When you feel you are stagnant, you look for transitions in life. Life is both challenging and interesting when we encounter or start looking for an alternative. Alternatives tempt you to take a detour and make a transition.
We look for alternatives that could include changing the job, profession or careers. We seek alternate lifestyles or the way we live.
But alternatives are not obvious – they need to be found – How do you “see” them is a million-dollar question.
You see alternatives when you learn about something interesting – or meet someone happier, someone more successful, and then you start thinking why not you? Well, your risk appetite may be low, or you may not very confident about yourself. You may have loads of constraints or you just have a problem of attitude or an inertia to change. Then you are averse to a transition.
Making a choice out of alternatives is however a difficult task. You cannot apply analytical techniques such as multi-criteria decision making to decide the preferred alternative! Can you? While the analytics is tempting because it attempts to convince you or otherwise – using some “rationale”, the urge for transition must come from within. It’s your gut and readiness for transition that counts. I have met people and I am sure you must have, who are passionate about making a change.
Remember that the process of transition can be challenging. The promises made by “gurus” regarding the transition or new way of living do not necessarily hold. The outcomes are often unknown and not easy to foresee. You repent when you find that the choice made was not right and the efforts made towards transition were just not worth.
Last week, I was in the district of Wai in Maharashtra for a project on organic farming. We were focusing on the organic fruits and vegetables and understanding how to build links between the farmers and the market.
We met few farmers who had done a transition to organic farming. Their experience was positive. The challenge was however about convincing the other farmers who either did not understand the benefits of organic farming and/or needed some mentoring and technical assistance. They were not sure about the market linkages and they were wondering who will buy their organic fruits and vegetables and whether they will get a premium price.
You may know that initially the productivity of organic farming is low and as the soil gains the right nutrient balance and gets rid of the toxic chemicals, the productivity rises gradually. Such a transition can take a period of three to five years. When the yields reach the same level of conventional farming (and in some cases they even surpass), the transition becomes profitable. This is because the “inputs” to farming (fertilizers and pesticides) are now reduced. You however need some patience, tenacity and perseverance.
The company I was working for had set up a collection center and the farmers who brought in organic fruits and vegetables enjoyed a purchase guarantee. In addition, they were promised a 20% premium. Further, the costs of the PGS organic “certification” were covered.
Participatory Guarantee System (PGS) is a locally focused quality assurance system. The system certifies producers based on active participation of stakeholders and are built on a foundation of trust, social networks and knowledge exchange. PGS initiatives are serving thousands of small organic farmers and their consumers all over the world, and the numbers are increasing every year. IFOAM – Organics International supports the development of PGS as an alternative and complementary tool to third-party certification within the organic sector and advocates for the recognition of PGS by governments. The policy recommendations of IFOAM – Organics International are available PGS Policy Brief.
The Company I was working for had employed agronomists to provide counseling services to the farmers at no cost to guide on how to make a transition to organic farming.
But still, there was a resistance to change as there were “failure stories” where the economics of organic farming was not favorable.
I met Mr Vikram Kadam on his 5-acre farm. Vikram, now 50 years old, initiated organic farming some 15 years ago under his father’s guidance. He followed further, experimented and expanded his organic produce. Kadam’s farm produced high quality strawberries and Brinjals
Kadam family replaced chemical fertilizer by a concoction made from cow’s urine, cow dung, butter milk, besan etc. The recipe is called as Jeevamrut. Jeevamrut is a liquid organic manure popularly used as means of organic farming. It is an excellent source of ‘natural carbon’, ‘biomass’, ‘Nitrogen’, ‘Phosphorous’ ‘Potassium’ and lot of other micro-nutrients required for the crops. Instead of pesticides, Kadams used another concoction made out of tulsi, garlic, ginger etc. The transition from chemical fertilizers and pesticides was done gradually and meticulously over four years.
I asked Vikram about the transition and the challenge of convincing other farmers. We concurred that Technology was not the issue. Market linkages were also possible and with assurance and good margins.
We then spoke about the role of women. It appeared that the transitions went smooth whenever women were involved and played a key role. It was the woman who was most concerned about the use of chemicals in farming and wanted to protect her own children to refrain from eating the contaminated food – as her first priority. Transition for a better business was not the driver for the woman unlike men.
Kadam narrated to me about his Group. He said that transitions work better when farmers work in groups. When in a Group, the farmers help each other to sail through the transition. In many ways the Group behaves like a PGS.
After some pause, Kadam mentioned that most members of his Group had some kind of “faith” – not necessarily religious but more spiritual. It was this faith that bonded them. This made me rather curious.
When asked, Vikram told me that his group members believed in adhyatma.
Adhyatma means concerning the atma, the supreme Spirit, own or belonging to self. It essentially means spirituality that leads to the realisation of one’s true nature. This is where you discover the purpose of living.
Vikram continued. He said that as a follower of adhyatma, the objective of transition of each Group member was to do good to the society and not just to make money. He added that those farmers who transitioned to organic farming with no patience, with only interest in making profits, failed. Getting closer to the nature with a respect was more important.
Vikram smiled as he summed up.
On my return journey, I thought that what Vikram said was perhaps not limited to transitioning from conventional to organic farming.
If we all understood the deeper meaning, then the world will be so different!
Transitioning towards sustainability then will no longer be a dream.
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