A farmer intrinsically trusts the land, says 'Timbaktu' : A national-award winning film on an organic farming movement in Andhra Pradesh

This beautifully shot film narrates the history of Timbaktu in Ananatapur District, and through it also describes the impact of the Green Revolution on the land.

'Timbaktu' describes the motivation, efforts and results of the Timbaktu collective started in the 1980s by Mary and Bablu Ganguly.  Just as important, it narrates the story of a couple with a dream, and how they made it come true. Mary and Bablu come across as an intensely likeable pair who are passionate about the land they live  in and the people they share it with. This perhaps, is the true charm of this award-winning film- Timbaktu won the National Award (2012) for the best Environmental film.

Watch a trailer of the film below:

Allowing the land to recover:

This film begins with a silent enumeration of the various chemicals used in conventional agriculture and their impact on health. Bablu Ganguly speaks of the early days when he and Mary moved to the drought-prone Anantapur District for a 'mad, mad experiment'. Their first attempt in planting trees on their 32 acres taught them the importance of soil moisture and of feeding the land.

The film describes the situation in Anantapur with its rocky soil and low rainfall.Ganguly takes the viewer to the watershed and explains the water conservation measures implemented.This has led to the growth of trees and an rise in the water table from 60 to 18 feet below the ground.He also explains the process of improving the quality of the soil, and how natural growth occurs when the natural systems are respected and allowed to recover.Today, the lessons learnt from the first 32 acres are helping regenerate 7000 acres through the Timbaktu Collective.

Organic agriculture:

Ganguly further explains the concepts and philosophy of organic agriculture, which looks more at nurturing the land than at exploiting it. He explains the destructive impact of mono-cropping and how this leads to dependence on chemical inputs. Ultimately, even increased doses of chemical fertilisers fail to compensate for a well-nourished soil. This leads to crop failure and ultimately to despairing farmers. In the last decade, nearly 700 farmers in anantapur committed suicide.

Seeds as a gift, not a commodity:

The importance of seeds to a farmer is succintly explained as God's gift to the farmer. The film then talks of farmer-owned seed supplies and the growing control over seeds by a handful of large families. This  not only affects the consumers choice of food, but also the farmers' ability to purchase and plant food. Ganguly speaks of the concept of whole food versus processed foods. This is linked to the diversity of  the food we grow and ultimately consume.
Farmers speak of the training conducted in organic farming by Timbaktu. This includes crop planning, identifying pests,  and making pesticides. They also speak of the viability of organic farming as opposed to conventional chemical-based farming.

A question of trust:

Ganguly states that organic 'certification' is only needed when the consumer does not trust the farmer. The consumer needs to recognise the trustworthiness of farmers instead of placing blind faith in the certification of large corporate giants. The Dharani society was formed to provide a larger market for the organic crops grown. Farmers speak of the the many benefits that they get from belonging to this society. Ganguly argues convincingly that instead of conventional farmers receiving subsidies for applying chemicals, organic farmer need to receive incentives for safeguarding their soils. This will offset some of the costs that organic farmers bear because their product is by definition more perishable than the products that are preserved using chemicals.
Mary and Bablu speak of what Timbaktu and the process of establishing it, of working with the land, means to them

Learn more about the Timbaktu Collective:

The Collective's home page

Where the earth meets the sky: an article in The Better India

Timbaktu Organic: Products procured and marketed by Dharani




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