Swades has left an impression on me and I seriously feel that if our country can become a developed country, the development has to be at the most lower level—the villages! It was a shock when Mr Pravin Chordia said that about 60% of our land is increasingly becoming barren! And to come to think of it, as far as I could remember, I have always considered India synonymous with an agricultural country. But as he said that only Kerela has been able to sustain its agricultural productivity to some extent, Maharashtra has failed miserably.
The objective of going to Chinchni was to see for ourselves how a change in our habits and ways of doing things, can bring a lot of changes in the consequences. It was important to see it because it definitely makes a bigger impact than just listening to stories. We have already heard a lot of stories, its high time we checked some things ourselves.
The first thing strikes you before you reach the farm, is the stark contrast between the land which has organic farming done, and the rest of the land. There are patches of greenery, which makes everything obvious.
Mr Pravin Chordia, who initially worked on organic farming, incorporated the ideas of Shripal Achyut Dabholkar. Dabholkar gave birth to the idea of Prayog Parivar. As the name suggests, it is a community, which experiments and works on the idea that it is absolutely possible to live a good life at higher middle class income levels with just 1000 sq. metres of sunlight, 500 litres of waste water for a family of 5 per day. The idea is to enrich soil naturally as it has great potential and if it is done right, there is no reason why the results would not be favourable.
The idea here is to do a multi-level farming by incorporating as much varieties of plant species as possible. It helps to enrich the soil, as different kinds of plants give and take different kinds of nutrients. For example, the various levels could have as follows:
Level 1: Papaya, Teak
Level 2: Custard apple
Level 3: Bitter gourd
Level 4: Green vegetable plants
Level 5: Potatoes
This creates a bio-diversity, which makes a forest-like ecosystem, thus there is a symbiotic growth of all plants. You can find an odd sunflower, rose, teak, spinach, tomatoes, papaya, mangoes, curry leaves, henna, and just about anything. The more diverse, the better! It is also taken into account the things, which these plants would provide, for example,
For Bio Mass: Eucalyptus
For Cash crop: Teak, Sandalwood
For fruits: Min 1-2 of each species
For economic returns: mangoes
Thus by an intelligent mix of plants, all needs are taken care of. This experiment is not only self-sustaining but also makes decent profit making. But it is also important to take note that if one buys expensive land, then it would be very difficult to break even fast, thus the land should be bought at far off lands, for cheaper rates, otherwise all efforts would go in paying off debts.
Working in farms does not mean that one should live a life of deprivation, as this place also has satellite connection and even power is generated locally by water. About 70-80 people stay nearby to water the farm and take care of it. It s amazing to find out that handicapped people take care of this farm. It is also an effort to empower them, so that they do their bit of work and earn accordingly, not relying on government subsidies but dignity of labour.
To begin with, the soil is not necessarily fertile. It is made fertile by a process in which 9 alternating layers of ordinary soil and biomass are made. Then varieties of crops of diverse varieties are planted in this soil bed. After 21 days, one-third of the plants are cut and put into the soil. Again, after 21 days, another one-third is cut and put back to the soil; and then repeated for the last one-third of the plants after yet another 21 days. This makes the soil ready for farming. Then various levels are created by planting trees, and plants, which would form the various levels after they grow up. It is really amazing how everything works, but it is all a fact.
We also saw another of Mr Pravin’s farms, which has grown into a forest. In fact, 30 women from a village along with their women sarpanch, also came to visit his forest to know more about this kind of farming. Increasingly because of global warming and what we have done to our atmosphere, the rains are decreasing slowly; so slowly lands are becoming infertile because most of our land depend on rain for good crops. That reminds me of yet another startling fact about this farm that sometimes, it rains only in these farms and not in the surrounding areas! Actually, these methods gel well with the environment because it does not use chemicals in any form, whenever trees are cut; several are planted to replace it. Thus, when you do everything right, can you get wrong results?
Thus now increasingly people want to learn of such methods, which could make their lands fertile again, and bring prosperity to their villages. The use of chemicals over the years has made our lands sterile, which could be enriched again only through Organic Farming, there is no other way. Mr Pravin as well as all others who are involved with Organic Farming, are propagating this idea, so that if it takes up with even a small portion of our country, it would bring back great results; and then the idea would catch up with the rest of the population.