A field of rice, almost ready for the harvest makes a lovely backdrop for the macro of a flower that I didn’t recognize. It had been planted along the border of the field, so I suppose it must be an useful plant: either a vegetable or an easy-to-grow spice. Farming is hard, and land is hardly ever wasted. You would think that the wisdom of the market would price our most important commodities, food, high enough to give farmers a living. But it seems that we are willing to pay much more for a device on which to view insta photos or tiktok videos than we are for a month’s food.
This year I’ve followed the main growing cycle of rice in India: the kharif crop, planted during the monsoon and harvested in November. Around Vaitarna lake I saw tractors and oxen plowing fields, whole families engaged in flooding them, before planting and transplanting the seedlings. It is a labour-intensive job which is open to chance. There are years when an unseasonal rain can destroy the ripening crop, or its lack wither the seedlings before they grow. In this region at the edge of Tadoba, there are dangers from pests, the many birds which I spotted around the field, insects, mold, diseases, even wild boars. Although each family owns its own piece of land, families collaborate on the larger projects around the farms: plowing, ensuring deliveries, safety.
I watched the old farmer walk through the field, inspecting it closely, making sure that there is no last minute disease that sweeps through the fields, estimating the day on which the crop would have to be harvested. This is the most productive crop, but he would have to raise at least one more crops in the year to make a living. By December there would have to be a second planting. This land was close enough to a dam for a third crop to be grown in summer. The life of a farmer is hard, and money makes it harder. No family can subsist entirely on farming. Every family in the village has one or two members working in a big city to supplement the income. More than half of the country’s population is engaged in the primary production of food, but this is responsible for only a fifth of the GDP. There is clearly an imbalance here.