We conducted a field visit and survey of the farmers of Jhajjar, Haryana to study the changes in agriculture and cropping pattern and assess the food habits of people over a period of 50 years, in association with Tejaswini Foundation – NRS.
The study gave us useful insights on the cropping pattern and food habits over the years and also taught us how the traditional cropping and food consumption patterns along with traditional recipes were beneficial for our health, but have gone into oblivion and abandoned by us in the present times.
Target Group and Methodology
A total of 106 farmers were interviewed, out of which 50 were women and 56 were men. Interviews were conducted in groups and individually.
The questionnaire for women farmers’ individual survey focused on gaining knowledge about the seasonal local produce and its health benefits. The local food recipes these people consumed in the past years before/after pregnancy, on special occasions and festivals, and for elders or infants were of immense benefit to their health.
The male farmers were enquired about their famous/native crops over the period of 50 years. The current state of agriculture and the challenges faced were discussed and they were encouraged to share anything they liked to about prevalent farming practices.
Changing agriculture and cropping practices: The results that we obtained from this study were interesting. There has been a lot of change in their social behaviour as well, in reference to their attitude towards agriculture, as under:
- People have shifted to cash crops like paddy and wheat over Bajra (Pearl Millet), Jowar (Sorghum) because it brings in more income
- Use of fertilizers and pesticides has increased to increase the produce artificially in order to make more money
- Younger generation is moving towards services and does not prefer to work on farms; younger women don’t like working in the fields because they are educated
The changes in the cropping pattern can be summarized in the table below. The Reasons: The farmers shared with us the reasons why the production of the crops has undergone a change.
- The increase in salty water level has led to less Chana (chickpea) production.
- Since they have Neher (canal) water and from borewells, there is less dependency on rains. Thus the ease of irrigation has facilitated increased rice production.
- The shift from sugarcane has happened because of it being an annual crop and also due to the low prices they were getting for it.
- Social and community pressure to earn higher income
The consequences – changes in cropping patterns: The consequences of the changes in cropping pattern are more towards the negative side:
- Productivity has gone up. Water usage has increased. However, soil fertility has gone down.
- Desi Bajra was delicious before but now even though the Bajra production has increased, the taste has deteriorated. The farmers have shifted to hybrids for increased yields.
- There has been the increase in water and air pollution which has affected the crops.
- More water-borne and mosquitoes’ diseases have increased because of paddy cultivation as water is stagnated for longer durations.
The consequences – changes in food consumption patterns: The food habits of the people of Jhajjar has altered and the traditional recipes have become forgotten in most of the households.
- People eat more wheat than bajra now as compared to old times
- Chana recipes use to be popular earlier now people rarely eat chana
- Earlier people ate gud (jaggery) at home but now people consume sugar
The repercussions of the current food habits are that people now have health issues like joint pain, obesity, low haemoglobin, sugar/ cholesterol problems and blood pressure woes.