Farming in Ladakh

A few days ago I visited the village Thiksey in Ladakh, where i stayed for some time teaching and learning. I remember fondly taking a day off school during summer and working on the farm of the family I stayed with. Over a good portion of land we reaped the stalks of ripe barley with the whole family coming together singing the ladakhi songs. These were sunny days with the lady of the house bringing us the lunch at the fields and all of us would eat and go back to reaping the and singing. We carried all that stalks back near the home where we’d rent a thresher and collect probably 100 Kgs of Barley.

This year Ishey Sir told me that they decided to not sow barley at all and leave the land as it is, bringing to an end a tradition of growing crops that is probably as old as arrival of man to this area. These farms are located on the fertile banks of river Indus, i have not seen any of them using fertilizers, so weather or overuse is probably not the problem.
“It was becoming too expensive to farm and it was not worth the effort” he said. I could see that he was probably more disappointed at that decision than me. I wondered what he would be doing if the farm was the only means of living(he is a Principal at a nearby school), which is true for most small holding farmers across the country.
When everybody is talking about end of cheap food, how is this possible? The idea was expensive food will drive more people and corporations to farming.

As P.Sainath puts it, farming is not dying it is being killed.

Inputs costs have become exorbitantly high, because of companies like Monsanto and Cargill making exorbitant profits on their seeds, and the fertilizer prices have been raising since deregulation started around 1992.

The future looks bleak for small holder farmers, which forms a bulk of Indian agriculture, which despite massive growth in Indian economy takes upwards of 20% of GDP.

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