Small farmers in India
Most of the small farmers in India own no more than a half a hectare to two hectares of land. In the last three decades land use has changed from subsistence farming to a system of market-based commercial agriculture. The agricultural lobbyists have pushed the farmers into using more and more chemicals – artificial fertilizers, pesticides, and more recently, bioengineered seeds. The old traditional resilient seeds were exchanged for genetically modified so-called “high yield seeds”. This meant the farmers were completely at the mercy of the arbitrary pricing policy of their suppliers. There was no way back. The genetically modified seeds have to be bought and sown anew every season. Many farmers had got into debt in order to survive. Also climate change brings increasingly unpredictable droughts or surprise downpours. The result is that a harvest and with it, a whole season’s work, is often wiped out. Not forgetting that the whole family usually helps with the arduous work – sowing, harvesting and threshing are all carried out manually. Eventually the despair had become too much for many farmers and they were no longer able to cope. The only way out they could see was to end their own lives. The endless stories of Indian farmers taking their own lives have been making headlines for the past ten years, and the number of deaths has now reached more than 300,000. The number of suicides in Telangana has been increasing every year. 2,014 were recorded in the state of Andhra Pradesh in 2013 alone. In the district of Warangal more than 2,200 farmers have committed suicide since 1997. The government hasn’t paid out any compensation to the women that have been widowed – on the contrary, most of their farms have been confiscated, as they were unable to pay back the high-interest loans. The women have had to deal with harassment from the corrupt money lenders. Many widows were so overwhelmed with their new responsibility as the sole breadwinner that they also saw suicide as the only way out. Their children were left orphaned.