Farmers in India are fighting climate change and desertification using nature

https://www.euronews.com/green/2022/11/12/farmers-in-india-are-fighting-climate-change-and-desertification-using-natural-agriculture

A farmer walks through sweet lime trees planted as part of a natural farming initiative over 100 acres at Appilepalli village in Anantapur district.

A farmer walks through sweet lime trees planted as part of a natural farming initiative over 100 acres at Appilepalli village in Anantapur district.   –   Copyright  AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool   –  

By Euronews  with SIBI ARASU Associated Press  •  Updated: 16/11/2022

Ramesh Hanumaiya digs a few inches into his field with his hand and examines the soil. There is movement in the thick, brown earth: tiny earthworms being disturbed from their homestead.

A handful of dirt filled with earthworms might not seem like much, but it’s the result of seven years of work. 

“This soil used to be as hard as a brick,” said 37-year-old Ramesh. “It’s now like a sponge. The soil is rich with the nutrients and life that’s needed for my crops to grow on time and in a healthy way.”

Like Ramesh thousands of other farmers in Anantapur, a district in the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, have taken to what’s known as regenerative agricultural practices. 

AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool
Ramesh Hanumaiya, a farmer, cuts grass at his farm in Thammaiya Doddi village in Anantapur district.AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool

Techniques like using natural fertilisers and planting crops alongside trees and other plants have been successful at combating desertification, the process of once-fertile ground turning into dust. 

Climate change is degrading land

Climate change is exacerbating the loss of arable land as temperatures rise and rainfall becomes more irregular.

Described by the United Nations desertification agency as one of the greatest threats to human society, it’s estimated that over 40 per cent of the world’s land is already degraded. 

Around 1.9 billion hectares of land, more than twice the size of the United States, and roughly 1.5 billion people globally are affected in some way by desertification, according to UN estimates.

Now what’s happening is that the rainfall can happen at any season, farmers are unable to predict this and many a time lose their crops.

Malla Reddy 

Founder natural farming non-profit

“It was always a dry region but we knew when it will rain and people used to farm accordingly,” said 69-year-old Malla Reddy, who runs a non-profit that encourages natural farming practices in the region. 

“Now what’s happening is that the rainfall can happen at any season, farmers are unable to predict this and many a time lose their crops.”

Hotter temperatures also mean water is evaporating quicker, leaving less in the ground for thirsty crops.

Supporting farmers to restore the land

Reddy’s non-profit works with over 60,000 farmers across 300,000 acres of land in the district, supporting individual farmers to restore unproductive land across the entire region.

Most Indian farmers rely on rainfed agriculture, with about 70 million hectares — about half of all farmed land in India — dependent on downpours. These lands are also the ones most subject to poor agricultural methods, such as excessive use of chemical fertilisers, over tilling and monocropping  — the practice of planting just a single crop each year  — experts say.

(Continued)

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Author: Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.

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