NEW DELHI, India — Agriculture has been a longstanding staple of India’s economy. The agriculture sector employs more than 50% of the workforce in India and accounts for roughly 17-18% of the country’s GDP. This is largely due to 66% of the country’s population being classified as rural, according to the World Bank in 2018. Of the 66% rural households, 70% still depend on agriculture for their livelihood.
It is clear that agricultural success is vital to India’s economy and the sustenance of its citizens. Indian farmers, however, are facing incessant debt cycles due to running bank loans that they often cannot pay off. Expensive farming chemicals, low yielding crops and drought are the reasons for these mounting debts, subsequently leading to a high yearly rate of farmer suicides.
Fortunately, innovative creator, billionaire and philanthropist Manoj Bhargava has developed Shivansh fertilizer, a lower-cost, innovative method for making fertilizer from natural resources that can help farmers cut costs, increase crop yield, revive soil and reduce pollution. This billionaire’s lower-cost fertilizer may be able to save farmers from poverty in India.
How Indian Farmers are Struggling
A majority of rural farmers in India use a nitrogen fertilizer called urea. Industrial farming originally utilized urea, promising increased productivity and higher crop yields. Small-plot farmers began to use the chemical fertilizer because they were drawn to these benefits, however, they were unaware of the negative long-term effects it could have on the soil.
The absorbing of urea into the soil over a long period of time destroys the ecosystem of microorganisms that supply crops with vital nutrients. This leaves farmers with a low yield of crops depleted of nutrients. Moreover, these crops are more vulnerable to disease and require more water to survive.
Farmers then frequently take on bank loans in order to afford the increased farm output costs necessary to save failing crops. As a result, a domino effect ensues leading farmers to invest more money in chemicals, water and seeds, only seeing minimal improvements. The never-ending debt cycle begins as minimal crop output cannot catch up to increased farm spending, and the farmers cannot pay their loans off.
According to a 2018 study by the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development, 52.5% of agricultural households in India faced an average debt of $1,470. The banking rules in India do not allow farmers with unpaid loans to borrow additional credit. There are occurrences of moneylenders and microfinance institutions shaming farmers publicly for their inability to pay back loans. It is also common for moneylenders to take over farming decisions and decide where farmers ought to spend their assets. This strips farmers of the ability to make progressive change and puts them at the whims of debt collectors.
Being victim to ceaseless debt can prove to be physically, mentally, economically and environmentally detrimental to rural households and communities. It compels rural farmers to make the decision between spending their limited income on paying back a loan and salvaging their reputation or feeding their families. Finding this balance forces them to make short-term decisions with their income and disregard future costs. This results in farmers making drastic decisions like giving up agriculture, finding work in the city, or ultimately taking one’s own life.
India has seen a steady rate of farmer suicide in the past 25 years. From 1995-2015, the annual farmer suicide rate was 15,953. The Indian government has ceased to release annual suicide numbers since 2015, however, 1987-batch Indian Economic Service officer P.C. Bodh has calculated from previous data that 76,530 farmers may have committed suicide between 2016-2020. This would put the total number of farmer suicides around 392,000 from 1995-2020. The high number of suicides is a reflection of the pressures that farmers and their families face from endless debt.
What is Shivansh Fertilizer and How Can it Help Farmers Facing Poverty in India?
Manoj Bhargava noticed in the news that land in India was becoming barren, crops were becoming toxic and millions of farmers were slipping into debt-ridden poverty. Bhargava realized that earlier civilizations were able to maintain healthy soil and thriving crops over generations using natural methods of fertilization and maintenance. That is why he developed Shivansh fertilizer. This billionaire’s lower-cost fertilizer allows farmers to quickly revive soil fertility within one planting season using natural resources like leaves, manure and water.
Bhargava developed an 18-day step-by-step process that teaches farmers how to make Shivansh fertilizer and use it properly on their farms. His mission is to create clear instructional videos online for rural communities to access for free. The process involves making compost of resources already found on farms and applying it to the soil and crops.
In 2016, 50 farms began testing Shivansh fertilizer. Within a single year, 40,000 farms began using the fertilizer and seeing results. After using this billionaire’s cost-free fertilizer, farmers are able to use less water for irrigation because the soil retains more water. The natural components in the fertilizer provide nutrients and resistance to diseases, thus farmers cut costs on chemical fertilizers and pesticides. The fertilizer also allows for 15-40% higher yields in crops.
The benefits of the Shivansh fertilizer for Indian farmers are outstanding considering it calls for fewer expenses regarding chemicals, water and labor. It also benefits the environment because it does not introduce chemicals into the soil, and farm waste can go toward making the fertilizer instead of farmers burning it and increasing air pollution. Farmers are seeing higher production in healthy crops and are starting to make a living again.
Billionaire’s Lower-Cost Fertilizer Creates Hope for Indian Farmers
Millions of Indian farmers struggle with boundless debt due to reliance on agricultural chemicals that harm their soil and hinder crop production, leading to poverty and high rates of suicide. Fortunately, Manoj Bhargava’s Shivansh farming foundation has recognized this tragedy and aims to fix it with Shivansh fertilizer. Bhargava realized that the simple technique of making natural fertilizer can save the lives of millions of farmers facing debt and poverty in India and increase their quality of life.
– Dalton Dunning