A path to a sustainable future
Chandre Gowda’s eyes light up at the sight of his two children, little 4-year-old Rakshita and her younger brother 2-year-old Rakesh. As a father and family man, his greatest concern is the wellbeing of his family. With a radiant smile, he talks about his transition to becoming an organic farmer, a gradual change that took place over the course of more than 3 years.
What triggered his decision to take up organic farming, he explains, was the damage chemicals had done to his farm. “Chemical fertilizer dried up the soil,” he says, adding, “It reduced the yields over the years.” Tired of paying hard-earned money to buy expensive chemical inputs, only to see his land damaged and yields reduced, Chandre Gowda chose to take up organic farming at the suggestion of GREEN staff.
GREEN’s holistic approach to improving the livelihood security of farmers focuses on instutional development within communities; Chandre Gowda was first introduced to GREEN through these initiatives. “GREEN started 3 Self Help Groups,” he says. “A little more than 3 years ago, they also started a Community Seed Bank (CSB). They gave us seeds, bottles and gourds for storage and told us about conservation practices.” These institutions formed a platform for knowledge dissemination and capacity building of farmers.
Through meetings and training sessions, Chandre Gowda then learnt to make organic inputs at home, a decision which, according to him, cut down cultivation costs by half. A subsistence farmer with little income from limited sales, cutting down costs of cultivation was very essential to Chandre Gowda’s economic security. Preparing organic inputs at home and adopting sustainable agricultural practices helped him do this very effectively, he says, and they increased the economic stability of his family.
Access to indigenous seed varieties was also very important to him: “They grow well even if there’s no rain and they don’t need many inputs. With these exotic varieties, if you lose the crop, you lose all of it; there will be nothing left.” GREEN’s work in Kanakapura Taluk over the years shows that these varieties had dropped out of use with time, as more and more farmers took up the cultivation of hybrid seeds. The resulting biodiversity loss restricted Chandre Gowda’s access to indigenous cultivars resilient to climate change. These varieties also respond well to organic inputs. The CSB gave him the quality indigenous seeds he needed to successfully take up organic farming practices.
Chandre Gowda then attended training sessions facilitated by GREEN to learn various practices of organic farming and sustainable agriculture. “GREEN gave us training on how to prepare vermicompost, organic pesticides, liquid manure, managing a Community Seed Bank etc.,” he says. “They helped me with things like land-levelling and silt application and provided me with seedlings to plant in the lands,” he adds. GREEN also facilitates agroforestry initiatives in an effort to increase the biodiversity and biomass of farmers’ lands. Practices such as bund planting are encouraged; trees planted on farm borders provide additional sources of food and income. “They gave me training on how to increase yields,” says Chandre Gowda. Practices such as the SRI method for dry land cultivation of paddy and the Guli method for millet cultivation contribute to increasing farmers’ yields. He enrolled to be certified as an organic producer through the PGS program more than two years ago.
Today, Chandre Gowda is part of a 3 member team that manages the CSB in his village, and is actively involved in conserving over 55 different types of minor millets, paddy, pulses and vegetables. He also sells indigenous seeds to the farmer’s society of Janadhanya and is a strong advocate of sustainable agriculture and organic farming.
“I want to provide for my children so that they do well,” says the 27-year-old father.