Indian farmers have always been iconic in Indian elections ever since Independence. When India got independence from the British rule, Prime minister Nehru had to develop the country which was nearly bankrupt, un and under educated by and large, stripped of nearly all cottage industries and with an economy in tatters. Today 2 days prior to elections in India I am writing this blog to show how farmers can help themselves and other people can help farmers in various ways to make them successful.
When British left India, Indian economy which was contributing over 22% to global economy was left in tatters contributing only 3% to the global economy. Noted late economist Angus Maddison's book clearly shows shows this. Indian grain was diverted to the world war 2 effort by Churchill and Amrathya Sen has estimated that over 3 million people died of famine related issues during the Bengal Famine in India yet Churchill did not allow Australian grain to come to India. All documented facts if one wants to Google it and buy books on these topics. However I will not go into this as that is the past. Today farming sector is contributing 22% to the Indian economy. If done well it can contribute even more. Much more.
Since independence what happened to the dream of Gandhi who said India lives in its villages? Political party after political party of all colors and hues exploited and are exploiting Indian farmers in all manner and keep them deliberately poor to gain votes. They offer subsidies which help them in no way as documentation is in English and so extensive they need to do a degree to understand it. Most farmers do not have the money to consult either a lawyer or an accountant to understand all the legalities of the loans or procedures etc. Do they have the time to run between their farms and cities? Over 52% of the Indian population is in the rural areas. With all the so called help farmers are getting, farmers are increasingly committing suicide and killing themselves and their families.
The city folk see news items and think farmers are being helped. In this blog page I have written what farmers need to do to become successful. Each of you who reads this blog post can help one farmer and help them from reading English documents to taking the samples to the lab or talking on their behalf to an agronomist or helping them in any way possible.
Step by Step Guide to successful farming
1. Irrespective of the land area, get the soil tested. I have put in addresses of the places where soil testing can be done In Bangalore in this blog elsewhere. Start with University of Agriculture in Bangalore or Dharwad. Dig 10cm of your soil from the top of the field and collect samples once every 10 meters. Mix the soil collected in a bucket and place it in a plastic clean bag. Give it to a soil lab to get it tested. You will need to pay to get the test done.
2. Consult a good agronomist to check what fertilizers should be put in for which crop. Assess good and correct use of fertilizers. For eg., excess use of nitrogen leads to diseases in rice, "lazy" legumes which do not fix biological nitrogen, cloving/splitting of bulbs and possibly bolting in onions-all these lead to lower yields per acre. Do not use fertilizers just because govt gives subsidies. Over 40% of excess nitrogen flows into river water or water table and contaminates water with nitrates and bacteria.
3. Next choose the crop which you are familiar with and which has a high market price. Ask the agronomist to find out the market price locally. Do not grow crops you do not know anything about.
4. If you are in a drought affected area, choose crops which use low water.
5. Do land rotation by planting high cost crops and low cost crops to reduce risk. For eg., use high cost legumes with low cost crop suited to your area in your rotation each year. For e.g., if you have 5 acres of land, use 3 acres for high cost crop and 2 acres for a low cost crop. This means risk is minimized each year even if one crop fails other one will get some money and not lose the whole money. Soil rotation will also break the disease cycle in soils and reduce use of chemicals in a natural way.
7. Few farmers in one village or taluk or hobli can start a value added co-operatives especially if they are close to cities. Open a simple business, talk to farmers in your area and develop a business to deliver fresh produce to the cities. For eg., if you grow beans, go talk to an onion grower in the area or a milk producer or a butcher etc. Deliver these items every week to nearby homes. City people especially younger IT people will love this as it is fresh and delivered to their door. Go talk to IT firms if they will give you a contract. Even if you are not a farmer but in rural area you can do this. Majority of farmers in western countries operate this way.
9. Don't do things just to get a subsidy. Do not add excess fertilizers as it will not increase yield but decrease yield if too much and destroy the land.
10. I have put other farmers experiences in this blog site to show how people are doing in these areas. use other people's ideas.
11. Check seed germination yourself. This is how you can do it before you sow them in the ground. Take 3 plastic plates, place some news paper cut sheet in each one. Put 25 seeds you bought from the shop in each of the plates. Add a small spoonful of water. make sure the seed and paper gets moist. Keep it moist each day by adding few drops of water. Count the seeds which germinate (molake) on 2 days and 4 days. If they do not germinate even after 4-5 days take it back to the shop and ask them to exchange it. Use seed with government marking to get good quality seed.
12. Treat your farm like a small business. Talk to your fellow farmers, go to Krishimelas, see govt programs, work co-operatively with other farmers. Be united to achieve profits for all.
13. Learn to use computers. They have lot of videos and information on farming. Learn new techniques from others. Understand the world climate is changing. Learn how it is going to impact on your area. As the agronomist or a Agriculture Scientist in your area. Attend workshops.
14. Do not take unnecessary loans on the land. If you lose the farm you will lose your income.
Farming is difficult even in best situations so dont take unnecessary risks. Good luck.