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The Maati Paani Asha Project

For the last 20 years, over 10,000 farmers have ended their lives each year in India. The epicenter of farmer suicide is in eastern Maharashtra, where SESA has been working since 1992 to provide educational opportunities for farmers and their families. Farmer suicides continue to increase; with a recent World Bank report predicting that climate change and drought will worsen living conditions in eastern Maharashtra unless something changes.  SESA has teamed up with GSG College and international experts to create a vision for change.  We call it the Maati-Paani-Asha (Soil-Water-Hope) vision.

SESA is forming the Maati-Paani-Asha Center at GSG College in Umarkhed, Maharashtra.  The MPA Center will work to transform the agricultural foundation in the region so that farmers and environment are nourished and not depleted, and the community is resilient and thriving despite global warming and drought. 

The Vision

The Maati-Paani-Asha (Soil-Water-Hope) vision aims to address the challenges in Umarkhed by creating a locus for regional transformation at GSG College - the Maati Paani Asha Center. This Center will model and support a transition to regenerative farming, increase food access and provisioning, improve food marketing practices, coordinate community infrastructure improvements, disseminate novel psychosocial supports, and host a multi-stakeholder advisory board.

The MPA Transition Support Program (MPA-TSP), our cornerstone intervention, will provide robust, technical and financial assistance to smallholders to motivate, educate, and de-risk the transition away from chemically dependent, extractive, and unsustainable methods of producing monoculture commodities. The MPA program will help farmers adopt diversified, agri-ecological farming methods that favor traditional seeds and on-farm inputs and connect them with buyers seeking sustainably sourced ingredients. MPA farming will generate sufficient yields, improved soil health and ecosystem services, human health benefits, and conditions that support community resilience.

Regionally adapted methods of regenerative agriculture and carbon drawdown are a key solution in combating climate change and at the center of MPA’s vision to empower Umarkhed’s farmers. Despite minimally contributing to the global climate crisis, the residents of eastern Maharashtra will bear the brunt of the consequences, both now and in the future. Our SESA led team, hopes to inspire international donors to support the Umarkhed community in overcoming their local climate challenges.

Our vision is to:

  1. Break the interconnected and reinforcing cycles of climate crises, economic crises and health crises while supporting systems of regeneration, self sufficiency and hope

  2. Farm with the systems of nature to improve regional ecosystems and household resiliency

  3. Build direct connections with values-based buyers who are willing to pay a premium for sustainably sourced products

  4. Improve household and community quality of life, creating local interdependence alongside reduced dependence on exploitative lenders, opportunist traders and multinational corporations

  5. Actively address climate change and the sequestration of carbon

The Challenges

Our Maati Panni Asha program seeks to identify the challenges presented to farmers in Umarkhed and find workable solutions to help tackle these challenges. 

Climate Change

In Umarkhed, each day brings new challenges. Climate change has arrived. Even bore wells have run dry. The intense heat from rising temperatures is made less bearable by recurring drought. The land is dusty and sandy from dehydration. Monsoon seasons are no longer reliable water bearers. When prayed-for rains do come, they ferociously wash the land of its poor topsoil - degraded by years of tillage, monocropping and heavy synthetic inputs. 

Under Development and

Under Nourishment

Historically underdeveloped, Umarkhed did not reap the spoils of the industrial or technological revolutions. Its residents are on the losing end of widening global inequities and undernourishment. India ranks 15th most server among 117 countries as dangerously close to an alarming level of hunger. 

Pressure and Suicide

The Vidarbha region of north eastern Maharashtra has been described as the epicenter of farmer suicide in India. It also has the unenviable reputation of being one of the worst places in the nation to be a farmer. These circumstances are connected. More than 300,000 farmers in India have committed suicide since 1995. Over this period, the State of Maharashtra has experienced the highest rate of farmer suicides in the nation.

Meeting The

Challenges

The Maati-Paani-Asha (Soil-Water-Hope) vision aims to address the challenges in Umarkhed by creating a locus for regional transformation at GSG College - the Maati Paani Asha Center. This Center will model and support a transition to regenerative farming, increase food access and provisioning, improve food marketing practices, coordinate community infrastructure improvements, disseminate novel psychosocial supports, and host a multi-stakeholder advisory board.

 

The MPA Transition Support Program (MPA-TSP), our cornerstone intervention, will provide robust, technical and financial assistance to smallholders to motivate, educate, and de-risk the transition away from chemically dependent, extractive, and unsustainable methods of producing monoculture commodities. The MPA program will help farmers adopt diversified, agri-ecological farming methods that favor traditional seeds and on-farm inputs and connect them buyers seeking sustainably sourced ingredients. MPA farming will generate sufficient yields, improved soil health and ecosystem services, human health benefits, and conditions that support community resilience.

 

Regionally adapted methods of regenerative agriculture and carbon drawdown are a key solution in combating climate change and at the center of MPA’s vision to empower Umarkhed’s farmers. Despite minimally contributing to the global climate crisis, the residents of eastern Maharashtra will bear the brunt of the consequences, both now and in the future. Our SESA led team, hopes to inspire international donors to support the Umarkhed community in overcoming their local climate challenges.

Maati Panni Asha Initiatives

Teaching Farm, Assistance and Service

MPA Farming is a form of farming with nature that integrates regionally & culturally appropriate principles from Zero Budget Natural Farming, western-style Regenerative Agriculture, holistic management, & traditional (pre-Green Revolution) farming practices. It combines age-old local wisdom & revival of ancient, indigenous seeds (alongside improved varieties) with recent scientific insights to meet the challenges of producing adequate nutritious food in a changing climate under conditions of increasing volatility & scarcity in a regenerative manner.

Financial Support

For several transitional years, farmers in the MPA-TSP will receive guaranteed wages, made in quarterly installments, providing farmers with the stabilizing benefits of a steady income. Income will not be dependent on yield or the vagaries of commodity markets. Program payments will be based on a formula that accounts for acres in production, yield & revenue history, living wage assumptions, number of household members participating in the program & satisfaction of MPA-TSP requirements. Farmers who make a sustained commitment to transition, receive technical assistance services, and serve as citizen scientists, will experience no financial risk in connection with their participation. When harvests are profitable, participating farmers will be eligible to receive a percentage of gross revenue as a bonus, enabling them to pay down debt, make investments in their farm, or realize incremental increases in their standard of living.

Collaboration

Researcher Institutions: Gopikabai Sitaram Gawande Mahavidyalaya (GSG College), a college in Umarkhed that teaches & conducts research in farming, environmental science, & commerce & provides resources to farmers, University of Colorado Boulder Masters of the Environment professional graduate program (CU Boulder) Ohio University Office of Global Affairs & Center for International Studies 

 

Farmer Organization: Yavatmal Zilha Akhil Kunbi Samaj (YZAKS), composed of farmers, business owners, & policy makers 

Youth Organizations: GSG College & CU Boulder students; and over 80 stakeholders engaged through 10+ meetings, interviews by 30+ students of 30+ farmers & food preparers, & other methods:

Additional Collaborators: Producers, Preparers, Consumers, NGOs, Medical/Public Health Professionals, Scientists & Researchers and Artists & Writers. 

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