Tucked away in the conflict-ridden Jamui District of Bihar, east India, is the village of Kedia — population 673. At first glance, it might seem like any ordinary community. But, since 2014, this unassuming village has widely been regarded as one of the most successful models of holistic and sustainable farming in India.
For thousands of years, Indian farmers used sustainable traditional practices to care for the land. But in less than 40 years, chemical-based agriculture has rendered land unfit for farming and brought India to a catastrophic tipping point. On top of rapidly changing weather patterns, an indiscriminate use of chemical fertilizers has resulted in nutrient deficiencies in the soil — not only destabilizing the food production system, but also the lives of many who depend on the land.
Over the last three years, with support from the Indian government and a Greenpeace India campaign, farmers in the small village of Kedia have been employing a range of unusual farming techniques aimed at meeting the crisis head on.
Earthworms convert ‘waste’ into nutrient-rich, organic fertiliser in vermi-composting units. The biomass is broken down into a rich manure that adds nutrients to the soil, easily accessible for plants.
Concrete-floored cattle sheds capture cow dung and urine at the source. Nothing is wasted: the the urine is used for pest management and manure goes into biogas plants. Where cow dung is usually dried into cakes and used for cooking fuel, dung is directly converted into cooking gas with biogas plants. This is a far cleaner means of cooking than dung-cakes, which can cause indoor pollution and affect the health of the women and children who spend the majority of their time indoors.
Farmers have built ecological toilets that provide safe, clean sanitation while converting human waste into ecological fertiliser. Even the cold storage is powered by solar, and rainwater harvesting methods are employed for irrigation. Agro-chemical use is almost nil.
The high carbon content in the soil makes their farming more resilient to the impacts of erratic rainfall and temperatures, and with minimal exposure to agro-chemicals and indoor pollution, there are indicators that the community’s health is improving. And if that wasn’t enough, the farmers’ costs have actually reduced, so they’re also receiving a better profit margin; important considering agriculture is the backbone of the Indian economy and the primary source of livelihood for the majority of rural Indians.
The good news is the success of the scheme is not going unnoticed.
In June 2017, two farmers from Kedia, Rajkumar Bhai and Anandi Da, travelled to the capital of the Indian state of Bihar, Patna, where they were invited to share their feedback with government officials from India’s department of agriculture. Encouraged by what they heard, last month the state government announced the more widespread development of the model across the state of Bihar and the creation of organic farming corridors along all state and national highways. A draft roadmap commits the government to an outlay on organic farming of US$1.7 billion over the next five years.
We should take this moment to celebrate Kedia’s farmers, and the success of an agricultural model that sustains itself with entirely locally available resources — something we can all aspire to.
This is a model that has the potential to transform farming from a carbon producing activity to a carbon fixing activity, a model that can rekindle hope amongst all of us.