A Seed Tells A Farmers Story

We all eat rotis at home. These rotis are most commonly made from wheat flour. But did you know, earlier, another grain was popularly used for making rotis. This grain is bajra(millet). 

What Was Farming Like?

  • A farmer would keep aside some bajra seeds every year after a good harvest.
  • The good seeds were stored in dried gourds which were then covered with mud. They were also stored in wooden boxes lined with neem leaves; the neem leaves protected against insects. 
  • Farmers used to grow a variety of grains and vegetables in their fields according to the season.
  • They used water from the nearby canals in their fields.
  • They used bullocks to plough the fields.
  • Cow dung was effectively used as a fertilizer; dried leaves would rot and mix with the soil making it fertile. Earthworms were used which eat the dead leaves and plants and their droppings helped fertilize the soil. They dig tunnels which allow air and water to easily pass through the soil thus making it good for growth of plants. 
  • Every time there was a good harvest, all the neighbouring farmers and their families would cook and celebrate together. 
  • The farmers kept whatever they needed to sustain themselves and sold the surplus in the markets in nearby towns and cities. 
  • Some farmers also grew cotton; they spun the cotton at home to make clothes for themselves. 

Therefore, with all the different crops the farmers used to grow in their field they could not only feed and clothe themselves, they could also sell some of it and earn money. Also, growing a variety of different crops helped ensure that the fields remained fertile. 

Activity:

  • Various harvest festivals are celebrated around the country at various times of the year. Make a list of such festivals.
  • Many of the food items that your parents or grandparents used to eat when they were growing up are not available or used anymore. Try to find out about such items. 
  • All of us eat a variety of vegetables and grains. Make a list of the vegetables and grains that you eat the most and those that you eat rarely. 

Changes In Farming:

With time farming changed drastically and there are a number of reasons behind this change.

  • Farmers observed that only wheat and cotton was in demand at the markets and most farmers started to grow only these crops.
  • Gradually, crops such as bajra and jowar became unimportant and were no longer grown. 
  • Seeds that used to be stored earlier were of no use; farmers had to buy the newly developed seeds from the market. 
  • These new seeds yielded vegetables that did not taste the same as the fresh vegetables from before.
  • Tractors replaced bullocks for ploughing fields and electrical pumps were used to pump water into the fields.
  • By using machines, people were no longer needed to work the fields. These people were out of a job. 

Therefore, although several advancements occurred and new and improved machinery and seeds were being used in the fields, people were being replaced and no longer had a source of income. 

Write:

  • What are the differences between the old and new way of farming?
  • How are the farmers affected in the new method?

Increased Expenses:

  • Since cows and bullocks were no longer being used in the fields, their dung was no longer available as a fertilizer.
  • Farmers had to purchase expensive fertilizers in order to grow their crops.
  • The new seeds gave plants that were easily damaged by insects and so money had to be spent to buy medicine for the crops as well. 
  • The water from the canal was not enough and so pumps had to be bought and were used to draw water from deep in the ground. 
  • Majority of the farmers were growing and selling cotton and so the price of cotton was not as high as it once used to be. 
  • Since the farmers kept growing the same crops on the same field over and over again, the soil gradually depleted in nutrients and reached a stage where no crops could be grown properly on the fields. 
  • All of these needs added up to huge expenses which compelled farmers to take loans from the banks as well as private moneylenders at enormous interests. 
  • The farmers had to spend the majority of their profits on repaying loans. In many places around the country, farmers were unable to pay their loans and were imprisoned. 

Thus the situation worsened for the farmers with time. Many were unable to see a way out and committed suicide. In India, 1,50,000 suicides of farmers have been recorded by the government between 1997 and 2005. The actual numbers may be even more. 

Discuss:

  • Although advancements in technology occurred with time, the situation only worsened for the farmers. Can this be considered as progress?
  • Think of situations in your life where technology is used. Has this change been beneficial or harmful?
  • Any process or technique that is used in order to make something can be considered to be technology. For example, the making of rotis from flour and water. List other examples of such technologies in your life.

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