Farmers in India's Vidarbha region have started adopting organic farming techniques introduced by a Catholic diocese to overcome poverty. “We have been able to almost double our yield after applying the Church’s organic farming techniques,” said Gangaram Jhamarkar, one of the farmers who has benefited from the techniques. He said his soyabean production has doubled after applying these techniques. Jhamarkar is one of the 13 farmers trained at the Centre for Environmental Studies in Social Sector farm school in Amravati district in the region in Maharashtra state. The Amravati diocese started the farm school in June 2010 as a pilot project to help the farmers tide over their poverty following continuous crop failures in the region. The school is funded by Caritas India, the Indian bishops’ social action wing. Jhamarkar said that initially they were skeptical about the Church initiative but when explained about the techniques, “we decided to try them.” He said the farmers from nearby areas have started enquiring about the techniques after seeing the bumper crops. Social development officer Mukund Dehmukh said farmer clubs are formed to spread information about the techniques. Deshmukh said that seven such clubs have been made with 10-14 farmers in each club. The farmers are asked to spare a small piece land for applying these techniques on an experimental basis before cultivating on a large scale, he added. Father Jolly Puthenpura, who heads the diocesan social work department, said organic farming is effective, cheap and retains fertility of land. The Vidarbha region has seen the highest number of farmer suicides due to increasing debts and crop failures. A government estimate puts farmer suicides at 4,427 in the past decade, while social activists and Church people say the toll is three times more. IC13342.1641
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