Most farming families are completely dependent on the success of one or two crops per year. To augment their yields, costly hybrid seeds, along with chemical fertilisers and pesticides, have become common practice. However, the seeds produced by these hybrid plants cannot be used the following year. Moreover, over the years, the soil has been drained of its natural fertility provided by minerals and micro-organisms. Consequently, the need for artificial supplements has increased, further adding to the financial burdens of farmers.
For individual marginal farmers, it is difficult to break away from these established practices, for any change to the methods applied to their one or two-acre plots can put the entire crop at risk. After various discussions with such farmers, the concept of ‘group farming’ became the apparent solution. As a group, it is much easier to receive all-round support from both governmental and non-governmental organisations. Risk to the individual farmer is thereby minimised while income is increased.
It is our villages that sustain us by providing those who live in cities with the nourishment needed in order to survive. However, today, we are just exploiting villages and casting them aside. It is time to acknowledge that our villages are our very foundation and move forward with one heart and one mind to protect and serve them.
Amrita SeRVe promotes and supports farmers in the formation of groups of 10 to 30 farmers. To date, eleven such agricultural societies have been established in different states. Farming capacities are thereby increased through collective savings, use of government subsidies, well-planned cultivation methods, and conversion to organic agriculture for restoring land fertility, all of which has led to increased revenues and overall health benefits. All of these steps can lead to a sustainable livelihood, economic independence and social empowerment.
Amrita Farmers’ Groups
- Increase the livelihood of poor and marginal farmers.
- Improve the overall health and security of farmers in food, social welfare and safety.
- Involve government and local authorities in supporting sustainable agriculture.
- Adopt innovative methods to make effective use of available resources and restore the land
Traditional Farming in Kerala
In Valaramkunnu, thirteen farmers formed the Amrita Organic Farmers Cluband registered under the Cooperative Societies Act. They are collectively growing five acres of organic Athira rice on land they have leased. The activities are guided by the local Amrita SeRVe coordinator. This project has been supported by the Integrated Tribal Development Programme, Wayanad.
Chilli Cultivation in Andhra Pradesh
Andhra Pradesh’s first agricultural society was registered in July 2018 by the members of the Amrita Gudipadu Cheruvu Farmers’ Group. They immediately organised themselves and began the preparations for organic chilli cultivation. Initially they were trained on the preparation and usage of natural fertilisers, such as Jeevamritam, as well as how to treat organic seeds before planting. More meetings followed to complete subsidy applications for a tractor and borewell motors. All steps were guided and supported by Amrita SeRVe’s local coordinator and experienced agriculture programme manager.
Organic wheat cultivation in Rajasthan
In Harirampura village, Rajasthan, nine of the 55 tribal families in the village had already initiated the process of forming a farmers’ group in the year 2015. They set aside four and a half acres of land for organic wheat cultivation. Their first organic harvest was a big success, yielding a total of 4,000 kg of high-quality grains.
Although it is common that yields are initially lower on land previously cultivated with chemical fertilisers, the added sales value of their organic crop easily made up for the yield loss. Their profits were further boosted by reduced expenditure on costly seedsand chemical fertilisers and pesticides.
The Amrita Farmers’ Club – Harirampura was formed and registered under the Central Government scheme with the Agriculture Technology Management Agency (ATMA).