Bt Cotton and the Farmer Livelihoods Crisis in the Vidarbha Region of Maharashtra (17587)
There are approximately 3.4 million farmers in the Vidarbha cotton belt of Maharashtra. Over the past ten years, cotton farmers in the region have been suffering from a severe livelihoods crisis leading to an alarming rate of suicide deaths. High yielding cotton varieties were introduced in Vidarbha in the 1970s during the Green Revolution in the hope of increasing yields. These varieties however led to mono-cropping and were highly dependent on an array of external inputs including pesticides, synthetic fertilisers and water. The introduced varieties were highly susceptible to American bollworm attack unlike the traditional (desi) varieties. Cultivation of high yielding varieties led to an environmental crisis with loss of biodiversity, severely depleted soils and importantly to decreased yields. Bt cotton was introduced in Vidarbha by the Government in 2002 as a technological solution to the problems of the Green Revolution. The Gene Revolution was successful to some extent in controlling the American bollworm. However it led to a plethora of other environmental and social problems further compounding the agrarian crisis in the region. Ninety five per cent of farmers in this rain-fed region are highly indebted and many have lost their land. Using a political economy approach, the aim of this study is explore the cotton crisis in Vidarbha using a food regimes framework. It is argued that solutions to the crisis need to be holistic and they need put farmers at the centre of decision making. The work of a local NGO, YUVA, will be analysed in this regard. Data for this study was collected through in-depth semi-structured interviews with a range of key informants in Nagpur and Wardha in February 2013.