I am just returning from a trip to Kalliguddi, a tiny village at the Gogak district of Karnataka. For those who wonder even where this Gokak district is, it is near Belgaum in the Uttar Kannada region.
I went to Kalligudi for one reason – to see if the farmer I spoke to on the phone was really truthful about his growing grapes organically!! Well, he does seem to be making an honest effort in doing just that – he did walk me through his farm, fed me with lots of grapes and information and showed me enough paperwork from people who are authorized to certify.
Such trips really open up my thinking towards discovering the meaning to the words ‘sustainability’, ‘fair price’, ‘food miles’ and many more, which we keep hearing everyday.
Being a small farmer is not easy – Financially, the rewards are uncertain for the investments they make; Not everything they grow fetch a ‘fair price’; The Government policies are not well thought through most of the time; Benefits from even the good policies do not accrue with the farmer for most part; Even gods are not kind to them with unpredictable monsoons etc., for the most part.
The grape farmer I met was reasonably lucky. His 2 acres of land produces 30+ tons of grapes, for which he finds decent demand. Even in his case, only 30% of his produce fetches fair price and he is seeking more buyers from cities.
As I think more about this, I see a huge need for helping the small and marginal farmers, not just get fair price for 20%-30% of their produce, but for the entire amount they have set aside to sell after their local consumption. This means they can send their products to far off places and even export to the western world – thus the ‘food miles’ will actually need to increase.
Mahatma Gandhi said that the heart of India is in its villages. In the recent past this ‘heart’ is significantly weakened. India cannot sustain economically and environmentally if we do not create the market opportunities for her heart and soul – her rural folks.
I feel creating more economic opportunities in rural areas are key for sustainability; this however requires thought way beyond the many ideology driven schemes and activities that I see today. We have a huge need for both vision and business skills for – be it expanding markets for all farm produce or shifting more and more value added work to villages and creating markets for all those products.
Let me know what you think.
Narayan K Murthy | firstname.lastname@example.org | +91 970.449.6664