farmerBy Sayantan Bera

May 9, 2009

NIKODAM TUTI owns a small farm in a village amid lush green forests, barely 50km from Ranchi, the capital of Jharkhand. His one-acre land feeds five stomachs. Until two years ago, Tuti, who belongs to a tribe named Munda, grew rice, finger millets and pulses on the nonirrigated patches, yielding barely enough to feed his family for four months. He worked half the year as a construction labourer in Mumbai to make ends meet — purchasing food grains, meeting medical emergencies and affording private schooling for his two children.

Life was a continuous struggle. Crop failure or sudden illness would mean going hungry for days. But thanks to a simple process of rice cultivation introduced by an NGO in his village, Dulli, Tuti’s half acre of paddy now yields 16 quintals of rice opposed to less than three quintals earlier. In 2007, for the first time, he even managed to sell enough to repay debts.

“I now want to lease land and buy bullocks to plough my fields,” Tuti says, full of hope. His is a lesson worth emulating for India’s paddy farmers, 70 percent of whom have no access to either irrigation or mechanised inputs.

System of Rice Intensification (SRI) — the technology that has brought him the miraculous turnaround — was developed in 1983 in Madagascar. Initially, agricultural scientists shrugged off the practice saying it sounded “too good to be true”. For long, it was hard to make farmers understand that they could double their yield using one tenth the seeds and half the water in this technique. But slowly, that is changing.

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Barb’s Notes:

If a small farmer in India can learn to grow enough food to feed the five people in his family and have enough left over to pay off his debts, and all this on one acre of land, we in America need to stand up and take notice.

I am committed to learning about and applying these principles for my family and the small community in which I live. I have more than enough land to grow enough food to feed my family and my neighbors’ families if I use this method to increase my yields.

I challenge you to do the same. If you have a small piece of land, then start learning and growing. Get off the corporate teat of commercialized food products that contain pesticides, GMOs, and a multitude of contaminants that we cannot even pronounce, much less understand, and start growing your own food for yourself and your neighbors.

If people have a choice between good, clean, homegrown food and food that has been irradiated, poisoned, genetically altered, kept in cold storage, then shipped for miles, most would prefer the local alternative.



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