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What Sustainable Development Really Looks Like

Posted by on Dec 9, 2014 in India, Regions | Comments Off on What Sustainable Development Really Looks Like

As THP prepares to return to rural Champa, Chhattisgarh for our third year, we wanted to share some background and successes to date.

 

We met our partner, Mr. Baswaraj, when he and 3 of his team members came to Navdanya in 2011 for a farmer training program. We were able to present on the ‘living soil’ to his group and soon after he invited us to Champa to share the information with his farmers’ groups.

Baswaraj works for Champa Mission Hospital. After years of having desperate farmers admitted for pesticide poisoning (attempted suicide), they crafted a program to help the farmers in the community before they reached the hospital gates. He and his staff organize farmers’ groups, and these groups into larger federations, all with the goal of providing the support and training to assist their transition back to organic farming.

 

champa village

 

Champa is located in what is commonly referred to as one of the ‘backward’ or least developed, states of Chhattisgarh. We were surprised to hear this term, but apparently it is an official descriptive term from the government. To make things even more interesting, Maoist separatist rebels have seized large areas of land in Chhattisgarh and are officially considered terrorists. So needless to say a few of our big city Indian friends cautioned us against making this trip.

 

village meeting

 

As we are returning for our third time, it is clear that the fear was completely unfounded. The villages around Champa are undeveloped, but the people are wonderful, hard working and kind.

 

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Our first training there was attended by 250 farmers, including members from all the groups in the region. We had informed them that we would bring our microscope and be able to look at some of their soil samples after the talk. Much to our surprise, just about every farmer brought a sample and the colorful bags piled high on the front table.

 

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Once the ‘living soil’ presentation finished, the local chief, a small older man who we could not understand but continuously had the whole group bursting with laughter, very ceremoniously presented his soil as the first to be tested. Unfortunately, he, like the rest of his community, is a chemical farmer, so the soil he brought us looked less like soil and more like clumps of chalk, covered with a chemical-scented powdery residue. But how to tell this wonderful, beloved old man that his soil was dead, and have to display it for the whole group to see?

 

We made it through that day (though not all 250 soil samples), showed them living soil under the microscope, made our recommendations for organic preps and techniques and visited their farmers over the next few days.

 

Next year, as we were on the 30- hour train journey for our return trip, we remembered the terrible soil and wondered if travelling so far was even worth it.  Soon after we arrived, we were whisked away to a local village and soon started to recognize the familiar faces from last year. After the whole village was gathered together, who should appear but the same gregarious local chief.  Again, he began cracking up the whole vilage, but now he was leading them in a demonstration of various organic farming preparations!

 

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He called upon others to demonstrate how to make natural pesticides and compost extracts utilizing locally sourced materials. Not only were they using what they had learned at our previous trainings, but they showed us bottles of these organic solutions that they were selling in neighboring villages.

 

We are very grateful to Mr. Baswaraj and his team for collaborating with us to improve the lives of these rural farmers. Collaboration is an essential component to all of our international projects and we are proud to work with these wonderful farmers and the staff at Champa Mission Hospital.

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