“Kisan ke Jeevan Main Ujala” – Ray of light on the Smallholders amidst the COVID Pandemic

Most of the people of Hanumantora village in Sagar district in Madhya Pradesh belong to the scheduled cast category. With high illiteracy, the people are mostly dependent on agricultural labour, daily wage labour and seasonal migration to cities outside the state. Most of them are smallholder farmers who have not more than one or two acres of land and agriculture is the main source of income to support their families.

This story is about Mr. Vinod Patel who has been living in the village for more than 38 years along with his wife and 6 children. Here is what he wants to share:

“There were many obstacles that we faced as small farmers to do agriculture. We were food insufficient and never grew nutritious vegetables or fruits. We only grew cereals that had very poor production despite huge input costs. But these problems started getting resolved when I became part of the SAFBIN programme and joined the farmers’ group. We started to learn more about various knowledge and new technologies that we could very easily adopt. I started doing SRI on wheat and my production has now doubled.

When I started doing vegetable farming, I didn’t know much about selling in the market. But gradually we learnt that growing off-season crops fetched better prices in the market. Since we had some irrigation facility, we started growing off- season vegetables. Now not only do we have enough for the family, but are selling in the market that fetches us 300-400 INR per day! I grow radish, brinjal, chilly, coriander and many other vegetables in my homestead etc.

I am also now doing Livestock farming along with the crops. This way I can use the waste from the shed as well as the crops to make organic manure. I have learned to make bio-pest repellents own my own which I am using on all my crops. Most importantly I realised that organic farming is a modern term for traditional way of farming. This kind of farming keeps the environment and the ecosystem in balance. Use of manure in the farm helps maintain the friendly pests that eliminate any enemy pest in the field. This also keeps the diseases at check.

Now with the COVID19 pandemic and the lockdown, life has become difficult for many. Farmers who grew wheat are not getting a good price in the market due to which they are unable to repay the loans and the labourers. However, those farmers who grew their own vegetables, especially the off-season vegetables are coping with the situation better, since the vegetables from outside are not reaching the market. So farmers like us are now selling the vegetables in the market at good prices. I sell the tomatoes for INR 30, Potatoes for INR 30 and onions also at the same price. When I see my fellow farmer friends who grew only wheat and mustard, they are the worst affected since they are not getting good returns for their produce, and have to also buy food from the market. I am grateful that I started doing vegetable farming otherwise I would have also been badly affected due to the lockdown.

My wife and I, both work in the farm for two hours each in the morning and evening. While my wife harvests the crops, I take the produce to the market to sell. I am now able to spend money on my children something which was not possible for us to do earlier. We are now self-sufficient and do not rely on external sources for income. I would like to give my thanks to the SAFBIN programme, MVSSS, Caritas India to help me to address my problems own my own.”