The high farmer suicide rate in India is perhaps one of the most alarming observations to be made in the country over the past few years.
A study made between 1997 and 2006 showed that an average of 16,000 farmers committed suicide every year, that makes for every 7th suicide in the country. Since 2001, the national number of those working in agriculture has fallen by 7% in the past decade. This is 9 million fewer farmers countrywide.
A census taken in 2011 found that India’s farmer suicide rate was a frightening 47% higher than for the rest of the population (i.e. non-farmers).
The five states that have the highest suicide rates are Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. It is notable that four out of five of these states are in the cotton belt – the price of cotton being a twelfth of what it was 3 decades ago. Rubbing salt into the wound it seems the government stopped subsidies for cotton in 2007 – from whence the suicide numbers have shot up.
Poverty and debt are the culprit, as well as almost definitely climate change. Indian farmers rely on the yearly monsoon season for water, but if there is a drought, entire crops are ruined. This is after having spent large amounts of money on fertilizers and seeds.
Despite India’s best efforts, the suicide statistics only seem to be rising.
So what can be done?
We need to change the way we farm. A sustainable farming method that doesn’t rely on a guaranteed water supply, and that can offer fast (and long lasting) results.
The answer is aquaponics. Once the initial set-up costs have been covered, a farmer can reap huge financial rewards. In an aquaponic system, fruit and vegetables grow in roughly half the time and in a fraction of the space, so a farmer doesn’t need huge areas of land to make a living. Only 10% of the water is needed compared with traditional farming methods, and ‘exotic’ fruits and vegetables.
Aquaponics in India will soon be offering consultancy services. Please get in touch for more information.