Coffee farmer, Birdalli Village, Sakleshpur Taluk, Hassan District, Karanataka State, India
“I am the owner of one hectare of coffee and one hectare of wetland. I am blessed with two girls & one boy.
My father and grandfather were traditional coffee farmers. The upward trend in prices was only a bubble which burst in no time. I had borrowed money just before the coffee crisis to improve on the water systems. A decade back our farm was in pristine condition and we could live comfortably. And then all of a sudden (2000-2004) nature itself had turned against us. Past few years the climatic changes what we had witnessed have never ever been witnessed in our father’s time. New races of pest and disease incidence have destroyed our farm. The elders in the village have experienced drought but never something like a combination of floods, cold waves, drought, etc. In spite of carrying out the timely operations, the level of pest and disease incidence is increasing alarmingly. Last year I had to up root more than half of the coffee plants because of the pest problem. I had no other alternatives left, hence to repay the loans I started cutting trees to make way for growing ginger inside the farm because it is a cash crop but that too failed.
Today it is more of a materialistic world. Hidden costs are heavy, bureaucracy is high and infrastructure to the village level is in doldrums. So it takes a big effort and expenses for drinking water supply and daily activities. Medical costs are very high and we cannot afford to go to a good doctor.
Wages have shot up because labor is scarce, productivity of labor is low, people and labor are migrating to urban towns, Un-skilled workers are all the time flooding coffee farms because of drought in their respective home towns and the skilled and loyal labor that we had over the years have gone to seek greener pastures. The family spirit is broken, crime rates are high, and family peace is lost. We are facing a lot of mental disturbance and wondering if we have committed a sin by investing in our farms. Our forefathers had only one advice and that was asking us to plough back money on the land and that it would always provide in times of difficulties. Today Mother Nature itself has deserted us.
In the past 10 years we have seen first hand the entry of Industrialists into the coffee farming sector (e.g. Tata Coffee) in our area 6 out of 10 traditional planters have sold their coffee farms and have migrated to urban areas. Our confidence is broken and big people are asking us to sell our sacred land for a song. The naxalite problem is increasing by the day and very soon it will reach our door step. At the other end of the spectrum the world preaches that farmers should follow eco-friendly practices, but we get nothing in return, in spite of growing coffee under shade.
My humble request with folded hands is to request the global community to give us a decent price for shade grown coffee.”
Credit: Thanks to Dr. Anand T Pereira and Geeta N Pereira for conducting this interview exclusively at the request of ThinkQuest Team 01639. The interview has been reprinted as provided and has not been edited or altered.