to keep company - what more could I possibly wish for?”

Ram Krishna Yadav Ji, the man in this photo below and most of the other families in the village lived on a similar mantra. Except for sugar and salt, this small village called Chhadaula in Sanjay Gandhi National Park is self- sustainable in every other way. Every house in the village is built using indigenous material and has a courtyard with a unique design. They make primitive tiles for their roofs.They have a common well for 4-5 houses which is the main source of drinking water as well as irrigation. They have kitchen gardens (in modern terms) which keep a consistent supply of vegetables throughout the year.

They grow Jow (a variety of wheat), Kodo millet and Pulses for their consumption and surplus is sold in the local mandi (market). They exchange seeds for crop rotation among themselves. They also grow oil seeds like ground nuts, sun flower and sesame. They grow jute to make their cots and chairs.People in this village do not prefer to buy vegetables, grains, pulses even tobacco from the market because they consider them as impure and ridden with chemicals. Ram Krishna Yadav ji remembers how a young man lost his eye sight by smoking the tobacco brought from the market. Learning from each other's lives, they decided to strictly adhere to chemical free agriculture in their small village.

While urban consumers identify the advantages of pesticide free food and are willing to pay a premium for it, farmers like Yadav ji and others in his village never receive a fair price for their products in the mandi, let alone a premium. As several small farmers approach the traders independently, they have no purchasing power and are often obligated to sell the produce they bring to the Mandi at low prices as the trips are long and expensive. These farmers put in extra effort and labour to make the natural pesticides and be extra vigilant about possible pest attacks. When they see that the fruit of their labour is the same as that of another farmer who simply sprays chemical pesticides, they tend to get demotivated and shift to the easier chemical spraying methods. It has also now become a common practice in several of these villages that farmers have two separate pieces of lands, one for growing pesticide-free produce for their family’s consumption and another in which they spray chemical pesticides and sell the produce in the market.
Safe Harvest’s mission is to ensure that fewer farmers in the country make this shift because of monetary or market linkage related constraints. With the help of our partner organisation, The NPM (Non Pesticide Management) Network, we encourage these farmers to form collectives or Farmer Producer Organisations (FPO) and grow only pesticide-free produce. After sampling, testing and certifying that the farmers are in fact adhering to pesticide-free practices, we buy the produce from the FPO at the ongoing price at the closest government mandi.

After accounting for the lower costs of inputs, the reduction in transportation costs and zero commissions or middle men charges it has meant that on average, a farmer that sells to Safe Harvest sees upto a 20% increase in his income. The fruit of their labour and extra efforts, earns them a premium in the market. Farmers and FPOs that begin selling to Safe Harvest often continue to keep their relations with us for years to come, as we not only ensure them fair prices but also build their FPOs and villages to becomes healthier, safer and more sustainable environments.

Ram Krishna Yadav ji’s story was recorded by Nivedita, our project coordinator at The NPM Network. Her visit to Chhadaula was organised by Gram Sudhar Samiti (GSS), an organisation that works on sustainable agriculture, women empowerment and water shed management in the Sidhi District of Madhya Pradesh. She is now working closely with Yadav ji and other farmers of the village to register them as an FPO after which their produce could be bought at fair prices by Safe Harvest.