Sulekha Aich from Purnochandrapur village in the Sunderbans region of West Bengal grows vegetables organically on half an acre of land. She has no help. She is also the local resource farmer for the Sustainable agricultural program that AID has been supporting in Sunderbans since 2009. She says with organic farming the plants are not attacked by pests.
“If I used chemicals, the plants would be big but would have a lot of pests.”
Sulekha has been encouraging people in her neighbourhood to take up organic methods to increase the fertility of the soil, save money by not buying chemical inputs. She is also acutely aware of the adverse health effects of the chemicals on human body. She has taken earthworms from the vermicompost pit that she has set up and helped the families in her neighbourhood start their own vermicomposts.
In 2009 when cyclone Aila had inundated the fields in Sunderbans with saline water, farmers knew it spelled doom for agriculture. We had worked with Revathi after the Tsunami in 2004 in recovering 1000s of hectares of land after Tsunami. We requested her to come to Sunderbans and train the farmers to reclaim the land and start sustainable organic agriculture. The landholding of the farmers here are small and hence they do not have the capacity spend resources. Revathi is an environmental teacher turned organic farmer who works with thousands of small farmers across India helping them take up methods of sustainable organic farming. Revathi started by training 25 farmers in one of the islands of Kultali block. Volunteers of AID translated every word Revathi spoke in English to Bangla for the farmers over the next few days.
A few months later when agriculture had almost broken down on the islands, the 25 farmers were amongst the few who were able to grow crops on their lands. This encouraged the farmers as well as the AID volunteers. At the request of the farmers, Revathi came back to retrain the 25 farmers to become trainers.
Now these 25 farmers trained 400 which grew to 750 farmers the next year to 3000 and so on… Today we are working with 20,000 farmers with 3 partner organizations on the ground covering 40 villages.
The farmers of Sunderbans need your support and solidarity for a few more years to gradually move over to sustainable organic agriculture. There are already neighborhoods in the villages where everyone has started doing organic agriculture.
We appeal to support the farmers to get chemicals out of the food system, restore the environment and help them have a sustainable livelihood.