• Sumeeta & Hattie Gawande

SESA & Dharamitra are Excited to Share that the Maani-Paani-Asha Initiative is Underway

Updated: Nov 18

In Partnership with Dharamitra, SESA is excited to share that our Maani-Paani-Asha initiative is officially underway!

Over 300,000 farmers have taken their lives in India over the last 20 years. The epicenter of farmer suicide is in eastern Maharashtra, one of the most severely food insecure regions in the world. The soil is depleted, and farmers are falling deeper into debt purchasing inputs to overcome the depleted natural resources. Drought and scorching temperatures are increasing. The World Bank predicts that climate change will worsen living conditions even further here, unless something changes.

It is this vicious cycle of financial debt and food insecurity that has fueled the need for change. The Maani-Paani-Asha Initiative will bring about that change. And that change has begun!

We have partnered with Dharamitra, an organization founded by a group of scientists and activists, devoted to the cause of sustainable rural development who have long worked in the region and are familiar with the local villages and farming practices.

Led by GSG-Gawande College’s Professor Katai, our MPA team recently met with 70

farmers from five villages in the Umarkhed region. These meetings took place over the course of several weeks. When we first formed the MPA initiative, one of the biggest hurdles we anticipated was building interest and trust amongst the farming community. To our great pleasure, this hurtle seems to be virtually non-existent. Of the farmers who participated in the initial meetings, 100% of them were interested in learning more. These meetings verified that the concepts behind MPA are needed, wanted, and usable.

There is widespread recognition throughout the participating farming communities that the quality of soil is greatly depleted and is a continuous threat. Many farmers acknowledged that their current farming practices were not sustainable, but felt they had no choice but to continue as they have for generations.

Where We Go from Here

Our work in the region is just beginning. We have hired village motivators and appointed a lead farmer to represent each of the five villages we are currently working with. These motivators will work with local farmers, acting as a go between, collecting vital information direct from the source. The documents will become part of a larger overall farmer’s study group. By mid-December, all these village motivators will attend an intensive training program with Professor Katai to learn how to track and record farming practices and obtain the needed information.

Women have long played an important role in the food security of each region. The MPA team will be hiring female motivators as well, who will train separately and will work directly with women who are on the front lines of the village food kitchens. Recently moving to India, Professor Betsy Briju will be heading up this part of the MPA initiative.

We know that this is only the beginning. But success is built upon a strong foundation. The interest and willingness of the region’s farmers to venture into to regenerative farming is a good first building block.

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