Exhibiting variety of freshly grown vegetables on the ground for selling, smallholder farmer Bimla Patel is an example of self-reliance in her community where she lives – Bagrohi Village, Sagar District of Madhya Pradesh – battling the adversities of climate change as well as the pandemic.

When the whole country is suffering the impact of Coronavirus and scarcity of essential items and resources, Bimla in her less than half-acre of land is cultivating Brinjal, Cucumber, Tomato, Okra, Amaranth, Coriander, Mint, Local leafy vegetable, Brinjal, Ridged Gourd, Papaya and Mangoes in her backyard.

“For more than two decades, I used to work as farm labour along with my husband in the village but due to inadequate and low payment, it was difficult to maintain my family,” says Bimla. She decided to start a small farm in her backyard with the help of Smallholder Adaptive Farming and Biodiversity Network (SAFBIN) programme.

This programme aims to improve the food and nutritional security of small farmers across South Asia. It lays stress on research led by smallholder farmers themselves; helping them adapt farming methods to increasingly erratic climatic conditions.

Bimla gradually upscaled her knowledge on various low-cost integrated nutrient and pest management systems, reuse and recycle of farm waste and resources which helped her to ensure sufficient farm inputs locally. Having such rich knowledge, she emerged as one of the lead women smallholders having more than 12-13 varieties of vegetables round the year.

“I used cow dung, waste from the cowshed to prepare vermicompost at home. This we used as manure in all our cultivation while Dasparni Ark made out of locally available leaves having a typical smell and cow urine,” shared Bimla. Now, she could save 15% – 20% cost incurred earlier for the purchase of fertilizers and pesticides.

Since the lockdown, many small farm families are now dependent on her backyard. People from her village are now coming to buy green and fresh vegetables in a daily basis. Even in the lockdown situation, she could earn Rs. 400 – Rs. 500 per day and able to earn Rs. 15, 000 per month.

“I have no problem selling my produces, since it is organically cultivated, and people are too getting fresh vegetables right from my farm. I am happy that I made my family proud and for my husband who supported me in every way. We never felt the need for any sort of employment like labour work what we used to do. This change has ensured sufficient fresh vegetables not only for me but for others in need during this pandemic situation.” Expresses Bimal. She thanks SAFBIN, Caritas India and Manav Vikas for helping the smallholder like her to learn and achieve food security and withstand the adversity posed in COVID19

Certainly, the impact of coronavirus on agriculture is much worse than the other sectors. While losses in the secondary and tertiary sectors are being keenly debated in other countries, we in India are even more concerned about the implications of the primary sector. Serious efforts on rebuilding are yet to be initiated. Those of us who have learnt one important lesson in the last two months – that our health depends on what we eat.

On the other hand, although current losses in other sectors are huge, the impact on agriculture is quite likely to be both in the near future as well as in the long run. Lockdown or otherwise, everyone needs food at least twice a day, every day. More importantly, for farming to sustain, one needs to keep nurturing precious natural resources – soil, water and biodiversity. Farmers and farming have no choice but to keep going.