“If there is no life in the land, there is no land. If there is no land, there is no farmer”, Ramu, a farmer based in Komanuthala village, 30 kms from Pulivendula, Kadapa district, Andhra Pradesh, told me during a 40 minute conversation. This conversation is part of the Know Your Farmer series (http://i4farmers.org/know-your-farmer/) where we try to talk to the farmers directly to learn more about the ground realities.
Ramu has 5 acres of land and had been practicing chemical based farming all along. Ramu had heard about natural farming 5 years ago. It caught his attention, got him curious but that’s where it stopped. He was skeptical for one, he had no one to guide him and he was reluctant to experiment on his own. It wasn’t until last year that he finally decided to embrace the change, not because of any ethical or health reasons but purely because of economics.
The picture (by Usha Turaga Revelli) above was taken in April where Obul Reddy and Ramu travelled 60kms to meet Vijay Anna to talk about farming and how they can shift to natural farming
Let’s do the numbers:
Ramu grows tomatoes and its typically a 100 day crop i.e. from sowing the seeds to finally harvesting the tomatoes – start to finish
- Cost of seeds: Rs 300 per 10 gms and he needs about 500 gms, so it comes to Rs 15,000 in total
- Cost of pesticides: For the 100 day crop, Ramu sprays about 12 times. Each time it costs about Rs 3000 i.e. Rs 36,000
- So that’s a total of Rs50,000. This cost on an annual basis runs into a few lakh rupees. All of this was hurting his revenues.
Switching to natural farming meant he was able to avoid and/or reduce the costs dramatically. It was down to Rs10,000 from Rs50,000 and so it just made economical sense to do natural farming.
Takeaway: It may be ethical and/or healthy for the Urban middle class to eat natural grown food, but it’s just pure economics for the farmer to practice natural farming.
Lack of information:
Until 2 years ago, even the cell phone reception was bad, there were no towers, so forget any one from the outside coming into these villages, they were barely in communication with the outside world.
Ramu felt he could have switched to natural farming the day he heard about it, but he lacked information beyond the general introduction he heard in another village, few hundred Kms away.
I asked him if he ever tried to reach out to any govt. official or if they reached out to anyone in his village and he said “No”. And that’s when he mentioned about the cell phone towers.
Takeaway: how do we solve the problem of basic communication, make communities more aware of the solutions that are very much feasible.
The cost of irrigation:
“I spent almost 5 lakh rupees trying 7 different times at different locations in my field to dig a bore. The bore had to be dug as deep as 1100 ft.”, Ramu, explaining how whatever little savings he had, all disappeared. My spontaneous reaction was that off disbelief first, soon turned into sadness and later that off anger.
With ever increasingly hot summers and almost unpredictable weather, it’s only a matter of time when even this bore would dry out, if no action against as taken.
I informed him about the importance of rain water harvesting and how this has to be immediately. Ramu agreed to allocate some land for this and was willing to work on this.
Takeaway: Connect Ramu with the concerned experts and get this done.
And finally the most important, the MSP
Ramu sells tomatoes in the local markets. He sells them as boxes of tomatoes where each box is approximately 20-25 kgs. Each basket earned him approximately Rs200-300 i.e approximately Rs12 a kg.
Last year, the same time around, the same basket earned him Rs15,00 i.e. almost Rs70 a kg. Ramu was extremely happy, however, he is also very wary of the fluctuations in the price. Ramu has very little insight into the market price and has no option to store and/or process the tomatoes. So once the harvest is ready, Ramu has no option but to sell the tomatoes at the price that’s being offered in the local markets.
Takeaway: How to make this information accessible to farmers? How to solve the problem of storage/processing?