In solidarity with farmers

In solidarity with farmers


In solidarity with farmers

Farmers First Trust, based in Puttur, Dakshina Kannada, is an organisation formed by practising farmers, and has been working for the cause of the farming community for the last 3 decades. One of its major contribution to the farmers and journalism as such is the publication of Adike Patrike, a unique farm magazine. The magazine is popular not just in Karnataka and Kasaragod, the bordering district of Kerala, but also has a sizeable readership abroad, thanks to the Internet.

The genesis of the magazine in 1988 throws some light on its name. The 1980s witnessed a crash in areca nut prices. The All India Areca Growers’ Association (AIAGA) took up several activities to boost the morale of the beleaguered areca nut grower. One of them was to bring out a bulletin called areca news. The response to the bulletin was so encouraging that AIAGA decided to launch a full-fledged farm magazine and thus Adike Patrike was born. The aptly named Farmers First Trust has been looking after the magazine’s administration since then.

Ethics in place
From the beginning, the team at Adike Patrike has been very clear about its core principles — no advertisements from chemical fertiliser companies, carrying articles only on methods that have been tested on farms and encouraging processes that can be replicated. But would not this stance on chemical pesticides affect revenues? “The magazine is not a commercial one and our thrust is on non-chemical farming. Our revenues come from the sale of the magazine and other advertisements,” points out Shree Padre, the magazine’s executive editor.

“We have always strived to maintain our credibility. A farmer relies on the information provided here to initiate or change a practice. So we take care to verify all the facts. We may under report a yield but we never exaggerate. This is also one of the many reasons why we have constantly encouraged farmers to write. If a farmer reads about another farmer’s struggles and triumphs, there is a human touch. This can be highly motivating,” he says.

To achieve this purpose, Farmers First Trust through Adike Patrike launched a series of workshops called ‘Krishikara Kaige Lekhani’ (pen to farmers’ hands) programme. This initiative has trained several farmers in the techniques of journalistic writing. When Adike Patrike was started, many media pundits predicted its early demise. Some suggested a quarterly or bi-monthly publication. But the committee members were convinced that there was enough farming information to justify a monthly. It has not missed a single issue for 28 long years, thanks to its team of dedicated writers for whom the magazine is a labour of love.

“In the early 1990s, the issue of soil and water conservation consumed me. There were projects by the government, yes, but I pondered over what an individual could do.” Shree Padre wrote to the concerned departments and went actively searching for success stories. Soon stories were flooding. The series ‘Nela Jala Ulisalu Nooru Vidhi’ ran for 8 years and was later brought out in a book form. This information inspired many to take up rainwater harvesting. Raghavendra Hegde of Onikeri in Uttara Kannada has experienced the benefits of rainwater harvesting first hand. “During the meagre rain fall period of early 2000s, my friends and I were discussing ways to prevent water run-off. Adopting methods given in the book, we dug trenches in elevated areas. Slowly the village wells began to fill up.”

Jackfruit has also been the focus of the magazine for long. In spite of the many advantages it has as a crop and food, the humble fruit is considered messy and not given a prime position in a farmer’s scheme of things. Adike Patrike wants to change this and has succeeded to a great extent. In fact, it has anchored a movement to popularise the many uses of this neglected fruit. Former forest officer Gabriel Veigas of Tenkamijaru village, Moodbidri was so impressed by the information provided in Adike Patrike that he has cultivated 500 jackfruit trees in his farm. “The return on investment is very high compared with other crops like coconut. Jackfruit tree is resistant to pests and droughts. Having learnt the scientific way of cultivating, I have tried to popularise it among other farmers.”

Adike Patrike’s objective is to propagate need-based journalism. It provides a platform for the farmers to share their experiences, information. The articles in the magazine don’t come from labs but from the fields and homes of agrarian communities. Sripathi Bhat of Targod, Sirsi, has a long association with the magazine. “We had kaadu baale (a banana variety) in our farm and plucking the fruit was a herculean task. The roots of the plant would also spread everywhere making it difficult to clear. Simple techniques given in Adike Patrike to pluck the banana and also to take out the roots have saved me considerable amount of money.”

Value addition of farm produce is one more area that Adike Patrike successfully advocated. Subrahmanya Bhat of Devarakolli, Madikeri, couldn’t agree more. His wife Vasanthalakshmi learnt the recipe for tender coconut jelly from the magazine and the Bhats started selling it. It has become quite a hit and fetches them a good profit. Concludes Shree Padre, who with his team at Adike Patrike is on a mission to empower farmers. “There will always be crises in agriculture. We want to give farmers tools to survive and even thrive.”

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