The Greener Revolution – how small farmers in India benefit from Integrated Farming

India has been trying to increase its agricultural production in the so-called Green Revolution: It introduced hybrid crops, monocultures, intensive use of agrochemicals and external inputs. Welthungerhilfe and its partners however do not follow this trend. Why not? Anshuman Das, agricultural expert at the Welthungerhilfe office in Kolkata, explains: It costs more, because you have to buy fertilizer from outside. You can only use your seed once or twice, so each time you have to buy seed. For the smaller marginal farmer this is a very difficult economic scenario. 60% of Indian land is rain-fed. Chemical fertilizer and hybrid seed respond more when you have good water. So it is not suitable for the Indian scenario. The Green Revolution is focusing on rice and wheat, but India is actually a land of diversity. By food we mean many different things. India had roughly 30,000 rice varieties. Now maybe 30 are available on the market. Welthungerhilfe helps farmers increase their yields with a completely different technique: the Sustainable Integrated Farming Systems, or SIFS. What does that mean? I would say it is going close to nature. Because when you go to a natural ecosystem like forest, many different things live together. And they are helping each other. That’s why, even if you are not giving fertilizer or water, the productivity of a forest is enormous. That’s what we try to imbibe in the farm system also. We try to have many different things together, so that one helps another. So the requirement of fertilizer, or whatever input it is, from outside is reduced a lot. In India, most of the farmers are small farmers. They have few things, like maybe one acre of land, few ducks, few chickens, two or three goats, few cows… None of these subsystems is good enough to survive the subsistence need and the income need entirely. So they have to depend on many different things. Sonja Devi is one of those who adopted Integrated Farming. She shares her farm model with us. Anshuman Das translates from Hindi … She used to have only three acres of land, most of which were fallow, a few trees, and two, three cows. Her major practice was to buy fertilizer and pesticide from outside the market. … here Anshuman continues: He explains how Sonja introduced a vermicompost pit to provide rich manure for her fields, how she bought ducks whose droppings feed the fish in the pond …and how, if there are worms left, the fish get that as well. Her farm imitates nature. It works like an ecosystem. Every single subsystem is now linked with one another. So the energy in the entire system is basically recycled. These small changes make a big difference for the farmers. Earlier, the money they earned with rice or wheat wasn’t even enough to buy vegetables for their families. Now, they produce their own eggs, milk, manure, fish and vegetables. Welthungerhilfe has supported several thousand Indian families who took up Integrated Farming. The first two years can be tough for the families, as these green techniques require extra work and knowledge. Still, they embrace the “Greener Revolution” of Integrated Farming, as this has helped improve their diet, health and income considerably.

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