Conserve Natural India

Sustainable Development in Northern India

Learning about organic with the Gaddi community

This month an organic farming survey was completed in the Shenney community. The survey asked women about their farming practices in order to learn how to strengthen the community’s connection to an organic lifestyle. It centered on questions like crops grown, fertilizer and pesticide use, and various socioeconomic indicators such as the cost of farming. I wanted to create a profile of Shenney’s farms and farmers to create a point from which ConservEN can continue organic farming work. An extra component of the surveys were portrait-style photographs I took of each interviewee, a way to match data to faces and make the survey results a little more relatable. These portraits also make the job easier for ConservEN interns to see whom exactly we are working with in Shenney and offer some mapping of the farm community:

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Renu, glowing as she always does

Not much would have come of this survey without the help of Madhu, one of our interns from the Central University of Himachal Pradesh (CUHP) in Dharamsala who joined the EduCARE team in June and July. A fluent speaker of Hindi and English, Madhu translated the survey questions and answers as I recorded responses on my laptop. Her help was invaluable to the survey’s success, also as someone who could understand certain cultural nuances I would have missed if I did the job on my own.

There were a number of trends that appeared in the survey results when they reached completion. One was the unanimous approval to teach about organic farming in boys’, girls’ and fun club. A few lessons here and there teaching the kids about different farming methods could be the start of a new era of agriculture in Shenney. Another trend is that no interviewees look to anyone in particular for farming advice. Farmers rely entirely on traditional knowledge to grow their crops. Third, and maybe most interestingly, is most women’s response that they would be interested in joining some kind of farming organization where people come together to talk and learn about different growing-related topics. This could make a very worthwhile project in the coming future. A farmers’ group like this might help role models emerge that could serve as productive examples in Shenney’s farming community.

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Varsha with her little boy at her home in Shenney

There is more to “organic” than just refusing to toss chemicals on your crops. In a meeting I had with Mr. B (the beating heart of EduCARE) and Beejal (the ConservEN coordinator) last week, we emphasized that “organic” is something that must occur at every level of organization, from intergovernmental to nongovernmental to communal to grassroots. In order for communities to develop in sustainable and healthy ways, it’s important to keep in mind that politics and economics also are some pieces that may sometimes be left out of the big puzzle. The survey done in Shenney this month hopefully has produced some of answers we may be looking for to fill in the missing pieces!

The goal of living an organic lifestyle still is a long way from being reached. EduCARE’s work in other communities means we also are responsible for supporting organic farming methods in them as well. I did a bit of tinkering with the survey used in Shenney and added questions based on some of EduCARE’s previous organic farming work to create a more generalized hybrid survey. With much to learn about the farming practices in our other member communities, something with a broader scope might be in order!

By Karol Sadkowski

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This entry was posted on July 28, 2013 by in ConservEN, Organic Farming.
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