In May of 2009, Cyclone Aila inundated the islands in Sunderbans leaving behind destroyed homes and salinated agricultural lands. AID Saathi Revathi who had experience in regenerating agricultural lands after Tsunami was invited to the Sunderbans to train affected farmers on sustainable organic methods. Many farmers were able to observe first hand the improvement on their lands after following Revathi’s methods and some of them have now become trainers and are spreading the adoption of organic farming.
- The 25 farmers trained in 2009 were able to train another 400 farmers in 2010. In 2012, the total number of trained farmers increased to 1000 with organic farming being practiced on 550 acres.This has taken the form of a gentle movement in the area and has been able to create a buzz in the society and also provided hope to farmers whose lands were damaged by Cyclone Aila.
- Many farmers use excessive amount of expensive chemical inputs on their crops every year. Although this does not result in increased yields, it has increased the incidence of many health problems including cancer.
- Both paddy and vegetable farmers are part of this movement with large participation from women who have been enthusiastic participants and trainers.
- Sustainable organic methods save on costs of fertilizers & pesticides which can add upto Rs 1500 for 1 bigha (1/3rd acre) of paddy.
- Organically grown vegetables were found to be more resilient to weather and pests.
- As farmers transition they use organic methods on part of their land and then expand on their entire land.
- Farmers are trained to become trainers and this has been very helpful in building the movement. Innovative methods such as street theater and village seminars are used to inculcate more participation from farmers.
- The spread through informal networks in weekly village markets, neighbourhood discussion in encouraged.