Watching Agroecology in Action
By Yeshica Weerasekera, Thousand Currents’ former Director of Program Partnerships
Continuing our series on partner visits following the Agroecology Learning Exchange in Rajasthan, we bring you a glimpse of its successful practice in the region. In the arid, drought-prone area of southern Rajasthan, IDEX* partner Sahyog Sansthan is assisting many local farmers with numerous thoroughly sustainable and frequently innovative practices. These methods advance water security to tackle drought mitigation, conserve natural resources and regenerate the soil — all of which typify agroecology in action.
Using a holistic approach to organize farmland according to sustainable or agroecological practices requires coordinating multiple activities harmoniously. A central need is to generate solutions based on local needs, culture, and environmental conditions, as any villager can point out. For this area of Rajasthan, we learned that efficient natural resource management and effective water harvesting practices are essential to conserving biodiversity, while promoting rain-fed agriculture that acts symbiotically with nature.
IDEX visited farmer Ratan Lal in his village, Godaghatti, to see for ourselves what he had so proudly reported at the learning exchange. The farmers in this area, including Ratan Lal, are becoming increasingly successful with their vermicomposting/worm compost techniques. They have even developed their own improvements to adapt them to local conditions. Sahyog Sansthan facilitates meetings for the farmers with the Agricultural Extension department that provides local worms. Using these worms, the compost units take two months to prepare with the use of a mixture of animal waste and leaves. The farmers here experience no real practical problems – the only issue is that the worms are delicate to handle – and are producing enough rich, soft-textured, natural compost to sell the surplus. Even the Forestry Department has come to take samples and worms from here!
Ratan’s friend, farmer Veni Ram, vows that organic production levels using worm compost are equal to, if not better than, those using chemical fertilizer. Over the past few years, Veni Ram has been drastically reducing the use of urea. “The chemical fertilizers require more water!” he exclaims, referencing the local water problem. And with the continual use of such chemicals, the soil’s texture changes and there are negative impacts on their health. Further, he points out that the organic vegetables taste very good — they can really tell the difference.
We could see why Veni Ram’s small but beautiful farm, full of varied crops, nutritious plants, and fruit trees, is used as an exemplary demonstration site for a multitude of agro-ecological techniques. It is a prototype that many other farmers can visit and learn from, and an essential ingredient in spreading these sustainable practices among long standing practitioners, who learn from witnessing these ideas in action and getting their hands in the soil.
Yeshica Weerasekera visited India in April 2013 to help organize an agroecology learning exchange as part of a global initiative to strengthen sustainable agricultural practices and also visit IDEX partners in Rajasthan.
*Thousand Currents changed its name from IDEX in 2016