In 2016, the average age of an Indian farmer was 50.1 years. This is worrying because the next generation of the current farmers is quitting
50 years ago, farmers in my village of Kendur (60 km from Pune) earned a decent livelihood. The income was enough due to high yields. Nowadays, soil depletion through the overuse of pesticides has decreased crop production significantly. In order to prove the root causes of the problem, we tested the soil of every farm in our village as well as farms of 10 other villages under the government’s Soil Health Mission. The result was shocking: more than 90% of soil is nitrogen deficient with an organic carbon of 0.7% (>2% is considered normal). Over the years, the topsoil has degraded resulting in much less crop yield.
After more research, I came to know that industrial farming methods are the main cause of soil degradation. Unaware of the correct dosage and ill effects of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, farmers unintentionally depleted the quality of their soil over a period of 50 years. With industrial farming methods, farmers are continuously forced to use specific chemical fertilizers, chemical pesticides, and GMO seeds. These methods have affected the health of people, by polluting the soil and groundwater. Biodiversity has also been hugely affected as these farming inputs continue to decimate insect, bird and microbe populations. Microbe deficient soil cannot hold water. In several areas, even during rainy seasons, agriculture is suffering from drought. All these issues have resulted in loss of livelihood and poverty.
Most children of farmers from my community didn’t have opportunities to get an education. Because of poor economic prospects, becoming a farmer is not popular among youth. The new generation prefers industrial jobs instead of farming and this results in less innovation and unsustainability in the farming sector. Opportunities need to be in place to provide future prospects for young generations so that the farming profession becomes attractive and respectable again. The image towards farmers in our society needs a change. There is an urgent need for more Integrated Regenerative Organic Farming solutions to make organic farming profitable and sustainable.