A Pandemic and Changing Demographics: Supporting Farmers in India

A Pandemic and Changing Demographics: Supporting Farmers in India

Amidst the measures imposed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a group of scholars from Kristu Jayanti College (India), a UNAI member institution also serving as the Hub for Goal 1: No Poverty, visited small-scale farmers in the state of Karnataka to analyze the impact the pandemic is having on their livelihoods and other challenges faced in this area.

Farmers face a lack of irrigation, unpredictable weather changes, as well as the increased expenditures on agricultural inputs and the decline in soil fertility. Sharadamma, a 66 year-old resident of the Nelamangala village, complained that he used to cultivate fruits and vegetables but because of lack of manpower to cultivate and increased expenditures, the land was given to large producers and he and his family now survive on the lease and his pension.

“Most of the villages we visited had only elderly members living there cultivating the land, and most of the youth are leaving the villages in search of greener pastors and serve as migrant workers in urban areas. So we are looking to educating youth on the necessity of agriculture and providing them with alternative solutions,” says Dr. Juby Thomas, who led the team of scholars.

Thirty-year-old 30-year-old Dayanand Swami, who took up farming at an early age, has managed to weather the pandemic after he systematically planted areca nuts and millet and set up a small dairy farm that provided daily revenue to the family. But several challenges do remain for him and many of the villagers. “Even with some solutions in place, after the seasonal crops and for almost six months, our lands remain pretty much unused,” explains Shankarayya, a 74-year-old millet grower from the village of Kammasandra. He added that due to lack of land fertility, the quality and quantity of the crops has been severely reduced and as a result they end up consuming most of the things that are cultivated but not sold.

For Dr. Thomas, some of the measures that have been implemented can and will have negative effects on the villagers. “Subsidized easy solutions to solve the issues of land fertility loss and water are going to lead to a major crisis in the long run. The farmers are given subsidies to construct borewells, and as a result the numbers of borewell construction are increasing and that may lead to the entire groundwater in that area being exhausted forever,” the professor warned.

Scholars from Kristu Jayanti College have also identified that farmers, many of whom suffer from poverty, are unaware of the governmental programs that might benefit them or that could alleviate their situation. “We are preparing effective strategies to increase the awareness among farmers regarding various government programs, so that the maximum number of farmers can enrol and avail themselves of such benefits. We will also take all possible measures to bring it to the attention of the concerned authorities,” said Dr. Augustine George, principal of the college.

You can know more about what Kristu Jayanti College is doing as the UNAI SDG Hub for Goal 1 here and you can find the full list of UNAI SDG Hubs here.

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