-By Anuradha Phadtare
In Maharashtra, agriculture serves as a major source of rural livelihood. This sector is most vulnerable to climate change, as it is highly dependent on weather, and the vagaries of the climate. Given this uncertainty ,people are continually modifying their agricultural practices to suit their specific needs, available knowledge and resources. In this blog, following our earlier blog on pomegranate cultivation, we turn to a village in Ahmednagar called Hivre Korda that has diversified its economy in response to changes in aspiration and agrarian distress. We visited this village and conducted group discussions with different landholding farmers like large, medium, small and landless for one of our studies.
Our Group discussion focused on how the village had changed over the past three decades. During this discussion, we were told that apart from agriculture, there are many small enterprises that have emerged. We visited the village in the summer, when in most villages life slows down, agricultural work stops and those who need work migrate elsewhere. However,Hivre Korda was abuzz with activity, and it’s residents were so busy, that they had little time to explain to us what was happening. When pressed on why this had happened, people interestingly responded there are several reasons: climate change & drought, volatile markets for agricultural products, small and fragmented landholdings, etc. It is well connected by road to the nearby markets which has encouraged the establishment of several small enterprises. But in discussion, people mostly focused on their experiences of climate variability: irregular rainfall, increase in temperature, drought and an extended drought like situation. All this affected crop production, making it difficult to break even let alone make a profit. In response, people are slowly moving towards more lucrative non-farm works.
In Hivre korda, a small company founded a decade and a half ago, produces decoration material for bullocks. Approximately 500 people from this village are engaged in this work. A majority of those who are employed in this work are women, and they assert that they earn Rs. 400-500 per day! In addition, 200-300 people emigrate to this village from Marathwada to work in this enterprise. All the products are handmade and quite expensive. They are targeted towards a niche market, particularly of the states of Andhra Pradesh (now Telangana as well), Karnataka, & Tamil Nadu. Even the elderly women of this village are occupied in making traditional quilts. Mr Gole, the 30 year old son of the company’s founder explained , “My father started this activity at the local level. Earlier it was started just out of interest but slowly the demands increased and today we have expanded our business immensely. We are very happy and satisfied that we can offer employment to the needy throughout the year.” Another resident, Mr. P.V Adsul, prepares culture which after adding to the septic tanks produces liquid and can be used as manure. I was astonished on hearing the fact that it lasts for 50-60 years!
With Agricultural distress growing and compounded by the effects of climate change, farmers are increasingly relying on non-farm activities to supplement their incomes. Traditionally, this has meant leaving the rural economy and migrating to urban centres. However,Hivre Korda presents an example, however small it may be,it provides a different and a promising response!