Thomas converted adversity into opportunity

The lockdown has allowed me to reflect within me and let me think how to get food for my family? I could not wait to see whether I shall be able to make my homestead at home. I had no other way and started working in my homestead,” says Thomas Lakda, a smallholder farmer from Madhya Pradesh.

Thomas Lakda (40) lives with his wife and two children in Khairi village of Mandla district. Having 2 acres of land with the rainfed condition was not easy while subsequent lockdown has brought things even more difficult for him to feed his family. Even after having naturally rich resources, the village is considered to be one of the most remote villages with lack a very low level of development and knowledge among people.

Smallholders are used in adapting to circumstances, whether it’s droughts, floods or pest infestations. Overcoming unpredictable hurdles goes with the job, but the pandemic has brought a range of new challenges to growing the food, people depend upon. Farmers of all sizes are feeling the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic, from travel restrictions to social distancing requirements. Covid-19 has created immediate implications for Thomas, who normally sell his harvest at the local market with these uncertainties. Family food requirement was a major concern for him to ensure.

To cope with the crisis, Smallholder Adaptive Farming and Biodiversity Network put efforts to bring forward smallholders with many smallholder’s friendly initiatives where homestead farming was one of the key initiatives to ensure maximum farm components for smallholders like him. Apart from smallholder-led Integrated Farming System (IFS), the homestead was one of the key interventions to involve small farm families by enabling them to focus more on development of maximum farm components locally available and suitable to the local agro-ecological climate.

Thomas was one among the smallholder farmer who learned meaningfully about low-cost agro-ecological practices. By applying the homemade botanicals (Jeevamrut, matka khad, fish tonic), vermicompost, and bio pest repellents (dasparni ark, lamit ark), he could restore his farm ecosystem and additionally save money and reduced external dependency. He has diversified his small farms with almost 6 farm components like field crops (paddy, millet, pulses and oil seeds), local vegetables (leafy, gourd, tuber etc), fruits plants (mango, guava, custard apple, lemon, papaya, drumstick), cattle (cow, bullock), small ruminants (goat) & poultry.

“I have now more than 6 types of farm components and other resources made by reuse and recycling of own farm waste which help me to save extra expenses. I learned these eco-friendly techniques from the SAFBIN team during SHFC training. We have varieties of vegetables in our homestead now and my family and children are enjoying having the fresh green vegetable harvest from our small farm,” shares Thomas delightedly.

Smallholder Adaptive Farming and Biodiversity Network a programme co-funded by Caritas Switzerland and Caritas Austria, implemented by Caritas India through its implementing partner organisation Jabalpur Diocesan Social Service Society (JDSSS) to ensure local food and nutritional security SDG-2 by enabling smallholders to make their small farm more resilient against various shocks and climate actions (SDG-13).

Homestead farming or home gardening is a historical tradition that has evolved in many tropical countries over a long period of time. It is generally understood to be a system for the production of subsistence crops for the cultivator and his/her family. Numerous terms are used to denote these practices: mixed garden horticulture, home gardening, javanese home gardening, compound farming, mixed or house gardening, kitchen gardening, household gardening, and homestead agroforestry.

The objective of this initiative is to conserve the natural resource base, protect the local environment, and enhance the prosperity of the small farm family over a period of time. Smallholder Adaptive Farming and Biodiversity Network (SAFBIN) is devotedly working for smallholder’s future recognising the importance of small farm in conserving biodiversity, food and nutritional security not only at the family level but also to meet the nation’s food requirement.

Thomas says that “It is a great experience for me and my family to cultivate such a huge amount of nutritious food in the simplest way with less effort, which was beyond our expectation. We extend our gratitude to entire SAFBIN team members, Caritas India and JDSSS for helping farmers like us in a great way to secure our food and future.”