Dec to april every year is the best growing season for this part of the world for apparent reasons – cooler weather and abundant water. Most lands are under cultivation with either paddy or groundnut or more recently water melons. With deficient rainfall over the last couple of years the area under cultivation had dropped.
Over the last six years we have noticed that there has been no addition into the agriculture labour force year on year. Young women from the rural areas are being employed in 'companies' in the SEZs and most young men either become drivers or go into catering. Quite understandably these are preferred over hard labour in the sun on the fields.
This year due to unprecedented rains, 100% of the area has been cropped uniformly post the monsoon thus increasing the requirement for farm labour. MGNREGA also was in full swing in order to fulfill the year's quota before the close of financial year. With relatively easy work and good pay under MGNREGA, more and more labour are choosing not to work in the fields (rightly so for why would anyone labour in the hard sun if not out of necessity). Unfortunately we chose this year to hand harvest our paddy and ended up doing most of the work ourselves due to lack of labour. We had to put in over 6 hours a day at a stretch for over 25 days to complete an acre and a half of paddy. It was a frustrating experience expecting promised labour to show up and continue working alone due to no-show. Tempers ran high and we thought people were delibrately giving our work a miss. But we noticed most fields in the neighbouring areas were being laboured on by lone woman or couple due to lack of helping hands. It pushed people to their edge what with Jan and Feb being quite hot!
This also happens to be the marathon season...
16000 runners – chennai marathon – jan 2016
40000 runners – mumbai marathon – jan 2016
4000 runners – auroville marathon – feb 2016
our village is roughly inbetween chennai and auroville....assuming everyone ran (expended work) for atleast 50 hours over two months including training, thats a whopping 20,000X50 = 10,00,000/5hrs = 200,000 person days - not to include all the gym times people put in. Imagine utlilising this level of energy for agriculture. Cannot see how this is not a win-win!
Wendell Berry's nails it in his essay titled 'Sanitation and the small farm',
“...physical exertion for any useful purpose is looked down upon; it is permissible to work hard for “sport” or “recreation”, but to make any practical use of the body is considered beneath dignity.”
and the man also said..'eating is an agricultural act'!