Training Tomorrow’s Peasant Movement Leaders

“We often hear this phrase ‘born leaders’- and this makes us feel like only some people are destined for it. After this course, I feel that leadership is something that can be developed, and initiatives taken by anyone who has the will. I will try to start a farmers group in my area”

Course participant

Leadership and political action is the theme of the ongoing course at Amritabhoomi. Samvada is helping to carry out this program titled “Leadership development for Agriculture Revival”. The first module was from 10-14 April 2017. While earlier courses focused on farming methods and marketing, this one emphasized the socio-political aspects of farming and how to develop political processes. Along with working on our lands, how can we politically engage with farmer’s issues to create local impact? This was the question facing the twenty odd youngsters who gathered for this program at Amritabhoomi.  

Santosh Koulagi addressed the question “Why is there a need for leadership in agriculture?”. Participants found his talk very motivating. Santosh spoke about plurality in leadership roles- and how one can choose to initiate change in any of these aspects of agriculture- environmental, economic, or political. Participants reflected on how they could position their own interests and abilities within this framework, and in which area they would focus on developing their leadership skills.  

K P Suresh spoke about various financial and governmental institutions and how their policies and actions shape the decisions of farmers. He addressed questions of farm credit, loans, co-operative banks, the role of NGOs and that of private players in the agriculture sector. Mahesh spoke about various government schemes and how to work with state bureaucracy. Vineet took this discussion to the global scale and introduced to the group basic issues around WTO agreements, GATT, and the role of IMF. Discussions centered around how the structure of subsidies and tariffs shaped international markets and directly influenced the incomes of farmers in India. 

This naturally led to discussions around the politics of globalization, and the nexus between the political establishment and global corporate power, with inputs from Doddipalya Narasimha Murty. Chandrashekar Bale shared his experiences in organizing farmers movements and mobilizing farmers on political issues. This was followed by discussions of the M S Swaminathan committee report, and Bale explained how the implementation of its recommendations could address the agrarian crisis. 

The course also touched upon knowledge politics- how colonization and imperialism have undermined indigenous knowledge systems of peasant communities. These discussions led to a critical evaluation and comparison of different models of agriculture- “indigenous” methods (decentralised, community-based knowledge) vis a vis “scientific” methods (centralized, institution-based knowledge). Sampath shared some of his experiences of working with adivasi communities and the role that indigenous knowledge plays in shaping local ecologies and livelihoods. 

The final day concluded with participants sharing their ideas for what practical actions they can and plan to initiate. The group was a very diverse, ranging from people who were working with farmers movements for some years, to people who were exposed to agrarian politics for the first time.

This course is first of a three part module that will ensue over the coming months. 

by- Akhilesh, with inputs from Mahesh Deshpande, edits- Ashlesha