Subsistence farming: managing on two harvests a year

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Photo credit: Goverdhan Meena, January 3rd 2009

We have two harvests a year. One near Deepawali (Oct/Nov) and one near
Holi (March). This one is our expensive one, I've planted wheat,
mustard and horsegram.

Wheat
take 5 parts of water compared  to 2 parts for mustard and only one
part for the lentils. The cost of running the diesel engine to irrigate
my land from the pump has been rising and rising due to the cost of
diesel. I have to run this pump, just for my land alone for 36 hours a
month and it can cost upto Rs 100 an hour.

We look to feed
ourselves first before we sell anything. I keep sacks of wheat in the
house, I'm educating a son in college (in a town 50km away) and a
daughter in high school with my aunt (in another village). See here, my
son has come home because he needs flour for his daily bread and also
fees – I will sell a sack now for some cash. We plan our year around
the two harvests. Of course, only He knows if the harvest will be good,
whether the rains will come and if insects get into the fields but this
year it seems it will be a good harvest. We plan marriages and other
big expenses around the harvest. Those are the only times of the year
we have the money. The rest of the time we simply manage, if an
emergency arises, I'll take a loan and let the monthly interest accrue
until the next harvest.

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Why are you educating your daughter?  What is your thinking how book learning will help her as a farmer's wife?

See
here, my mother and wife are illiterate. You see how they are unable to
even communicate with you, I have some book learning so I can talk to
you in proper language (Hindi, rather than the local Rajasthani
dialect). They cannot go anywhere alone, they are unable to make out
even what the signs say at the train station or bus stop. Education
means that my daughter will not always need someone there with her, she
will be able to understand and make her own way, understand the
medicines the children might need and so many other things. Times are
changing, the young men are not farmers anymore. I don't want my son to
be a farmer like me, no, I will never sell this land, it has been in
our family for generations, but it can always be sharecropped. He is
studying Commerce, a bachelor's degree, it will make him eligible for
good jobs. We will look for a literate wife for him, so in turn, my
daughter too should be educated, no?

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Yes, we have a mobile phone, so does my son. We can stay in touch.
Incoming calls are free and I just fill airtime when I have an
important call to make or there is some reason, otherwise it just stays
at it is. Its made a difference, we can stay in touch with our
community and the village, before sometimes months would pass before
news of a death or birth would reach us.

No,
there are no profits to be made as a farmer. I am self sufficient, I
can feed and clothe and educate my family but there is little left over
once all the seeds, the fertilizers, the diesel and all have been
bought. We do actually have another harvest, the one near Deepawali,
which we call the "free one" – we grow various grains that don't
require as much water or fuel or fertilizer and are easier to grow and
sell. Those profits are the little extra cash we make each year. This
upcoming harvest with the wheat and the mustard, its our investment
harvest, it costs a lot but the wheat is our staple and our savings. It
is our "gold".

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