In India, 7 out of every 10 families belong to a lineage that can trace their history to a prosperous agrarian family. Moreover, our country ranks 2nd in the world in total farm output where agriculture accounts for as much as quarter of the Indian economy. But despite the heavy importance of agriculture, it is still considered to be highly inefficient, wasteful and incapable of solving our problem of hunger. Farmers across the country are in deep drudges of debt and unable to cope up with the pressure, many have committed suicide.
Harish Srinivasan, a senior consultant at Virtusa India Pvt Ltd in Chennai, faced this grim reality of our farmers when he came across the novel MoondramUlagaPor written by Tamil poet Vairamuthu. He comprehended that the dire problem which the farmers are facing is the shortage of people involved in agriculture. Those who are involved usually lack knowledge, input, resources and those who are efficient are sucked in towards the more glittering urbanized sectors.
Finding this as a big void obliterating the fortunes and lives of farmers, Harish decided that their fates can only be changed only if concerned citizens take matter into their own hands. Inspired, he wrote a post on Facebook in 2013, urging youngsters like him to come forward and work as voluntarily labourers on the fields of the farmers who needed physical help. The response was phenomenal and the volunteers came in pouring. Thus began the journey of The Weekend Agriculturist (TWA). “The concept of the volunteer body is simple. Concerned working professionals and youngsters in Chennai come together every weekend, travel to a farm in need of labour and voluntarily work for them in every way they can”, says an excited J Satish Kumar, SEO Associate, MagicCrate.in, and another volunteer who joined Harish back in 2013.
Initially, the farmers were sceptical of the intentions of TWA. So Harish, Satish and other volunteers decided to start work on the farm of a farmer whom they were familiar with. This step was undertaken by the volunteers to gain the trust of the other farmers and also to understand the nuances of agriculture. Seeing their hard work and conviction, other farmers opened up their farms to them. And the network of volunteers and happy farmers grew bigger.
The Group usually turns up every weekend at the fields of the farmers who need them the most in a 100 mile radius of Chennai and work as labours for 6-7 hours harvesting the fields. Along with the volunteering work, the group also conducts various sessions for the farmers on topics such as better solutions and agricultural techniques, organic farming, etc. On being asked about what did they understand after their journey with the farmers, Satish recited an incident. He said, “Recently the TWA volunteers worked in Pakkam where 80% of the produce comes from vegetables and flowers. Whatever the temper of nature might be that day, the farmer has to get up at 5am and deliver the produce by 10 am. A day off could take away a day’s wage. In Pakkam , once we went in at 10 am to pluck brinjals. Even with 10 men and after 6 hours, we weren’t able to cover half the field. Almost 100 kgs of Brinjal never reached the market. The pain in the eyes of the farmer, who had put efforts of 2 hard months to grow them, hits like a bullet”.
Even after 2 years of volunteering and helping hundreds of farmers, this is the kind of plight and sorrow that keeps the volunteers determined for more. They understand that beyond their corporate cubicles, their weekly meetings, and their market analysis, lies a land where there are thousands who sleep without a trace of food in their belly. They know that there are innumerable families that are destroyed because the farmers never get the right amount of help. And it is this realization that pushes many volunteers every weekend to leave their desks and go to the rescue of the fathers and mothers who feed the nation: The FARMERS.
Anidhia Singh| TOC
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