SEATTLE, Washington — Beginning in the 1960s throughout the 1970s and 1980s, the Indian government developed a new initiative called the Green Revolution. It was intended to spur growth in India’s agricultural sector, increasing the efficiency and productivity of crop production within the country. The new initiative replaced traditional farming methods with Westernized farming practices. The Green Revolution was supposed to revolutionize farming in India, and for a while, it did. With agriculture now failing so many of its citizens, there has been an increase in NGOs helping Indian farmers reclaim their livelihoods.
The Agricultural Crisis in India
According to the World Bank, there was an increase in the need for rural labor in the 1970s to 1980s. This drove rural wages up while, at the same time, food prices declined. The result was a reduction in rural poverty. Yet, the agricultural growth spurred by the Green Revolution was short-lived. Even as the agricultural sector has undergone diversification and modernization, its contribution to India’s GDP declined from 1951-2011. By 2017, agriculture still only contributed 15.4 percent. Given that “About half of Indians work in agriculture and two-thirds live in rural areas,” this crisis has already caused significant economic damage.
Disaffected and Dissatisfied
In a 2018 study, conducted by the Centre for Study of Developing Societies (CSDS), 76 percent of Indian farmers said that they “wanted to give up farming.” Of those, 47 percent of respondents described farming conditions in India as “bad.” Disdain for government policy coupled with increasing debt for Indian farmers has led to a national epidemic. From 1995-2017, more than 300,00 Indian farmers had taken their own lives, according to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) of India.
In 2018, the NCRB of India released its most recent report, documenting 10,349 suicides in the farming and agriculture sectors, a sharp decline since its peak in 2004. Yet, despite this decline, many experts remain skeptical about the veracity of the reported numbers. Due to the Indian government’s policies to withhold data and cultural practices that limit autopsies, many farmers may be unaccounted for.
In 2014, Prime Minister Narendra Modi campaigned on the promise of a rural revolution. Among his proposed policies were higher price fixes for produce and increased subsidies for farmers. In 2015, the Indian government changed the name of the Ministry of Agriculture to the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers to better emphasize the importance of farmers’ well-being. Moreover, in 2016, Narendra Modi proposed the ambitious goal of doubling the income of Indian farmers by the year 2022. Modi hopes this will “promote farmer’s welfare” and “reduce agrarian distress.”
However, Modi has faced mounting criticism in recent years from farmers who say that the policies he has implemented aren’t reaching the objectives he promised. In 2019, to protest the government’s inaction, 35,000 farmers marched to the city of Mumbai to draw attention to the growing crisis. With the Indian general election drawing near, farmers will have the power to choose their next leader.
Despite dissatisfaction concerning the government’s actions, many farmers are reluctant to vote for a new leader. According to Reuters, other successful policies created by Modi, such as his ‘Clean India’ program and his swift response to Pakistani aggression, have provided them with a sense of renewed hope if the prime minister is reelected for a second term.
Save Indian Farmers
Fortunately, India’s government is not the only actor who can bring about change. Several non-governmental organizations have created new hope for Indian farmers. Save Indian Farmers (SIF) is an NGO created in 2011. Its goal is to reduce farmer suicides and develop a high quality of life for Indian farmers. Through projects, including those related to hydroponics, irrigation techniques, educational resources and farmer health, SIF is empowering those in rural farming regions.
In 2018, Save Indian Farmers completed three water conservation projects and added three fencing locations to prevent crop degradation in the Uttarakhand Region. In the Nellore region, SIF made renovations for dams and created a community well to provide families with access to water. Finally, in the Kurnool region, SIF developed a strategy to clear trees inhibiting water access to the reservoir.
Krushi Vikas Va Gramin Parashikshan Sanstha
Krushi Vikas is one of the NGOs helping Indian farmers. Krushi Vikas Va Gramin Parashikshan Sanstha (KVGPS) started in 1991as “a village-based small-scale grassroots level organization working for the development of rural farming communities and landless laborers.”
In 2015, the World Corporate Social Responsibility Congress awarded KVGPS with the World Water Leadership Award. In 2017, they received the CSR Implementing Agency of the Year Award for implementing 10 Integral Rural Development Projects in villages. Among other achievements, KVGPS has trained more than 10,000 rural farmers village-based training programs, integrated several irrigation programs, provided educational opportunities and developed Water User Associations.
These NGOs helping Indian farmers only represent a couple of those that are driving change in rural India. These NGOs provide an important message that even when politics are uncertain, non-governmental organizations can propel real solutions and inspire real change. Most importantly, they are helping to put an end to farmer suicide and chronic poverty in communities that depend on agriculture for their livelihoods.
– Aly Hill