Why Trickle Up Teaches Organic Farming
By Manash Ranjan Das
State Programme Officer – Odisha
Food is critical for families’ health, energy, and overall well-being, but the introduction of chemical pesticides and fertilizers is a complicated innovation for rural communities living in poverty. On the one hand, pesticides have been linked to wide range of health hazards like cancer and reproductive issues.1 On the other hand, farmers use pesticides and fertilizers to increase their crop yield so they can make more food, and more money, to care for their families.
Many farmers do not know how to properly use pesticides, so the chemicals enter into the food chain, deteriorate water quality, and affect local ecosystems. Due to the repeated use of pesticides, resistance develops and either a pest resurgence occurs or a much higher dose of chemicals is needed to control the same pest population. Constant use of fertilizers can also deteriorate soil health, decreasing productivity over time.
In the past, chemical pesticides and fertilizers have only been available to large farmers because of the high cost. Even today, rural smallholder farmers are not used to working with pesticides, only using them when a pest attack occurs after the recommendation of local shopkeepers.
In Trickle Up’s work with people living in extreme poverty in Odisha, India in partnership with Odisha Livelihoods Mission (OLM), most of our participant households engage in subsistence farming. Many do not own land and instead cultivate on leased land. Our project promotes organic agricultural techniques using locally available materials, like cow dung, cow urine, and leaves, to prepare organic pesticides and fertilizers. These fertilizers and pesticides have no harmful effects on plants, and organic fertilizers even increase the number of microorganisms in the soil, improving fertility and productivity.
Organic farming is a new concept for both our field staff and project participants, so everyone participates in training and practical demonstrations in local communities where farmers can experience the process firsthand. In addition, through Trickle Up’s M-Powered project, some participants have received a smartphone with a custom app that helps guide organic vegetable cultivation. Participants in this project refer to the app to ensure they are sowing, weeding, watering, fertilizing, and controlling pests in a timely manner. With training, coaching, and technology, 665 Trickle Up participants in India have adopted organic agricultural practices so far.
These participants are already seeing the benefits of organic farming. The vegetables produced organically have a longer shelf life, taste and smell better, and are less expensive to cultivate. Most importantly, organic agriculture protects families against the harmful effects of chemical pesticides and safeguards the soil and water.