Every other day, we hear about the challenges faced by Indian farmers, despite their tireless efforts throughout the year to provide us with the essential energy called "Prana."
Upon relocating to the Uttarakhand Himalayas a few years ago, I had the opportunity to work closely with farmers in the hills. Surprisingly, their struggles remind me of the old Hindi film "Mother India." Unfortunately, not much has changed from that era of black and white cinema to the present; the farmer was poor then and remains poor now.
While there are exceptions like Punjab and Haryana, which have evolved with the times through the Green Revolution, there are disconcerting reports of a "cancer express" train running daily between Punjab and the bordering areas of Rajasthan, specifically for cancer treatments.
I don’t want to dwell on what went wrong, as we are all aware of genetically modified crops, pesticide abuse, and the so-called 'green revolution.' Looking at the Maharashtra region, where thousands of farmers have committed suicide, the simple reason is their switch to BT cotton, which requires an abundance of water for cultivation, and water is becoming scarce.
While I am not an authority on agriculture, I do come from a traditional farmer family in Haryana. Upon probing, I found some simple solutions to this complex problem.
As a child, I recall a small piece of barren land filled with stones and thorny bushes adjacent to our regular fields, which were cultivated for traditional crops. This piece of land, once abandoned and used by kids for play, became the focus of an experiment by an old man, a friend of my grandfather.
He encouraged us, a group of cousins, to clear and dig this piece of land every day for a few hours. This process revealed the presence of earthworms, which eventually transformed the once barren land. According to the old man, the secret to better farming and higher yields lies in these earthworms. He explained how he gathered them by the wall every few days and used them to enrich the soil for growing his choicest flowers and vegetables.
We learned to put these earthworms to work, turning our barren field into a fertile one. Earthworms, with their ceaseless boring, keep the earth’s crust rotating; they transform vegetable and animal waste into rich manure, humus. They change the earth’s chemicals into soluble plant food, creating countless tiny tunnels that enable rainwater and air to penetrate the soil.
Harvesting earthworms and letting them work their magic resulted in the once barren land becoming lush and fertile. If dissatisfied with the growth of any specific tree or shrub, a simple solution was to dig a hole near the roots and introduce a few earthworms.
An earthworm, working the surface at night and boring into the earth by day, releases waste near its weight in fresh soil every 24 hours, constituting exceptional plant food. While a bull or tractor can plow for a few hours a day, earthworms work round the clock without damaging the roots, opening holes in the compact subsoil.
In essence, we don’t need more land to produce more crops; what we need is more topsoil. Unfortunately, people often think they need more acres when what we truly need is more topsoil.
This approach could also help address waste management problems in cities and suburbs. Every city could maintain a farm where community food waste would feed earthworms instead of going towaste.
The core issue lies in the abuse of our mother earth with unnecessary chemical pesticides, resulting in a detrimental impact on earthworms. It's time for us to extend our help to mother earth so that she can continue nurturing mankind.
"Dheere dhree re mana dheere sab kuch hoye, Maali seenche sau ghada ritu aye phal hoye..." Meaning: Slowly slowly stay in my mind, slowly everything happens. Gardeners may water your garden a hundred times, but you get fruit only when the right season comes.