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Harnessing Green Gold: Farmer Finds a Ray of Hope in Bamboo in Drought-Hit Latur

Bamboo nowadays is becoming more valuable for farmers and the economy as well, that’s why it is called ‘Green Gold.’

Shivam Dwivedi
Farmer Shantanu from drought-hit Latur district of Maharashtra
Farmer Shantanu from drought-hit Latur district of Maharashtra

Latur is one of the largest cities of the Marathwada region in Maharashtra. It not only lies in the rain shadow region but also experiences declining monsoon rains due to climate change, thus making acute water shortage a catastrophe for the agrarian communities. Latur, Marathwada has always been in the news because of the severe situation of farmers and its water conditions. In 2016, Latur had got water by train. Recent reports also warn other districts in Marathwada and parts of North Maharashtra such as Beed, Osmanabad, Jalna, Jalgaon, Aurangabad, Nanded, and Dhule as vulnerable. "In my land, soil used to get washed out because of the flow of water and this is top healthy soil which is so important for the growth of my vegetables. I have 10 acres of land and I belong to the drought-hit Latur district. Even a slight saving in water helps us farmers a lot," says Shantanu, a farmer from the region.

Often referred to as the ‘Green Gold’, Bamboo is a strong and versatile material. They have a low water requirement and reduce evaporation from the land surface making it ideal for draught-prone areas. So far, The Art of Living has trained 22 lakh farmers in India who now are armed with this ancient wisdom of reviving and reclaiming their agricultural lands from the clutches of MNC-sold fertilizers, genetically modified seeds, and pesticides. Even in drought-hit areas, farmers who have adopted natural farming techniques are self-sustainable.

“We collected bamboo seeds wherever we used to travel. Right now, we have 1.5 lakh bamboo saplings ready to plant and the plantation will begin this July. These bamboo trees, if planted on the borders, will help as windbreakers and save other crops of the farmers. It is a farmer's bodyguard, shares Mahadev Gomare, The Art of Living project lead.”

In 2018-19, the government launched the National Bamboo Mission to facilitate the holistic development of the bamboo value chain while NITI Aayog is working on a comprehensive policy to maximize the benefits of bamboo. ‘Government will have a lot of attention now to bring policies around bamboo and so much can be done out of it. See the beautiful Bangalore airport made out of Bamboo,' shares Mahadev Gomare, Art of Living project lead.

Mahadev Gomare, The Art of Living project lead along with a farmer in Latur
Mahadev Gomare, The Art of Living project lead along with a farmer in Latur

He further goes on to add, ' Even for the farmers Bamboo is very precious as it can be harvested every year and farmers can make money every year out of it.’ There are already 400 farmers reaping the benefits of bamboo cultivation in and around Latur area.

Mahadev Gomare's mission not only stops at distributing the saplings and encourages farmers to plant. He wants to start a skill development centre where youths and farmers learn to make bi-products from bamboo and aims to employ thousands through these and contribute to their better livelihood.

'It is very important that more people grow bamboo as it prevents soil erosion and helps with water conservation. The roots of the bamboo absorb water and store it which helps farmers for agriculture when less water is available. Bamboo compared to any other plant gives you 30% more oxygen and intake more carbon dioxide. In the times where our metro cities are facing water shortage, that time is not far when we will see reverse migration. People will start moving to villages as there will be no water. It's very important for farmers especially to conserve water through farming', shares Mahadev Gomare.  Recently, according to FPJ news, Pasha Patel, Agriculture panel chief also said, ' Bamboo Can Help Fight Climate Change, Provide Livelihood to Farmers'

River Rejuvenation Project -The Art of Living
River Rejuvenation Project -The Art of Living

“I have seen increase of water levels in the borewell since I have planted bamboo. I have 500 trees in my 10 acres land and this will give me additional income every year once fully grown. So I save water, I save my soil and I make more money. It’s a gold plant for farmers like me,” says Shantanu, one of the farmers benefiting from the project.

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