We just shot this video recently. First hand example of a successful transition into regenerative agriculture by a conventional farmer. Visit this farm sometime if you can - very near Bangalore. You will find textbook examples of no-till, multi-cropping, heavy mulching, cover cropping, green manuring and re-introduction of soil life in degraded dead soil.
In my mind - the solution to our environmental issues must involve this: Make it easy for farmers like Kiran to sell their produce at a good price.
This will unlock a virtuous cycle encouraging hundreds of other Kirans in his nearby villages to take up similar methods and succeed with it.
Imagine if we can get 10% of Indian smallholder farmers to convert to regenerative farming.
Imagine the amount of carbon that will get sequestered if 10 million Kirans take their soil carbon from 0.2% to 3% in a few years in 40 mn acres of cropland.
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How do we engage with many esp at village scale and encourage them to do this? What will convince them? I’ll try to get my Coorg neighbours to at least abandon urea and pesticide/herbicide for the paddy they grow, and promise to pick up organic rice at 2x the quintal pricing they get from the local traders. Will have to underwrite costs and hope Farmizen customers pick it all up
Entrepreneurship to the rescue - to engage with many at village scale, we need to first make one farmer successful, and then develop him as a nodal point - and encourage him to become a farm entrepreneur in addition to being a farmer. We see that happen organically with several farmers - they start off by growing on their own farm, but gradually also start helping other farmers sell on Farmizen. They manage the grading, packaging, transport, listing on app etc, while maintaining source traceability. And add on a small percentage fee for their services, on to the produce price.
Some of them even do it for free because it helps reduce the transport cost by clubbing multiple produce from multiple farms.
Enabling appropriate processing tech for poducers to consume first and market rest at village and town level while only letting a surplus go beyond is critical to invert top down pyramid…
This is an inversion of social economic cultural aspirational changes that are inline with monetary logic happening in my village and town!!(Silk weavers of Arani, suppliers to adjacent Kanchipuram)
First second generation farmer kids in urban economies value the intangibles and ensure they keep rich close contact to reap benefits with clear enterprise strategies to return after finding their feet in city.
Am myself more financially and intagibly wealthy on establishing connects to my community. But love for fighting the fight in my Bangalore keeps me devoted to my home here
The farmers that have not migrated save their ragi, Millets, jaggery that is safe and natural and ship off rest to market though that would have fetched them a better price. It’s simple to prioritise health and prevent potential family destroying health financial crisis for being penny wise and pound foolish.
In ‘poor’ regions ( state violence in form of economics, forest rights, human rights) locals have no option but to be slaves to hegemony of state and market that are synonymous. Hence the glories of false righteousness of state and corporate ‘welfare’ to their ‘rescue’
From my conversations with various farmers in and around my village over the past couple of weeks - it is very clear that they do not trust all sources of information.
As much as we all would like to think that we can be effective changemakers here, eventually it will be people like Kiran Kumar who will probably lead the changes, as noted by @shameek_c. We can do the following to start with and lay foundation for faster adoption later -
Help farmers like Kiran Kumar be successful end to end - farming to selling of the produce.
Convince him to champion the causes we care about - in this case ZBNF farming.
Let Kiran lead the revolution in the village and surrounding areas - we could help him understand how that can benefit him in the long run. (pretty sure he already knows this)
Track the results and replicate across villages.
Pressing need? Finding others like Kiran, who are just starting out on this journey. Help the convinced rather than convincing.
Shameek you are right: creating a successful farmer who adopts, creating a network To supply the produce are real good starting points. But we have been stuck at only 2 or 3 umbrella farmers who have joined our network. Albeit, even now all the 10 farmers on the network really belong to our village itself. One or 2 thingS which is clear for our failure is we were Eager to spread fast and secondly we were very passionate and hence “loud” about our intent. Complete disaster. Sitting with the farmers and having multiple conversations and then paying it forward to them (Immediate revenue with rural tourism, sharing water, sharing expertise, having deep long term relationships), Could have long term gains. Also, with chemical, most farmers can then work on other organic fields like ours for additional income and not jeopardise their known ways of fetching income from Mandis. Letting go of the extra income for these marginalised farmers is almost unheard of. I have had farmers tell me that they know organic is good, but they are not really taking the torch up for the good fight because these city dwellers have not really cared for them for almost 50 years.
If we do not have deep conversations, high impact will be sparse.
Arayani Farms near Panchmarhi in Madhya Pradesh, only connects with the poorest farmer who has first hand witnessed the ills of chemical farmers and is now ready to shift to organic or with tribals who are still doing natural produce (mostly herbs, spices, ghee), and reduce the liability of explaining to farmers why organic is good. It’s a different philosophy and yet it stems from failed deep communications of years for them.
Our failure at Sumiran was in lieu of forming a Section 8 company: the moment you have a company, profits and production are metrics which stare at you and do not give you the bandwidth to make long term changes.
To me it appears we are intending to solve many problems at many levels.
Yes we do need farmers like Kiran and yes all of us can help ‘buy’ from them at a good price.
This in itself is unsustainable.
With climate change just showing us glimpses of what is in store ahead, with us consumers not wanting or willing to share the risk of uncertainty at the farm end, this relationship would not go very far.
On days or years when Kiran faces a drought or hailstorm and has nothing to sell, who would come to pay his daughters school fee then?
Some deeper transactional relationships which we take for granted as the only way of exchange need to be looked at deeply.
Love you guys. Great work.
Well inquired Rajinder. Human beings with their extra special brain size have gotten us here and am hopeful the same planning and organising will help us reverse back.
Money has been the only metric and symbiosis ended between Eco system players to only forward and nurture transactions and exploitation.
Ultimately, heavy lifting for climate change will Be done by the “Kiran” and “Dayaram” of existence around us: I hope the farmers allow us Nutrient rich food in 30 years time. Unlike the cheap and supra affordable chemical food in abundance today.