A storm paid a visit to S.Thattanapalli Village…

The village has had an unfortunate visit from an unexpected event this week. We were one of the many farms to be affected by the heavy hail and rain storm that swept across the fields in the afternoon, taking with it much of the newly sowed seeds and emerging fruits… We only just planted 1.5 acres of peanut seeds in the organic rotation fields, which were devastated, so it’s back to another round of sowing this week. We hope all the farmers in the local area are doing okay in these times, may we be blessed with calm days throughout April.

The variability of farming

We thought this would be a good opportunity to talk about the problems that arise from variable weather. It is probably one of the most talked-about topics on the planet, but no one talks about it more than farmers. Many farmers have not got any assurance they will remain financially afloat in the growing season because they cannot access crop insurance for when their crops fail. There are numerous reasons why farmers are uninsured and many boil down to the financial capabilities of the farmer and lack of government support available to them, particularly with smaller operations.

Taking this from our other blog, we feel it provides a very generalised but experienced context of the transitions and changes that Indian agriculture has undergone.

‘Indian agriculture, for the majority of farmers, has transitioned over the last century from very traditional, organic farming systems to that of chemical farming, being one of the first countries to experience genetically modified food, fuel and material production. But with these changes to the production system, came changes to the input requirements, and the need for credit has continued to increase. Unfortunately, much of the credit available to farmers comes in the form of informal money lenders which are unregulated by the government (Shah et al, 2007). Unregulated credit sources do not have limits on their interest rates, nor their terms of agreement, meaning the lender holds all the power in the relationship.  Many lenders use the farmers’ harvest or land as an insurance for themselves, meaning that if farmers’ fail to repay the loan, as set in the agreement, the lenders claim ownership over a certain amount of their land or their harvest. This creates a highly exploitative credit system.

Informal credit is utilised more by small scale farmers, than those with a larger landholding size (ibid). This can disproportionately be accounted for by structural, social and economic inequalities.

As loans increase and money lenders return as the main way for rural smallholders to access credit (Shah et al, 2007), the risks involved in farming become greater and greater. The burden of increasing cultivation costs that are not accommodated for by a similar increases in the value of output (Narayanamoorthy, 2013) adds to the risk of financial loss. A viscous cycle of debt repayment and gradual asset loss is all too common.

Whilst some farmers have access to crop insurance, small scale farmers are considerably underrepresented, with as little as 4% of small scale farmers having formal insurance,   leaving 96% to find alternative solutions (Agarwal and Agrawal, 2016). As you can see, smallholder farmers, although they account for 80% of Indian farmers and have a very important role in food production and rural nutrition, face great barriers to achieving a good, stable income. They, too, endure the droughts, pests and land management issues that large and medium farms face, yet often have less asset, resource and institutional support to cushion the impact of the variable conditions of the farming year.

The amazing thing about small scale farmers is that they still continue this very important livelihood and push through the hardships to produce amazing amounts of food. In 2002-03, which is the only data we can find, marginal and small farms’ share in total cultivated land area was 46.1%, whilst their output accounted for 51.2% of agricultural production at the all India level (Manendra, 2014).’

So yes, this is the harsh reality for many small scale farmers. Variable weather is not a laughing matter and can be the beginning of the end for a household’s main income source. Each year the numbers go down, not just nationally, but internationally…

…Many farmers are being lost from the world.

So when you’re next having a meal, or even a glass of milk, just remember,
somewhere, a farmer has done whatever they could to get it there.

Let’s remember to support our farmers.

May this be a calm April.

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Agarwal B. and Agrawal, A., 2016. To farm or not to farm? Indian farmers in transition. GDI Working Paper 2016-001. Manchester: The University of Manchester. 

Mahendra Dev, S., 2014. Small farmers in India: Challenges and opportunities.

Narayanamoorthy, A., 2013. Profitability in crops cultivation in India: Some evidence from cost of cultivation survey data. Indian Journal of Agricultural Economics68(1), pp.104-121

Shah, M., Rao, R. and Shankar, P.V., 2007. Rural credit in 20th century India: overview of history and perspectives. Economic and Political Weekly, pp.1351-1364.


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