Ranju Devi, 32, is a housewife. Apart from household work, she helps her husband Singheshwar Yadav in farming.
She adopted organic farming in the year 2015, and now she is reaping the benefits. She says, “Earlier, for better yields, we used to apply more chemical fertilizers, but now with the same amount of organic fertilizers we harvest more.”
Ranju has four daughters who are all studying. She has two cows and two bulls, which give her enough dung to make biogas and organic manure. “We do not spend additional money to make organic manure. Therefore the expenditure that was previously spent on chemical fertilizer is saved completely, which helps a lot in running the family”, she said.
Ranju Devi is among 50 farmers of Kedia village, in Jamui district, who have set an example in organic farming. In Kedia, farmers are practising organic farming in about 45 acres and they are making organic fertilizers, at their own houses, using dung, cow urine and other elements. The use of organic manure not only increases yields but also improves soil health. Farmers said that the use of organic manure has led to an extraordinary increase in the water-holding capacity of the soil too.
According to the farmers, “Due to water-holding of soil, expenditure on irrigation has come down by 50%. On the other hand, expenditure on chemical fertilizers and pesticides has come down by 90%.”
In India, excessive use of chemical fertilizers for high yield has destroyed productivity and soil health. According to an estimate, out of 328 million hectares of land in India, around 147 million hectares are degraded in one way or another. In 2016, a government report, on the state of agriculture tabled in the parliament, pointed out that the decadal growth rate of agriculture in India is decreasing. The primary reason for this was the unequal use of fertilizers and pesticides, which were decreasing soil fertility.
According to experts, given the present state of soil health and its productivity, organic farming is the only way forward, and the Kedia model can help a lot, as farmers are already practising it. Middle-aged, Huro Yadav, has been farming organically in 15 cottah of land for four years. “I have my own vermin compost unit, Eco-san toilet and biogas plant”, he said.
“Earlier, when I was using chemical fertilizers, the yield was not satisfactory, but now yield is high. Apart from that, there were health issues in using chemical fertilizers. Itching and headache were very common, but since we have started using organic manure, we don’t face such health issues”, he added.
According to central government figures, from 2017–2018, pesticides had killed around 135 farmers in Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan, Punjab and Maharashtra. Jeewit Mati Kisan Samiti (JMKS), formed by Greenpeace India, have played a major role in convincing farmers to adopt organic farming. In 2013, Bihar Living Soils team engaged 6000 farmers of different districts and tried to persuade them to shift from chemical fertilizers to organic ones. Anandi Yadav, President, JMKS, said that it was difficult to convince farmers about the benefits of organic farming.
“We had convinced farmers, but the challenge was how farmers would cultivate during the six months of transition from chemical to organic farming. But, finally, they managed. They first started adopting organic farming in a small chunk of land, and then they increased it gradually”, said Anandi Yadav.
Bihar government’s various subsidy schemes have helped farmers a lot in adopting organic farming. Ishteyaque Ahmed, a campaigner at Greenpeace India, said, “We wanted that farmers should spend minimum money as they are poor. While exploring different government schemes, we found that the necessary structure for organic farming can be prepared with the help of various subsidy schemes of the Bihar government.”
Vermicompost units, biogas plants, concrete floors for cows, (to collect urine for making organic pesticides), and eco-san toilets were constructed, by taking a subsidy from the Bihar government. Currently, Kedia village has 250 vermicompost units, 22 biogas plants, 15 concrete-floored cattle sheds, and 20 eco-san toilets.
Recently, Dr Prem Kumar, Bihar’s agriculture minister, visited the village where the Jashn-e-jaivik program was held. He hailed the farmers of Kedia and stated that the Bihar government would give subsidies to those farmers who want to adopt organic farming.
“Government is promoting organic farming in more than 10 districts situated on the bank of Ganges”, he said.
Note: Production, transportation and use of chemical fertilizers contribute directly and indirectly to emissions of greenhouse gases; notably carbon dioxide (CO2) and nitrous oxide (N2O). Switching to organic fertilizers, like the farmers of Kedia village, can significantly mitigate fertilizer-induced emissions.