A farmer’s son from Telangana is fighting against the agrarian crisis and farmers’ suicides by spreading food literacy. Know more about his work.
Despite being educated and qualified for a well-paid job in the corporate sector, Lingala Naresh Reddy of Telangana chose farming and decided to address the problems related to climate change and agrarian crisis in India.
He dreams of a country where people are proud to be farmers who preserve Mother Nature and feed the nation. He is using food as a medium for social change and his goal is to make it universally accessible and affordable.
His parents, relatives and many other farmers in the village advised me to stay away from farming and choose another profession. They (like all other families engaged in farming) did not want him to become a farmer.
“No parent would want their child to be a victim of the never-ending agrarian crisis and to kill himself in the race of feeding the rest of the world. Fortunately, my father didn’t commit suicide, but we too have come across the challenges, which forced other farmers to commit suicide.”
Unsustainable farming practices pulled Telangana farmers into debts that lead to suicides. The never-ending agrarian crisis and farmers’ suicides have painted farming in a negative light and has led to a sudden rise in urban migration. The massive farm dropouts, declining food production and growing population is pressing the need for a crisis management plan for the future.
Solving the agrarian crisis through food literacy
In working towards these goals, Lingala Naresh Reddy founded ‘tharunam’, a non-governmental organization that is working on a mission ‘to use food as a medium for social change and make it universally accessible and affordable’.
They have been working on a project called ‘National Food Literacy Mission’ to empower at least every school in India to adopt Food Literacy skills as a part of their schooling curriculum by 2030.
While sharing an old memory about the beginning of this project, he said, “People laughed at us when we named the project as ‘National Food Literacy Mission’ but our team is confident enough to spread the idea of food literacy across the nation because there is enough relevance.”
His understanding of ‘Food Literacy’ is that it is the ability to produce one’s own food while understanding its impacts on health, environment and sustainable economy.
Adopting a healthier habit
“Imagine a day, when we all start eating healthy food. There will be increased scope for natural farming practices and diversified crop patterns. Natural farming practices are cost-effective, climate-resilient and healthy living for farmers and consumers. So, indirectly bunch of food choices is cutting down the financial burden on farmers,” he said.
Reddy shares that if you are growing coriander or green leafy vegetables worth Rs. 5 in your home, then in your lifetime, approximately you can save Rs. 30,000 to 40,000 for yourself.
“What if 1.4 billion Indians did the same thing? Awesome, right? So there is a clear economic impact. If you start growing your own food, you decentralize food network; reducing carbon emission, and converting carbon into vegetation, so environmental impact is also clearly visible,” he explained.
Multiple level interventions are required to make farming more sustainable. As an organization, their reach is limited. But, in their network, they are promoting ecologically feasible and economically viable crops like millets and agroforestry models.
Millets need very less water as compared to other grains and we can grow along with oilseeds crops. Agroforestry is the replica of natural forest where the organisation takes advantage of crop companion principles based on sunlight and water availability.
We are busy in the process of feeding machines in the form of adopting internet of things but forgetting about our food choices.
The biggest challenge, according to him, is to make people and policymakers aware of agricultural and food crisis. He believes that there are two misconceptions about climate change: first, not many people think that it is real and second, some people think it’s irreversible.
Reddy found clarity of thoughts and the right direction when he joined kanthari, an institute of social change, in Kerala. The course not just helped him to handle the various challenges, but also gave focus and skills to sustain the organisation.
Reddy is using ‘tharunam’ as a platform to establish that climate change is a very personal phenomenon and one day we will realize that we can’t eat our infrastructure, we need our meals and he believes that the same plate can be the solution to climate change.
“Whatever we have on our plate, reflects in our planet’s landscapes,” he says.
“If we eat diversified food then there will be diversified crops in our farms and this is how we can maintain a balanced food chain; and convert carbon into vegetation. So we should all eat healthy, and be a food literate,” he concluded.
If you are passionate about creating a social change, you can apply for kanthari’s unique program for the 2020 batch. Click here for more details.
If you like our grassroots journalism and would like to help us in bringing out more such stories of change, please support us here.