Small scale and marginal farmers

Even though farmers contribute enormously to the agricultural development in Tamil Nadu, most of the small and marginal farmers in Tamil Nadu are facing insurmountable challenges: extreme inequalities in access to land and water resources, poor access to public irrigation and electricity grids, less availability of local production materials, limited access to modern agricultural practices, technological know-how and credit market. Moreover, they are confronted with unfavorable policies and support of government.

Development and sustainability of these farmers is crucial to poverty reduction in rural areas and also for ensuring food security in Tamil Nadu.

We therefore aim at enhancing the farmers’ capacities to claim their rights and to better exploit their opportunities through providing them relevant quality education and skilling-programs. Thus we contribute to enabling them to generate higher incomes for themselves and their families.

As per the latest census, 42 percent of workers in Tamil Nadu are engaged in agriculture. More than half of females (54.9%) and one of three men (35.3%) are working in this sector. A large number of them are low income farmers and workers and some are even below poverty line.

Nearly  80 percent of the farming families hold less than 2 acres of land. Due to small land holding most of them are restricted to use traditional agricultural techniques resulting in low productivity and small earnings from which their families can hardly make a living. Many farmers would therefore abandon their farms, migrate to cities and take up informal hard work, often living in some of the worst inhuman conditions. Moreover child labor and school dropouts are perpetuated.

Impact of our projects:

Our rural Salesian establishments aim to develop the rural poor with agro-based programs. Apart from orphanages, primary and higher secondary schools and hostels for boys and girls in most places, at Sagayathottam (52 km from Chennai) e.g., we also run an agricultural institute, which offers agricultural diploma courses for boys and girls. This campus has become an educational hub in rural Tamil Nadu catering to nearly 1700 students. For the agricultural diploma courses the students come from various districts in Tamil Nadu and most of them reside in two hostels. In order to provide higher quality education and skills for the agricultural sector a College of Agriculture, with B. Sc. Degree in agriculture, has been started recently.

Responding to the “back-to-nature” trend in today’s society and the growing interest of people in alternative medicine and health care and the increasing awareness of the medicinal and nutritional use of plant species, we have plans to start an organic herbal farm on a 250-acre plot. It is expected to be completed in the next two years in Sagayathottam.

   

It will serve as a demonstration, training and knowledge management facility for planting and cultivating Moringa, Neem, Amla, Lemon, Mango and Guava trees.

In the near future we plan to integrate facilities and know-how for processing and marketing of these agricultural products. Thereby we are aiming to

  • Strengthen farmers, women and youth (many of them school drop outs) in rural communities to sustainable management of natural resources
  • Establish a training ground for organic planting of fruit, vegetable of high nutritional value and economic value trees, using modern water irrigation techniques and organic, environmental friendly production methods.

  • Enable communities to claim for their rights with regard to sustainable access of public resources like water and energy and governmental support for agriculture.