This bright morning, we were brought to the Agriculture research centre where we met the key person for the success of the organising of the Warangal Agricultural Show. Most of us couldn’t stress enough of how much importance it was for Warangal to continue the Agriculture show. We demonstrated how a show can play a very important part in empowering these people; the show can be a medium for sharing ideas and promoting best practise, a vehicle to and a public stage to demonstrate basic principles of best agricultural practise. In doing so, educate and empower the young people giving them motivation and ambition to achieve. We all saw how much pride the famers have for the livestock and the success could be measured from the smiles of the local farmers, volunteers, merchants who had participated.
The Agriculture show is necessary to bring the people together and create that network for sharing of knowledge but it also has to remain relevant and accessible to the locals. In every sense, we would see how there would be many commercial benefits, like networking, showcasing of better agricultural practises and how the show could improve social welfare ( community spirit) to the people which will in turn improve their livelihood as their businesses stay sustainable and profitable.
During the discussion, the importance of the roles of the service extension officers is highlighted. They are the bridge to the technical education of these small holding farms. As literacy is a big problem in this country, government aids, research results and promoted agricultural practices do not get translated for these illiterate farmers who are the most in need of such information.
Many other points which were brought up again are women empowerment and education. It had been reiterated time and again that it is important for women empowerment to break away from the cycle of dependency. In the host’s house where Greg and I visited, the mum also mentioned how her daughter would be married when she turns 16. We also met a cotton farmer in that village who married a 16 year old lady in May this year and she is already 5 months pregnant. Looks like child marriages is, sadly, still very prevalent in Vijayawada!
The press meeting which we has after lunch was (I’m not sorry to say) an absolute waste of time. The reporters and journalists streamed in slowly even in the midst and towards the end of the 1.5 hours session. Phones were going off, blasting hippie Indian music, people talking to one another, journalists arguing about how the sharing of the 17 delegates should be organized, translators explaining the points and examples shared by delegates, people raising their voices questioning if subsidies were given in our respective countries, gasps of disbeliefs when they were told how farmers suicide is a prevalent universal problem. We heaved a heavy sigh of relief as the session was concluded by David.
Indeed there was no rest for the wicked. A de-brief with SYO was then conducted with about 15 of their male farmer volunteers and management team. It was another exasperating 60 mins as questions about subsidies persisted and questions like what kind of agriculture practices are practiced in your country which makes your agriculture industry so much more successful then India. In my head, I was screaming ‘why don’t you visit our countries, smell our air, look at our roads, see our buildings and perhaps you will see the light??” The grass is not always greener on the other side. It is not as though we have lesser problems compared to them. Our team leader of the day Will P, ended that sharing session by getting us to ponder over the difference between the cost of living, such that an Indian family could stay afloat with just 2 cows on 2 acres of land, or in the UK where average farmer need to have at least 150 cows on 150 acres. In NZ, an Av farm is over 232 hectares with 370 milking cows or over 3000 sheep often managed by one fulltime labour unit but no Govt support systems of any sort, a stark comparison to the production system visited!
India is truly incredible which heavy traffic shared with their billions of people, thousands of oxen, schoolchildren, shops only half meters away from the congested roads. Farms are largely owned by small holders who do not have access to transport their produce to the marketplace.
India Farmers should be proud that regardless of their struggles for a better livelihood, by stressing that agriculture is the backbone of India, with 70% of their population directly involved in agricultural practises but it appears they are simply feeding the vast populations with no great thought to the future sustainability of their systems or the great innate potential of their lands! They will in time come to realize how money cannot be eaten and eventually every gram of produce, which can be churned out will be so valuable when demand eventually outpaced supply.