agroforst 1199


COVID-19, the pandemic has affected the lives of everyone on the globe, the rich and the poor, men and women, old and young. Daily routines were interrupted, and normal life has become impossible. Businesses and educational institutions remained closed, mobility is at its minimum and social distancing was the norm of the day.

Amongst all affected, the small and marginal farmers were the worst hit. In India, more than 80% of the agriculture sector comprises small and marginal farmers. COVID-19 has disrupted their lives in every way.

The lockdowns kept them away from their farms which disturbed their timely intervention in their agricultural activities. Markets remained closed; hence their products could not be sold. Timely planting, fertilising and harvesting could not be done due to the lockdown. Yet, farmers could not stay away from what they are used to doing - farming - by all means.

Despite all these negative elements, COVID-19 has its positive contributions to society. Due to the lockdown, people were confined to their homes for days and weeks. Very many people started using their time for farm-related activities like growing their vegetables. This made them more aware of the food they consume and instilled a great inclination to use homegrown food materials. Because of this, lots of vegetable gardens were established in several homes during the pandemic. This is proven by the fact that all the nurseries sold out their stock of vegetable seeds and seedlings during this period. It provided families with delicious and nutritious food. Cultivation and usage of more leafy vegetables are also noted during this period.
People became very conscious of what they eat and avoided all kinds of junk food. They came forward to grow vegetables and herbs wherever it was possible. Hence, many rooftop vegetable gardens arose where vegetables and herbs are grown organically. We are certain that the people who got the real taste of homegrown organic vegetables and herbs will continue growing them even after the pandemic.


Organic vegetable gardens

Another important element to be noticed during the pandemic is that the concept of family farming has become more popular and active because due to the lockdown all family members were available for farming activities. Family members who lived and worked in distant areas happened to be at home for a longer period and they used their available time to promote family farming.
The pandemic forced everyone to use a mask all the time when they are outside, and this promoted healthy living. People are spared from several common ailments due to this and the number of hospital visits is found to be marginal.
The lockdown curtailed mobility and hence disturbed communication especially amongst small farmers. But they overcame this issue by starting more WhatsApp and telegram groups. Using all these media, farmers shared information and knowledge.
In my discussion with experts of PDS and TPI, Naturland members from India, both agreed that the pandemic has affected their business and the farmers economically. At the same time, they mentioned a few positive elements too. According to Dr Thomas from PDS, the sale of chemical fertilizers and pesticides has declined drastically since more and more people became conscious of organic and natural farming methods. Farmers themselves learned the methods of preparing and using organic manure and pesticides. This is a blessing in disguise.
Mr Gautham Mohan from TPI mentioned that the small farming communities became aware that farming activities can be supported through the use of connectivity. COVID-19 has forced the farmers, processors, and markets to go online. More farmers use the internet, make video calls, attend online meetings, and workshops these days. According to him, farmers will keep using all these technologies continuously. He points out that for the last year, none from TPI could visit tea gardens and farmers in Darjeeling, but the business was going on as usual because of the connectivity.
Dr Thomas spoke about the lack of sufficient workers as most of the migrant ones left Kerala and gone back to their home states. At the same time, Mr Gautham happily noted that more workers are available at present as many migrant workers who have gone to Kerala for work have returned to their home states.


Distribution of masks and gloves

Discussing what both these units have done for their farmers during the pandemic, they pointed out several ones. Both PDS and TPI stood with the farmers during this crisis (and I am sure that this is the case with every Naturland member). The first thing both these members did for their farmers was to make them aware of the importance of social distancing. They also encouraged everyone to use the mask to control the spread of viruses. In PDS they prepared masks and alcohol-based sanitisers which they distributed among the farmers. They also made arrangements for the supply of food kits, medicines and other necessary things among the farming communities. Both organisations promoted organic kitchen gardens which guaranteed fresh and delicious vegetables for the entire family.
In conclusion, we find that though COVID-19 has affected everyone in various ways, it has a good side, too.


- Dr Hubby Mathew -