Freeing the Farmer’s Hands Through Agroforestry and Micro-irrigation
We have launched Cauvery Calling, which is an economic plan with a significant ecological impact. We want to plant 242 crore trees to cover one-third of Cauvery basin. The only way this can be done is moving to agroforestry. Right now in Tamil Nadu we have converted 69,760 farmers into agroforestry and within five to seven years, their wealth increased by three hundred to eight hundred percent. The most important thing about agroforestry is that it is financially lucrative for the farmer and it leaves his hands free. He does not have to go and mess with his farm every day. He can do various other activities. This human potential of who we are can be explored in many different ways.
This becomes important because anyway most of the farmers’ children have gone through compulsory education and now they cannot be farmers. In this education, you cannot fail them till ninth standard. At ninth standard, many do not know even how to count from one to five. After that, they start failing and drop out. There are millions of youth like this in the country who are not qualified for anything. They are fifteen years old and neither do they have the competence to go further into university education, nor are they able to work on the farm. But they have the attitude of the educated without any sense of education within them. Once a boy goes through education till eighteen years of age, do you think he is capable of going and ploughing the land? He neither has the mental application nor the physical strength to do it.
So the most important thing is to move people away from this labor-intensive 3-4 month agriculture into long-term agriculture. Otherwise, they will all sell their lands and real estate. If land has to remain in the hands of the farmer, you have to go for long gestation period crops.
Micro-Irrigation in the Hands of Industry
Another way to free the farmers’ hands is through micro-irrigation. In Tamil Nadu for instance, we are still largely flood irrigating, which is the cruelest way of using water. It is not good either for the land or for the crop itself. If you put so much water in one place, the soil gets leached and all the bio-activity in the soil is reduced. There are more efficient ways to practice agriculture today. In many nations, people are growing the same crops and getting better yields than us by using only ten to twenty percent of the water that we are using. They are doing this through micro-irrigation and various other ways.
The central government has promised that they will allocate 5,000 crores every year for micro-irrigation, but the problem is that the scale of individual agriculture in this country is small. Without consolidating farmlands if you do micro-irrigation for each individual farmer, it is not going to work, because each one has to set up a filter and have a bore well, and in the end the investment for irrigation is so high. This is what is killing the farmer.
One fundamental thing that needs to happen is irrigation must move from the farmer to a well-informed industry or a corporate sector. If the farmer only has to pay rent for irrigation, every field can be irrigated. And irrigation includes fertilization also. Now every farmer will get better yield, and very easily you can make his income go up at least three times over in a matter of three to four years’ time.
Letting Farmers Loose From Their Land
Right now, farmers are going to the land every day. One reason is to assert that this is his land. He owns it, his father owned it, his grandfather owned it, but still every day he has to go there and prove that this is his land, otherwise somebody will start plowing into his land. One thing we can do is to digitally survey everything and put it in format. We want to bring 10,000 to 50,000 farmers together and make an integrated irrigation system. If you do this, the farmer need not go to the land every day.
Another reason why he goes to the farm is just to turn on the pump. Micro-irrigation can cause a major revolution in freeing up farmers’ hands. Now a farmer can go to his land just sixty to sixty-five days in a year and effectively grow two crops. This means for three hundred days in a year, five hundred million people’s hands will become free. Then the amount of ancillary industry – art, music and a variety of other things that you can do in this country – will be phenomenal.
Editor’s Note: Cauvery Calling is a campaign to support farmers in planting 242 crore trees and save Cauvery. This will increase water retention in the basin, while improving the income of farmers five-fold. Contribute to plant trees. Visit: CauveryCalling.Org or call 80009 80009. #CauveryCalling