Tamil Nadu, India – The southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu has been reeling under its worst drought in more than 100 years.
It has plunged the state into an agrarian crisis, with reports of distressed farmers committing suicide.
In the coastal town of Vedaranyam, facing the Bay of Bengal sea, however, some farmers have overcome the drought with simple but innovative practices.
Farmers in this important coastal agricultural region in Nagapattinam district have gone back to traditional crops and farming methods to fight the lack of irrigation water as well as soil salinity.
The salinity has increased as sea water has intruded over the years.
The Centre for Indian Knowledge Systems, an NGO in the district, has been giving technical support to farmers for more than two decades, helping them to switch from chemical to organic farming.
It has supplied drought-resistant, traditional crops that consume less water and helped farmers to build ponds to store rain water.
This year, farmers using chemical fertilisers lost their crops completely.
Traditional crops, which once ruled this agricultural landscape, faded with the onset of the green revolution – the boost in crop production after the application of hybrid seeds and chemical fertilisers in the 1970s.
Today, farmers are going back to traditional crops such as coconuts, vegetables and pulses, with rising consumer demand for such produce in India .
The traditional crops have medicinal value, are well-suited to the local soil conditions and can survive drought.
In Vedaranyam, where cases of farmers committing suicide have been reported, traditional organic farming offers a ray of hope in the fight against crop failure.