Happy Sankranti, Happy Pongal and Happy Lohri everyone!
Updated: Feb 20, 2020
We are essentially celebrating the harvest festival today, known by different names in different parts of the country.
So while kites are being flown (watch out for the birds!) and bulls are being ridden in Jallikattu (watch out for your neck and the animal’s safety!), we tried to understand what the farmers are going through.
ES alumnus from 2013-14 Sujit Agarwal estimates that the torrential rainfall in 2019 has lead to about three weeks of delay and 25% losses in the rice crop among close to 70% farmers he knows. Sujit and his wife Seema are the founders of MyFarmer, the venture to source and supply natural produce. Wheat planting was also delayed to November because the optimum condition just didn’t emerge. About 90% of the custard apple crop was lost because of excessive water; last year the same farmers lost a portion of the crop due to absence of water. The leafy vegetable season too has been delayed by 3-4 weeks this year.
Agricultural uncertainty linked to climate change is only increasing. “We have moved away from ideal climatic conditions,” says Sujit. “And climate variations always, always have a negative impact on crops.” Farmers feel this impact directly in their incomes; also, imagine how it must feel to constantly worry about whether your efforts will bear fruit, and whether you will make money to feed your family and educate your children.
“While old farmers can immediately see the effects of climate change, younger farmers are still passionate and enthusiastic. But I don’t know how long they can continue like this; they might feel depressed after 3-4 years,” shared Sujit. Smaller farmers suffer more, but not the ones who can afford polyhouses and controlled conditions.
Such farmer distress too is know very well now. Data released by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) for 2018, showed that 10,349 people working in the farm sector committed suicide in 2018. This is a marginal fall from 10,655 in 2017 and 11,379 cases in 2016.
Now what can we do while having our til-gool celebrations?
It is essential that we build a family relationship with a farmer, much like a family doctor. We must find ways to buy produce directly from them.
Another way to ensure appropriate returns for farmers from distributors is simply to ask how much the farmer is getting from the transaction. At least the middle men will know that we are alert and aware.
Further, support farmers practicing natural and organic farming.
And finally, encourage farmers who cultivate traditional cultivars.
Once again, Happy Sankranti, Happy Pongal and Happy Lohri!