Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Jowar Mata (Mother Sorghum)-The Backbone of poor farmers in Indian villages

While the green revolution has considerably reduced the importance of grains like sorghum and maize in the Indian agriculture, the poor farmers still treat Jowar (Sorghum) as their mother- for the simple reason that it feeds the farmers with least resources- inferior soil, less rains and no or insufficient resources for fertilizers.
(Photo: Courtsy

Before the Green Revolution (a dramatic increase in the food grain production in India) in the 60’s whereby the production of food grains shot up with the use of high yielding varieties (HYV), rapid use of fertilizers and irrigation facilities, particularly in the north Indian states of Punjab and Haryana, practically whole of India the farmers were taking food grain crops of sorghum and maize. The production was less and so was the economic value of these grains to support the market driven village economy. Because of this mostly these crops were used for bartering other commodities like clothes, vegetable and agricultural implements.

The green revolution led by Dr. M.S. Swaminathan with the help of the dwarf varieties developed by noble laureate Dr. Norman Borlaug has changed the scenario totally. The rural markets in India are dominated by various varieties of wheat and rice today. With a good production, these varieties have changed the economic and food security situation in these areas. Not only are these families more food sufficient as compared to the past, the cash flow in the rural economy has increased many folds, thanks to these crops.

However, this otherwise rosy dynamics changes when we think in the perspective of the poor families of the marginalized sections of the societies- scheduled tribes, scheduled castes, nomadic communities etc, who have very small landholding of poor soil quality and little or no credit availability for purchasing the high yielding seeds, fertilizers and pesticides. In such situation, the high yielding wheat verities are of little use to the poor farmers.

So they depend on the humble crop of past-Jowar. Marginal farmers (with small piece of land of poor soil quality and less water for irrigation) rely on Jowar for the food security of their families. The modus operandi is simple- borrow bullocks and plough from a co-villager, plough the land and sow Jowar seeds, with little or no fertilizers. Like a caring and understanding mother, Jowar grows very well in even the most undulated, rocky soil with little water retention capacity, depending totally on the rains or the residual water in the soil for the irrigation and feeds the family like a mother with its humble offering.

Even 2 quintals of Jowar from a small landholding of one bigha (one fourth of a Hectare) provides the poor family a food sufficiency for two months. Also, during this time, since they are not working in their own lands, they find employment in the fields of other people for various crop related operations and earn enough money to sustain their family for another 2-3 months. Jowar provides good amount of fodder to the cattle and is used in many places for fuel and thatch as well. No wonder its called Jowar Mata (Mother) by poor in many parts of the country.