Where is the incentive for the farm labourer?

I recently visited Kundalik Kumbhar, an organic farmer from Vadji village, which is around 15km from Solapur in Maharashtra and it was a trip that brought home some harsh realities confronting the organic farmer today.

For one, I noticed that most of the land in and around his farm was not cultivated, including Kundalik’s land. I specifically went there to see rose farming and what I encountered instead was a plot full of weeds with 50% of the crops being under weeds. When I asked him why he did not cultivate the land, he said he couldn’t get labour. “How how do I manage 33 acres land on my own?” he mused aloud. A very pertinent question, I must say. Today the state of things are such that you are lucky if you find labour, especially during this season. That’s why most of us farmers depend on the Rabi season and not Kharif. During the rainy season, too much weed grows in the land.

It is difficult to find labour to work on the land because Solapur city is very close to it and so most of the labourers there migrate to the city for jobs.  No one wants to work on the farm and those who are willing to work on the land demand too much money. No farmer can afford to pay that much.

There is another reason for this and that is the free food distribution by Govt. When you can get food for the entire month with just Rs 200,  than why would you want to work daily?

But farmers like Kundalik and his family have not given up as they believe in organic farming; they do it from their heart and the effect can seen in their work. Their Banana plantation, Tur and Rose plantations are outstanding. They also have a very old Tamarind tree, more than 60-70 Years old, that is excellent and yields great revenue for them.

Kundalik’s brother Parmeshwar also started FPO with the help of the Agriculture Department with 350 members at Vadji and opened a store at Solapur to sell their produce. But most of the members discontinued organic farming and Pundarik and his family were left to manage it along with the FPO. They also used to manufacture GULAP JUL (Rose extract), but that was also affected due to COVID with all beauty parlours and temples being closed (they are the main users of rose extract). The point to note is that farmers have limited resources and even if one thing goes wrong, it will take them years to recover from it.

While talking to Kundalik, I also realised that he had discontinued his PGS organic certification as he felt no one valued it. So although he and his family have created a good customer base, they need the right push and motivation to go to the next level. For my part I am trying to partner with him and help him create better value for his business and his customers. But it’s a journey and  we need more support from the eco-system to make it viable for organic farmers to continue doing their good work.

(The author is Founder & CEO of VJ Organic Farms, Serial Entrepreneur, Founder & Managing Director - VJ Media Works, Director IOAA)

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