Helping Farmers: Augmenting Farmers’ Income Through Hemp Cultivation

The Backdrop

The state of Uttarakhand experienced remarkable economic growth during 2001-2011. A lop-sided one, though. The development of the state has mostly been concentrated in the plains region of the state.

The hill districts remained almost entirely outside the scope of the state’s development. The result has been an alarming exodus of people from the hills of Uttarakhand, leaving behind uninhabited villages and untilled cultivable land.

The Impact of Farming Families Moving Out of Uttarakhand

Migration patterns

As per the 2011 Census of India, the hill districts of Uttarakhand already had 1034 ghost villages. Their inhabitants have permanently moved out. By the end of 2017, the number of uninhabited villages increased to 1768.

An average of 138 people migrate from the hilly villages of Uttarakhand every day, 33 of them never to return. That amounts to 12,045 people a year, permanently leaving their already sparsely populated villages.

The Impact

The effects are many and far-reaching, extending well beyond the borders of Uttarakhand. Beyond India, as well.

  • Families permanently leaving their villages mean cultivable land remains untilled, slowly turning into fallows, and then into wastelands.
  • Even seasonal migration affects cultivation in Uttarakhand since most people capable of engaging in productive labor go out in search of income. Only the elderly and young children stay back. There is little scope for farming to continue.
  • According to official data from 2017, Uttarakhand has 317,000 hectares of the culturable wasteland. That means arable land that has either never been cultivated or left untilled for longer than five years.

This constitutes 5.29% of the total cultivable land in the state.

  • There are 86,000 hectares of fallows, constituting 1.44% of arable land in the state. These are stretches of cultivable land not tilled for 1+ – 5 years. There is an additional 57,000 hectares of current fallow, i.e. arable land not tilled for up to 12 months.
  • The natural ecosystem of the Indian Himalayan Region (IHR) is dynamic and fragile. The traditional farming patterns constitute a core element of preserving that ecosystem.

Farmland abandonment adversely affects that delicate ecosystem. Natural plant succession suffers, with invasive plants turning uncultivated land into wastelands. That is a loss of the natural biodiversity of the region.

The process also affects carbon sequestration levels in the hilly regions and contributes to global warming and climate change.

  • Traditional patterns of farming and irrigation are lost along with generational wisdom about organic farming.

How We Are Helping Farmers

Hemp grows wild in Uttarakhand. It is part of the state’s natural vegetation. We have introduced commercial hemp cultivation following a cluster development approach. The results are:

  • Hemp can grow in the barren land. We are helping farmers get together to cultivate hemp commercially in the barren land.
  • We are providing training to farmers to enrich their traditional wisdom of organic farming with modern knowledge of commercial production.
  • We are involving the women from farming families in hemp-focused agro-industries.
  • We are enabling farming families to gain marketing knowledge and connect their families to the global hemp market.

Through this comprehensive economic regeneration program, we are helping farming families of the hilly districts of Uttarakhand to remain in their villages and still earn a decent living.