Promotion of Sustainable Agriculture

Sustainable Agriculture is the act of farming using principles of ecology, the study of relationships between organisms and their environment. The phrase was reportedly coined by Australian Agricultural Scientist Gordon M C Clymount. It has been defined as an integrated system of plant and animal production practices having a site-specific application that will last over the long term.

IMSE organized a number of awareness generation camps making small scale producers (family farmers) aware of their rights as farmers and sensitizing them about opportunities to practice sustainable agriculture in a viable way. To facilitate/support, groups of small scale food producers were trained to acquire new knowledge and skills on methods of making small scale farming viable like preservation of local seeds, techniques of sustainable production practices collectivization, marketing and so on.

According to 2011 Agricultural Census of India, an estimated 61.5% of the 1300 million Indian population is rural and dependent on agriculture. The number of farming households is 159.6 million. Thus it is evident that agriculture plays a vital role in Indian Economy thereby making a visible contribution to the total GDP. The rural economy is a complex web connecting professions from various backgrounds together which are directly or indirectly linked with farming. Hence it is of utmost priority to address the agrarian crisis.

The major challenge faced by the poor peasant household is production costs vis a vis market price of their crops. Majority of the households are dependent on a single i.e. Paddy. Production costs have increased significantly in last decade due to chemical intensive production technologies and ground water dependent irrigation. Both are detrimental for the environment. Agri produce out of intensive farming is also detrimental for consumer's health over a longer period of time. Indian soils have been habituated with centuries of growing crops without caring much for the replenishing of the soil nutrients thereby resulting in depletion of production quality due to exhaustion of soil nutrients. Another grave problem is lack of proper agricultural marketing due to which the small scale farmers are compelled to depend on the local traders and the middlemen and sell their produce at very cheap rates. In a nutshell: the poor-quality degraded land, lack of adequate water for round the year cultivation, high input costs of production, lack of sound agricultural marketing, chemical intensive package of production, as well as fluctuating price of produce confine them in perpetual poverty, thereby making unfortunate incidents of farmer suicides frequent.

IMSE is promoting sustainable agriculture in its working areas and among its members. In course of work it becomes clear that peasant women require recognitions and support for carrying out sustainable agriculture, as IMSE's researches at grassroots reveal, peasant women share equal load of agriculture related works in a farming family with their male counterparts, if not more. Therefore, IMSE focuses on training peasant women (and also male peasants, in particular youths) further on preservation of traditional seeds, making bio pesticides and fertilizers, using climate appropriate farming techniques etc. Promoting producers collective, setting up seed banks at village levels, motivating for joint cultivation (considering land fragmentation), encouraging crop diversification etc. are some primary interventions. Helping the farming families to get rid of middlemen in value chain ladder when it comes to marketing and facilitating their access in government schemes, supports, credits etc are crucial interventions to ensure small scale agriculture remains a viable livelihood for rural dwellers.

IMSE has successfully worked with peasant households and motivated them to shift gradually towards sustainable agriculture. The immediate outcome captured are better income at farming households and reduced migration to other areas for youths. More work needs to be done in this sector.

Collaboration with Self Employed Women's Association (SEWA):

IMSE has been collaborating with SEWA and organizing various Awareness Camps and Meetings in order to increase the capacity of the poor women peasants from Odisha, Jharkhand and Birbhum and to promote sustainable agriculture. We organize extensive workshops,meetings and awareness camps in a way where the women farmers, fisherwomen etc could participate and put forward their views, ideas and problems based on their field experiences without inhibitions.The participants are made aware about the root causes of the problems linked with chemical-agriculture. They are provided with transparent ideas about the harmful effects of the chemical effects and fertilizers based eco-degrading agriculture so that they could become vocal and united to resist such menace. IMSE works on the following components like "Policy Advocacy", "Organizational Capacity Building ", "FO Capacity Building" , "Management Capacity Building", "Value Chain And Market Linkage". We also organize exposure visits for our women farmers and fishermen in order to exchange views.