Indian farmer suicides continue over debt and poor rainfall

Caveat emptor, Africa: Nearly every day, Indian newspapers report more farmer suicides in Andhra Pradesh, an Indian state of 80 million people where 70% of the population depends on agriculture and where small farmers are increasingly in debt. "More than 17,500 farmers a year killed themselves between 2002 and 2006…At least 160,000 farmers have committed suicide since 1997," reports the Associated Press. Drought in the region has brought yields down, and caused debt to rise — farmers turn increasingly to high-interest loans to buy "fertilizer, irrigation equipment and increasingly expensive high-tech seeds" (fun fact: Monsanto intends to raise its prices on GMO seeds by as much as 42% next year, reports Bloomberg). The debts that Andhra Pradesh farmers are killing themselves in shame over — often, in a macabre twist, by drinking the very insecticides they're in debt for buying — seem ridiculously low, from $300 to $1,200. But for families earning less than $2 a day, they're a death sentence.  (San Francisco Chronicle)

Pie-in-the-sky, Saturday-morning Ethicurean musing: Wouldn't it be great if some nice forward-thinking foundation had a couple million bucks to pay off these inconsequential debts and help small, developing-country farmers kick the cycle of high-input biotech agriculture in favor of sustainable, compost- and push/pull-based methods like these?

2 Responsesto “Indian farmer suicides continue over debt and poor rainfall”

  1. Anastasia says:

    This is a sad situation, and we only do these farmers and their families a disservice when we misdirect blame. Credit problems in India have been around long before the biotech industry appeared. There's a big problem with counterfeit seed that is purported to be high yielding hybrids with or without biotech traits that are actually nothing of the sort. Drought can't be blamed on biotech either.

    There are a lot of problems and a lot of potential solutions. Moving away from mono-cultures and chemicals is certainly key. Biotech is also a solution, if it can be used to establish traits like insect resistance and drought tolerance within locally adapted varieties of crops (but that, of course, requires better regulation and penalization for counterfeiters). Another solution is agricultural extension and education - armies of agronomists working with farmers to apply technology, new and old, to solve particular problems on each plot of land. That's my pie-in-the-sky.

  2. Uma says:

    Coming from a farmer family in India, i strongly believe that the only reason behind any problem in India is curruption. Curruption every where, all the time.