The recent demonetization announcement in India and the ensuing mixed bag of reactions have brought to the fore the constant tug-of-war between making ends meet and setting the course for the long run. It is the question that a poor farmer faces everyday in his decisions – do I prioritize feeding my family now, or do I invest in our future well-being? At Save Indian Farmers too, we try to balance projects that address immediate needs of farmers against those that empower them to take control of their future.
The critical food shortage and malnutrition in Bundelkhand is one instance where the present predicament demanded our attention. In collaboration with Parmarth, we successfully ran a community kitchen for four months, where villagers gathered together to cook and eat. After a prolonged phase of hunger and malnutrition, the balanced diet served had a pronounced impact on their BMI and overall well-being. Coming together as a community also strengthened their ties and sense of belonging in these difficult times.
The menu comprised rice, roti, lentils and vegetables
Through Rang De, we have been investing many diverse ventures such as paddy cultivation in Karnataka, an organic farming cooperative in Andhra Pradesh, cattle rearing in Orissa and vegetable cultivation in Manipur. About 30% of our investments have been repaid and we will continue to re-invest them in similar areas of need.
Shapam Sharmila Devi from Manipur, who grows Uo Morok chillies. She has been consistently paying her monthly installments.
The demonetization effort has caused some short-term operational difficulties with regard to loan repayment (which is of lower priority to the loanees in comparison to meeting their everyday needs) as well as loan disbursement (which involves cash withdrawals).
Borisinh Village Project
This was successfully completed in November, with all farmers earning their required social credits and receiving a buffalo. We found that selling milk from the buffalo brought each farmer an additional income in the range of Rs. 10,000 – Rs. 20,000 over a period of 10 months. In our interactions with the women in the village, we observed that they were trained in vocational skills such as sewing, typing and beauty treatments apart from contributing to farm labor. We helped 11 women obtain seed money to lease 5 acres of land and grow cotton. The social credits system also encouraged farmers to send their children to after-school programs, attend alcohol and tobacco awareness camps, and show up for regular meetings to discuss agricultural news and trends.
Fact: Did you know that India is the largest producer of milk in the world?
We implemented the organic practices from our pilot project with 450 farmers, and we are awaiting this season’s harvest. Meanwhile, in collaboration with medical professionals in Yavatmal district, we organized a health camp for around 300 women. We found that those in the age range of 20 to 40 years worked for over 12 hours in their fields, and most women, regardless of age, had low hemoglobin levels and higher-than-expected blood pressure levels.
Participants were keen on nutritional advice and health care
Fact: The 19th Organic World Congress will take place in New Delhi in November 2017.
We are continuing our support to women who have had to endure the suicide of their husbands and take on the responsibility of meeting the financial needs of the family. Some of the small businesses that we have helped them kick start include goat grazing, tailoring and running a flour mill. Here are some photos from Beed district.
Smt. Archana Mhaske Smt. Padmini Chawre
Sticks To Grow
Early this year, we had started a drumstick cultivation project in Vidarbha, where we leased one acre of land and planted 900 drumstick saplings. We were expecting the first harvest in October, after which every week’s produce was estimated to fetch about Rs.3,500. Unfortunately, only 650 trees survived the severe summer and we lost another 150 trees due to heavy rains this monsoon season. There is no yield this year, but these trees can be harvested for 7 years from initial planting. We will continue to care for them and monitor the situation next year.
We are making good strides on our bore-well recharge project with Sankalpa Rural Development Society. Following the first 7 borewells we recharged in Beed, we completed 3 more in Beed and 3 in Nizamabad, Telengana.
A typical borewell recharge system costs about Rs. 50,000. Labor and materials cost Rs. 25,000 and is borne by the farmers. The cost of surveys, excavation and logistics is another Rs. 25,000 (~$400) and is borne by SIF. We are working on obtaining funds to recharge 200 more borewells in Maharashtra and Telengana. Work in Beed and Ananthpur is scheduled to get off the ground in January 2017.
Here is a video showing the success of our pilot project:
We have now put up information boards at Kaij and Dharur (both are part of Beed District of Maharashtra, India) displaying our farmers’ helpline phone number and project details in Marathi. This has given us good visibility and costs only 30% as that of a newspaper advertisement. We continue to log all voice messages, obtain relevant information and follow-up with the farmer concerned.
Maharashtra Farmers’ Helpline
Cricket tournament (Sept 2016): Our Little Rock chapter organized a cricket tournament, in which 4 teams participated and raised $2,000.
Walkathon (Sept 2016): One of our volunteers, Chandni Shah, organized a walkathon in Pascack Valley, New Jersey. Over 50 people participated in the event and we raised $3000.
Diwali celebration (Oct 2016): Pratima Parab, another volunteer in Edison, NJ, sold handmade lanterns for Diwali raising $1500 for SIF project.
Farming in the News
• Impact of demonetization on farmers:
• The role of weather in agriculture:
• Here’s a website that shows sowing and harvesting seasons in India searchable by state and crop name: http://nfsm.gov.in/nfmis
While you enter the festive season and feel gratitude for all your blessings, here’s an opportunity to share your joy and generosity with those who need it most.
Save Indian Farmers
About $600 is all you need to invest to settle a farmer’s widow with a small business. This small business will help her support herself and her family for life. Would you like to invest in a family? Click on the donate button here or make a check payable to Save Indian Farmers and send it to 137 Courts Lane, Little Rock, AR 72223, USA.
You can donate online as always, and we will use that money towards helping more farmer families. You can also join our community of over 150 volunteers, who are donating their time and effort for one simple objective – to make a positive difference in a farmer’s life.
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