Farming initiative

Farming initiative

THI_Farming_Farmers_002_GroupPeople from the local Malavasi communities have lived by rain-fed subsistence farming and the produce of their forests for a very long time. Traditionally, they grew about fifteen different varieties of crops suited to the environment and had ample food the whole year around. This tradition has been displaced by the pressures of a modern consumer economy to grow cash crops. These crops are water intensive and people are forced to use chemical fertilisers and pesticides in an attempt to maximise returns. Eventually, the tribal farmer finds himself in a situation where he is easily exploited.

Nutrition and livelihood are two factors that contribute significantly to an individual’s health.  Thus, when the people of the surrounding villages started bringing their farming troubles to THI’s attention, an opportunity for growth became apparent and THI expanded its programs to include a farming initiative.  This work was also encouraged in the report of the 10-year organisational review, summarised as follows: “unless we start dealing with the determinants of health, we would not be able to bring the tribal community to achieve a better health status.”  Working with the credibility they had already gained in the community, THI began teaching the farmers various organic techniques aimed at saving the cost of chemical pesticides, increasing the farmers’ yields, and improving the health of the consumers.  Since its inception in 2005, the Tribal Farming Initiative has grown to include the following components/programs:

  • Formation of SOFA (Sittilingi Organic Farmers Association), an association of farmers currently practicing organic methods, and is in the process of receiving organic certification from the government. Currently, there about 200 farmers who are registered, of whom, half have got ‘organic certification’ from the Govt. of Tamil Nadu.
  • Creation of the SVAD (Sittilingi Valley Agricultural Development) brand, under which 25 organic products are sold in various cities in south India
  • Formation of Women’s Self-Help Groups (SHGs), which perform value-addition processing, increasing the profit margin for specific products
  • Creation of Seed Banks, ensuring the survival of various minor millets and other traditional seeds, which were at risk of extinction due to the increased demand for rice and decreased demand for other similar sources

To contact the Tribal Farming Initiative, please email svad.organic@gmail.com farming@tribalhealth.org