Small Scale Farming As A Form Of Protest
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Farmers have always been at the heart of every society. They grow cash crops people can buy, and process into food. For thousands of years, farmers have practiced crop rotation and intercropping as a way to maintain soil fertility, reduce weed competition and use available space more efficiently. 

In most countries, large farms with industrial systems have replaced small-scale family operations. These industrial farms rely on chemical fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides. They produce huge harvests in short time periods while being capital intensive to operate. The result is monoculture, which is extremely susceptible to pests, diseases and turbulent weather. The totality of these factors imply that large-scale farming methods are not sustainable in the long term. They struggle to feed the world’s growing population consistently, and are destroying rural communities with pollution, noise, dust, and chemical leaching. They also make it harder for small scale farmers to continue operating.

Beyond the physical challenges of scaling up operations, there’s another reason small farms are posing a challenge. It is much more difficult to reach new customers and build a sustainable business when operating on a smaller scale. Enter the middleman. Large corporations have been involved in the agriculture sector since the dawn of industrialization. These corporations are primarily concerned with profit, and have long been accused of undercutting farmers in order to meet their goals. A variety of methods have been employed for this purpose over time, from straight up underpaying farmers, to hoarding raw material, using cold storage units to artificially control prices, and even outright buying farmland and leasing it out to prospective farmers. It doesn't help that most smallholder farmers are not highly educated. In the event that they are, only a little over 30% of them get past a high school degree, which limits their ability to understand industry jargon and trends that make up the fine print on the contracts that they are served. 

There have been several instances throughout history where farmers felt that they were treated unfairly by corporations, and/or bureaucracies. The farmers have almost always unequivocally responded to these situations with protests, often on an unprecedented scale, with people from all walks of life joining in, as the outcome would indubitably affect society as a whole. Protests are held to address a variety of factors affecting farmers: bulk pricing, emission regulations, pesticide and fertilizer regulations et al. 

In India, nearly 70% of the population depends directly, or indirectly, on agriculture. Farmers in the country have long struggled to keep up with demand, with conditions remaining largely unfavorable for most. A host of problems plague the farmers, a large number of which resonate with those faced by smallholder farmers in other countries. India, however, has an unique and interesting history with regard to its agriculture. Indians have known this practice since 9000 BCE, and it has remained the primary employer for the majority of the country's population. However, the farmers’ welfare declined over time, largely during colonial rule, and during the country's focus on industrialization that followed shortly after. Most farming techniques and tools employed were primitive compared to those used in other industries, especially those that processed their products. Farmers resorted to taking out huge loans as a means of addressing such problems. That, however, proved to be a rather short sighted move, as a variety of circumstances that were outside their control laid waste to their plans, and left them with crippling debt. The mounting debt led to the start of a dark period for Indian farmers, the repercussions of which continue to be felt to this day. Many farmers resorted to suicide when they could not pay off their debts, with 2004 seeing a record high of 18,241 farmer suicides.

A lot of parties were blamed for the tragic situation, but the one that drew the attention of the Indian public to the pitfalls of leaving farming in the hands of large corporations was the Monsanto fiasco. Monsanto was an American agrochemical and agricultural biotechnology corporation. Monsanto had introduced a genetically modified cotton variety, named Bt cotton (Bacillus thuringiensis), to the global market in 2002. The variant was unofficially introduced in India by Navbharat Seeds in 2001. Bt cotton was made so to be pest resistant and was believed to thereby exponentially boost yield. This, however, did not turn out to be true, as it accounted for just one of the many problems that affected the plant's yield. Bt seeds cost almost twice as much as ordinary ones, which led to farmers taking out loans from moneylenders with interest rates as high as 60%. When the harvests were not up to par, most farmers had no way to repay the loans, which in combinations with other stressors, led most of them to commit suicide. Monsanto became the immediate scapegoat. The company managed to survive the fallout, only to be bashed by climate rights activists and non GMO advocates for well over a decade, before being bought out by Bayer in 2016. The Monsanto incident highlighted the challenges faced by small scale farmers in India, after which they have received increased institutional and administrative support.