Maharashtra farmers find a ray of hope in organic farming

Pune, Feb 5 | Updated: Feb 6 2006, 05:30am hrs
Maharashtra has witnessed over 644 farmer suicides between 2001 and 2004. Over 97% of the deaths have occurred in the Vidarbha, Marathwada and Khandesh regions.

But theres another story that is unfolding. A few farmers, who switched to organic farming, have reported astounding results, sending a signal that there could be some hope for the hapless farming community in the region.

Eknath Karale from Pune has began growing tomatoes, capsicum, radish organically since June 2002, and today he is thriving. Along with a group of 15 farmers, Karale has set up the Krishi Samridddhi Pariwar that supplies organic farm produce to 450 families in Pune.

In another instance, Vachan Shah and Srinivas Kulkarni quit their jobs with pesticide companies and started selling organic produce. They source rice, vegetables, wheat from 150 farmers around Pune.

Vikram Bokey, founder, Maharashtra Organic Farmers Federation (Moff) says farmer suicides can be prevented if steps are taken to promote organic farming. Moff, which is a non-government organisation, has opened 150 organic farming schools throughout the state.

HSC Koralkar, joint director, agriculture, says the state government is in the process of formulating a policy for organic farming.

The state government is running a technology mission for organic farming and efforts are on to bring more crops in Wardha, Amravati, Akola, Washim, Yavatmal and Buldana districts under the organic fold.

The project will begin from the next sowing season. For this, the state plans to tap the Rs 57-crore National Organic Farming Programme.

At present, the area under organic farming is around 6.50 lakh hectares. Maharashtra is already producing crops like maize, paddy, wheat, pulses, and fruits organically.It is also promoting organic cotton.