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Odisha’s Next-Gen Organic Farmers

An initiative by Deshi Bihan Surakshya Manch where students in Odisha are being taught organic farming in schools. New agricultural techniques with the application of fertilizers and pesticides for food production have caused loss to small farmers and bio-diversity of crops. Unarguably, it is creating environmental pollution and causing health problems. To curb the negative impacts of fertilizers and pesticides, a lot of people are switching to organic farming. Deshi Bihan Surakshya Manch (DBSM) in Odisha initiated a project where students are being taught organic farming in schools. “We are here learning things related to agriculture. Use of pesticides has made our food poisonous. Here we learn how to prepare organic fertilizers and how to do organic farming. In our school campus, we have sown onion, beans, and other vegetables”, says Jiteshwari, a student of Karla High School, Sundargarh. DBSM aims to educate students about the importance of organic farming in home and kitchen gardening. Odisha Organic Farming Policy-2018 talks about promoting organic farming and provide a market for organic products. The government planned to develop necessary programmes and operational mechanisms for organic farming but very little has been done regarding this. This needs to be changed. Saroj, who is a Convernor of Deshi Bihan Surakshya Manch says, “In this project, we teach all the lessons in 10 theoretical classes and 10 practical classes. We also teach them about bio-diversity, seeds, the village, and agriculture, the negative effects of green revolution and the use of chemical fertilizers.” The project of organic farming is active in 10 schools across  Sambalpur, Bargarh, and Sundargarh. Apart from other educational awareness programmes in schools, showing students to embrace organic ways of farming is a comprehensive step taken by the school authorities. It not only ensures that the younger generation is not ambivalent about agriculture but it is also creating awareness. One of the intentions behind this project was also to teach students to do organic farming and utilise their own school, home or kitchen area.    Organically grown vegetables is also a salient component to enhance the nutrition of Mid-day Meals (MDM) in schools. “In this government MDM scheme, we use vegetables from the market. They get rotten the next day due to use of chemicals. It affects the health of our students. If we can cultivate organic vegetables here then our students will get to eat fresh vegetables”, says Motilal Bibhar, headmaster at Bhenjarajpur Ashram School, Bargarh. Deshi Bihan Surakshya Manch has emerged as a model for others to be replicated. With the idea of shunning and resisting the use of genetically modified products, they are striving to influence organic farming. Video by Community Correspondent Dasharathi Behera Article by Grace Jolliffe, a member of the VV editorial team
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