ORGANIC FARMING – Nourishing The Landscape
With the introduction of tea and other mono-crops in the Nilgiris area, traditional agricultural practices have started to dwindle and the use of harmful chemicals on local farms has increased. When Keystone started its work in the NBR, fertiliser consumption was among the highest in the country and since that time, the topic of organic agriculture has been a consistent theme in the Foundation’s work. From working with villagers to promote organic practices, to the certification and marketing of local products as organic to a national and international market, the organic movement in the Nilgiris has come a long way. However, Keystone recognizes that there is still a vast amount of work that needs to be done, and alongside our partners Aadhimalai Producer Co-operative and Last Forest Enterprise, strives to support economic, social, and environmental motivations for organic farms.
The importance of organic farming is stressed by Keystone for both health and environmental reasons–and consumer markets are catching up. It pays to be clean, and demand for organic produce provides compelling incentives for tribal farmers to go organic. Additionally, as organic agriculture becomes more popular and viable, the Nilgiris are seeing a rise in traditional agricultural practices, as both consumers and locals put a premium on the nutritional value of their foods. Keystone has been providing resources, information and support, both to farmers and consumers, so that they can make better choices–both for their health and the health of the land we share.
Mono-cropping replacing mixed cultivation practices • Extensive use of subsidized chemical fertilisers and pesticides • Lack of perspective from other stakeholders, such as the government, on issues of food security and nutrition amongst small and marginalized communities • Reduced water retention capacity • Destruction of vast amounts of forest land for tea cultivation and other cash crops • Problems for small farmers getting organically certified through third party systems
Revolving fund groups of tribal farmers have been formed through livelihood initiatives • Traditional crops have been re-introduced and supported • Trainings and education on organic inputs and Participatory Guarantee Systems • Market access through institutional support of Aadhimalai & Last Forest • Crop insurance through Aadhimalai • Organic certification support
Increased food security amongst tribal households • Increase in the availability of nutritious, non-toxic food in the village, especially benefiting women and children and those vulnerable to endocrine disruptors • Coffee, spice, silk cotton, millet and cereals are now PGS certified • Farmer learning and empowerment • Facilitating development of local markets • Increase in organic practices • Increased self-sufficiency and self-reliance • Increase in income due to market access and marketing support through Aadhimalai and Last Forest