The impact of the coronavirus pandemic in rural, last-mile environments in India continues to affect poor and unserved communities, especially as the number of infections rise in the outskirts of major cities across the country. It was reported earlier this week that the death toll had hit 50, 000 people, situating India as the world’s third highest country affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The socio-economic consequences will be hard-hitting for years to come, meaning sustainable ways of living in rural parts of the country must be developed in the coming months. Populations living in poverty will be the most vulnerable to the crisis, due to an already poor infrastructure and political system that prevents many from accessing the resources and knowledge that would facilitate greater social mobility.
Yet the numbers recorded thus far may not even cover the true extent of the situation. In an Al Jazeera article published earlier this week, it was reported that, according to experts, “deaths often are not properly recorded in India’s chronically underfunded health system.” This suggests that the figure recorded is in fact higher, largely due to an inefficient government under the direction of Prime Minister, Narendra Modi.
In order to facilitate a socio-economic recovery in the agriculture sector, Modi has cited the increase in fertiliser demand and the sowing of monsoon crops in rural parts of the country as evidence of high rural activity. This emphasis on agricultural activity intends to function as an alternative to India’s falling exports and manufacturing industries located in cities due to the pandemic. However, Modi’s emphasis on high fertiliser demand fails to consider the long-term and detrimental environmental repercussions on the land that prevents sustainable ways of living in rural parts of the country. The overuse of chemical fertilisers and pesticides on the land erodes the soil and increases pest and climate risks.
Fortunately, The Sophia Akash Foundation has been facilitating mission-aligned social enterprises and NGOs working on the ground in the country during the COVID-19 pandemic. Smallholder farmers have been provided with climate resilient greenhouses to grow crops that ensure a reliable income and food security for populations living in precarious environments. This approach also resolves the overuse of chemical fertilisers and pesticides usually employed in agricultural practices, to then instil sustainable ways of living. This is particularly important for future generations where the onset of climate change will further exacerbate the situation for smallholder farmers, in rural India.
Farmers grow seven times more crops per acre and possess greater resources for farming under unstable climate conditions, which conveys the long-term improvements these greenhouses have provided for populations in India. Policy analyst, David Rieff, aptly expresses the connection between hunger and poverty as being inseparable. Therefore, social enterprises facilitated by the Sophia Akash Foundation provide farmers with. skills and knowledge to alleviate themselves out of poverty. Additionally, Rieff cites the global food price crisis in 2007-2008 as having occurred partially due to a failure in tackling climate change. Thus, building more greenhouses in last-mile environments would prevent another crisis from emerging in the near future.
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