I went for a walk yesterday from Aranya Permaculture Farm to the nearby Bidakanne village. My aim was to connect with the local community about what they think about their current situation with farming, and see where there is interest or possibility to talk about permaculture, intercropping of traditional rainfed crops and rainwater harvesting.
On the way to the village, we passed some old men bringing their bullocks to graze, and talked to them for a while about what they are growing and how the current trend of irrigated cash crops is affecting the water table. In the past 10 years, since farmers have been drilling deep bore wells to extract water for cash crops, the water table has dropped 250 feet. You can only imagine that as the numbers of farmers choosing irrigated crops increases, the water table will drop at an increasing rate, and this will have implications for the people here- economically and food sustainability-wise.
Next, we saw a group of men who had just bought sheep from the Telangana government and were washing them in the village pond. There is a government scheme to help farmers become shepherds, it was interesting to hear them discuss the economics of their choice. My 3-year-old boy also thoroughly enjoyed his moment of trying out a shepherd’s life. We continued walking on the road to the village and we encountered Nagama, a woman farmer who has been asking Aranya for help with water harvesting. Her farm was very close by, so we walked with her over to see her land.
Nagamma has a husband who is blind and she is the main caregiver. She has 4 daughters, but in this Indian village culture, the daughters all live with their husband’s parents. So, she is the sole income earner for her family and she is elderly and very poor. What a difficult piece of land she has to work with! The entire land is small pebble stones with very little soil. She sowed many different types of crops this year, but only rosella (Indian hisbiscus) came up in one area. That crop is only good for home cooking use, and as seeds to be sold. She has one area of slightly better soil where she is growing turmeric.
On her way to her field, she collects cow dung. When she puts the pipe to do the flood irrigation, she places the cow dung and mixes it with the water so that the nutrition flows into the turmeric field. She has never used any chemical fertilizers or pesticides. She has planted a live fence around her entire land. She has some mango trees and has planted a mix of other trees. What is needed for her land to be able to produce crops are biomass trees to increase the organic matter for soil fertility and to correct rainwater harvesting earthworks. She has some inadequate and inaccurate earthworks that was done by the government that need improvement and rectification. Nagama is so hardworking, due to what I saw in her attempts at diversification, she will be a wonderful farmer to work with and help her establish a better farm with permaculture.
Written by: Krista Hagman