Think of a village. What images hit your mind?

Sprawling green stretches of growing crops, fresh air, clean water and off course laborious, well-built children, women and men farmers working in their fields. Nowadays, a different set of images also occupies our imagination-space; parched fields, pest infested plants and distraught faces of debt-ridden farmers.

With this mix I first entered the village of Kedia, situated in a far flung remote district of Bihar, Jamui. Around two years back when we first met Kedia farmers, we could feel the pain, frustration and a desperate determination to come out of the trap laid by the chemicals, corporate seeds, failing crops, systemic corruption and changing weather conditions. I went there with an impression that I would need to spell out the causes of their problems as I thought I knew the answers.

05 December 2015

The village of Kedia in Bihar. Credits: Shiv Kumar Singh


 When we asked, they articulated the real causes of their distress in such a manner that I chose to restrict myself from uttering a single word of wisdom as there was a Ganga of knowledge flowing from hundreds of years of experience. 78-year-old Anachh Da said, “When I was young there were so many varieties of butterflies, ladybirds, birds and reptiles. When we used to plough our land, so many birds used to follow us to feed on several kinds of insects and microorganisms living in the soil. Now our soil is almost dead. There are no earthworms, centipedes or other insects which used to help our soil breathe, convert the organic wastes into food for the soil and help our crops grow healthily.

Lakshmi Guruji continued, “The chemical fertiliser potash was introduced to us in late sixties. Even small doses of it worked wonders in the first few years. Then there was a lull in the production so we approached the government officers. They directed us to increase the quantity of the fertiliser. They also asked us to buy some new chemical fertilisers. We did so… and keep doing so. Now the production is going down, pest attacks are rampant. We have no option but to spray heavy doses of chemical pesticides. Gradually, even these costly chemicals are unable to control the infections and pest attacks.”

Balram Tanti took the baton: “These chemicals kill everything without making distinction between good and bad insects. Our agriculture cannot survive without the help of animals, birds and insects – even those we cannot see from our eyes. We want all our friends back. We feel so lonely when we are in our fields. Can you help us in bringing our family members back?”

His throat was choking, so was mine. We stayed silent for quite some time. The chirping of birds and sound of playing children were filling the vacuum. But the silence was so loud that it was thumping my chest. That was the moment we took the pledge to bring back our friends, our family members to our soil, our fields, our village.

05 December 2015

Biogas plant with vermi-compost beds in Kedia. Credits: Shiv Kumar Singh


The Bihar Living Soils Model Village of ecological agriculture started there in April 2014. Kedia farmers are making vermi-composts, Amrit pani, Jeevamrit, Amrit Khad and many other eco-fertilisers and pest management solutions. They are using light traps, planting different flower plants and trees to enhance the bio-diversity and most importantly, they have completely stopped using any kind of chemical pesticides.

 In Kedia, we are happy for so many reasons! One among those is that in this year of severe drought we are harvesting our paddy, without any significant loss. And this happened because our soil had enough biomass to retain moisture in it and almost no chemical agents were there in the soil to disturb the interplay between the soulful players. 

05 December 2015

The come back! Credits: Shiv Kumar Singh


Also our friends, our family members are coming back to our fields, our village. Earthworms, after more than 20 years, helped piling fresh nutrition-filled soils around paddy stems this year. Crabs and many other arthropods have started showing up. The ramp is ready for the great show as varieties of butterflies and ladybirds have once again put on their shiny robes in Kedia!

Ishteyaque is a campaigner with Greenpeace India