From chemical intensive to sustainable agriculture practices

The agriculture land of Western U.P., geographically located between the Ganga and the Yamuna, better known as Doab is one of the most fertile agriculture lands in the country. Owing to the constant flow of major rivers like the Ganga, the Yamuna and small rivers like the Hindon and the Kali and in addition to a number of canals, the area witnesses no challenge in the terms of irrigation facilities. The agriculture land used to have a strong water retention capacity and the physio-chemical parameters were well within the permissible limits and nutrients were richly available to the soil till the decades of 60s. The farmers used to adopt organic ways of agriculture which they have been practicing since centuries. The region witnessed a penetration of Green Revolution in the mid 60s but initially owing to the strong traditions of sustainable agriculture, the farming community did not accept the introduction of chemicals and pesticides supported by Urea and DAP. As such, the farming community was compelled to purchase for example Urea and in lieu they were lured of providing cement bags which otherwise were very difficult for the farmers to procure and were available only against permit. Then there were cases when the government officials used to spray Urea in the farmer’s fields free of cost during night time in order to prove its ‘benefits’. In short, one could say that the shift from organic ways of agriculture to chemical based farming was under compulsion and not by choice.

Today, the soil status has deteriorated putting a heavy load on the pockets of the farming community. They require more chemicals and pesticides usage in order to get the yield at least equivalent to the one which they had received in the previous crop. Moreover, monoculture practices particularly the sugarcane cultivation has made the matters worst since it requires a substantial amount of water and deadly chemicals like Fipronil and Endosulfan-I etc. which finally convert into Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs). The government initiative to introduce organic ways of farming did not yield positive results in Western U.P. a few years back.

Janhit Foundation could understand the problem of loss to soil fertility, water retention capacity and leaching of pesticides to water table in Meerut district. It came forward in the year 2003 and at the behest of the community. It started educating the farming community of the Meerut district to shed chemical based farming and instead adopt organic ways of farming. Initially, the farmers were reluctant because of the decades old habit of putting chemicals and pesticides in their fields.

The most difficult time is the conversion time. The conversion period is the period which is very difficult for any organization to convince the farming community since, they are used to so called ‘simple’ and ‘readymade’ usage of manures and pesticides. The cost-benefit analysis of farming is hardly calculated by the farmers here. Hence, they are not able to calculate the loss in their income. Janhit Foundation studied this important aspect and concluded that sometime the income is lesser in the form of output out of a particular crop than the inputs used by the farmer. Initially, it was a herculean task for the organization to convince the farmers to adopt sustainable ways of farming. Over the period of last three years i.e. 2003-06, some of the major hurdles were:

  • Sustainable Agriculture practices require manual labour. The young farmers equipped with University degree are gradually detaching themselves from the        organic ways of farming since they have hardly any stamina to adopt these practices.
  • The Agriculture Universities, Krishi Vigyan Kendras (KVKs) and other research institutions of this region confine themselves to their laboratories        only and do not rub shoulders with the farming community providing       them training programs, organizing grassroot innovations based on          local     knowledge etc.
  • Lack of awareness in farmers on the nutrient content in their soils owing to lack of access to soil testing labs.
  • Serious shortfall in the availability of organic manures owing to gradual decline in livestock population.
  • Pesticides being available against credit.
  • Lack of market nearby for crops grown through organic ways of agriculture.

Despite of all the shortcomings, Janhit Foundation found ways of overcoming them. It organized small meetings with the selected farmers, educated them through counseling and distributed printed literature and showed them documentary films. A few experts were also brought to the villages during the training programs on organic farming. Initially, the organization focused on Vermi Compost, adoption of NADEP technology, Vermi Wash and Bio-pesticides. The farmers were informed that there is a rich market of organic products in Meerut and other neighboring cities. Hence, there is every scope of getting more value of their organic product with the cost of inputs also going down. In a nutshell, initially about 200 farmers came forward to use organic ways of farming for Wheat, Mustard and Vegetable cultivation. They have also started producing organic Sugarcane. Certification was not done initially in order to check the cost of inputs. Organic Wheat, Sugarcane and Mustard saw fetching rich price, more than one and a half times than the price which the farmers used to fetch through chemical based farming. The rise in the prices motivated more and more farmers to adopt methods of sustainable agriculture.

There has been a gradual shift from chemical intensive agriculture to sustainable agricultural practices. The farmers from around 300 villages in the region have realized that shifting from chemical based agriculture to organic ways of agriculture and conservation of bio-diversity is the only way out from the trap where they are now into. The training programs of the organisation, certification of fields, a strong market, distribution of printed literature and audio-visual aids on sustainable agriculture and its availability to them have brought positive signs in the region. The farmers now themselves contact the organisation to impart them training in Dashgavya, Agnihotra and producing plant boosters made from weeds.

Anil Rana

Anil Rana


Janhit Foundation

D-80, Shastri Nagar

Meerut – 250002





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