India’s soil health is in a state of crisis. Its fertility is declining and pollution is widespread, mainly due to overuse of pesticides and fertilisers. This could have a huge impact on agricultural productivity, food security, climate change and, ultimately, human health. Mitti Bole, or Soil Speaks, is a project launched by Earthworm Foundation’s India office to support farmers nurture India’s soils back to health.
Our work on soils first began in 2011 with Sheesham farmers. To date, our team has engaged over 2,000 farmers in Haryana and Punjab. Officially launched in 2018, Mitti Bole aims to amplify this impact through collaborations with local and international soil experts, government bodies, NGOs, businesses and more, with the ultimate aim of supporting thousands of Indian farmers undertake soil-friendly agriculture on their farms.
Earthworm Foundation’s India team is working with farmers to develop agroforestry systems on their farms. It is a central aspect of the project as agroforestry has been shown to play a strong role in improving overall soil quality and health as it can enhance the level of carbon in organic soil and its nutrient availability.
Farmer training and awareness raising
Another key aspect of Mitti Bole is training farmers to undertake natural farming and regenerative agriculture. This can vary depending on each farmer’s situation but is mainly focused on: improving techniques for responsible soil management; putting in place good agricultural practices; integrating water management and carbon sequestration/management into farming practices.
Reducing pesticide and fertiliser dependence
Farmers in India are often highly dependent on both pesticides and fertilisers to grow their crops. Over time this can diminish soil’s fertility. Mitti Bole is working with farmers to develop alternative means and encourage the use of organic fertilisers, allowing farmers to grow their crops while also maintaining the soil’s overall health.
Mitti Bole is collaborating with renowned soil experts such as Lydia and Claude Bourguignon, ‘the soil doctors’, Bharat Bhusan, India’s organic farming pioneer, other organisations and agricultural research institutes to develop solutions.
Mitti Bole is encouraging farmers to use the dung, urine and milk of local breeds of cow as a means of chemical-free farming. The majority of farmers do know how to prepare natural fertilisers in this way, so the team is also providing training. This not only helps maintain soil health, but can also increase farmers' incomes by allowing them to sell chemical-free milk or milk products from local cow breeds.
The Mitti Bole team are in discussions to develop a mobile application that would connect farmers directly with consumers. This would remove middlemen from the supply chain and allow farmers to get a premium price for their chemical-free produce.
Information on seed banks
The Mitti Bole team is developing a seed bank of different varieties of indigenous cotton seeds. This is necessary for the production of chemical-free cotton. In the future seeds from other crops, such as wheat and rice, will be added to the seed bank.