Farming is the backbone of the Indian economy, but the traditional agricultural practices that have been in farmers’ families for generations are no longer sustainable. Toxic pesticides pollute the air and water. Mono-cropping and chemical fertilizers degrade the soil, making it less climate-resilient. Although genetically modified seeds can increase crop yield, these gains are not enough to make up for harvests destroyed by the severe droughts and monsoons that result. And the soaring costs of chemical pesticides and fertilizers and GM seeds eat into the little profit farmers are able to earn. Farmers find themselves working harder and harder for less and less money. Unable to repay their loans, some farmers commit suicide, at a much higher rate than the general population. Traditional farming practices are unsustainable because they harm both the planet and struggling farmers.
Sustainable agricultural practices can help make family farms profitable again. Seed-banking, composting, multi-cropping, and crop rotation produce more plentiful and nourishing crops at a reduced cost. As a result, farmers earn enough money to continue to live on their lands and feed their families. At the same time, more stable, resilient soil reduces the impact of natural disasters. And eliminating the use of fossil fuels and hazardous chemicals slows global warming.
What we’re doing to help
VOICE Trust has been running farming field schools since 1995 to teach sustainable agriculture practices. Here, farmers learn how to:
- bank seeds to save money, extend the harvest season, and increase biodiversity
- cheaply create organic fertilizer from bio-waste, algae, or vermicompost, and make their own natural pesticides
- use multi-cropping and drip irrigation to increase crop yield and stabilize the soil.
By using the sustainable agricultural practices we’ve taught them, thousands of farmers are now able to earn a reliable income from their land. They can feed their families better, and pay their education fees and medical bills. And when other farmers see how well sustainable agriculture works, they learn to try it in their own fields.
To save our communities, and the planet, farmers must continue to grow organic crops in a sustainable manner long into the future. So we are also teaching the next generation the principles and practices of sustainable agriculture. When these children grow up, they will be able to continue to protect the planet, one farm at a time.