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In drought-prone Maharashtra, a farmer leaves his entire crop for birds

From The Better India: Ashok Sonule of Kolhapur has left his harvest-ready jowar crop remain on his land for birds to feed on. His logic is simple. “Birds and animals have suffered a lot this year, with lakes drying up and crops wilting. There are few fields in this area the birds can call home.”

Manabi Katoch, The Better India

Ashok Sonule and his family struggle every day to feed twelve mouths. But, whereas most farmers in the vicinity have barren fields, his are lush with jowar. And what does he do with it? Leaves the entire harvest to feed birds. He has not even installed a scarecrow and ensures the water bowl is always full for the thirsty birds. Read on.

According to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), Ministry of Home Affairs report, 5650 farmers committed suicide in 2014. One of the most prominent causes for farmer suicide was ‘failure of crops.’

From among these 5650 unfortunate farmers, 2568 farmers were from Maharashtra. The untimely rain followed by drought in this state was a major cause for this calamity.

In this situation, where farmers are dying because they cannot feed themselves and their families, can you imagine someone who leaves his entire crop in the field to feed birds?

Yes, birds! This farmer, instead of putting a scarecrow in his field, invites birds to feed on his crop yield.

Ashok Sonule is a farm labourer in Gadmudshingi village, which is about 15 kms from Kolhapur, Maharashtra. Both his sons, Prakash and Vilas, and brother Balu, also work as labourers on other’s farms in order to feed a family of twelve.

The family owns a small piece of barren land, just 0.25 acres, which has never earned them even one meal due to scarcity of water. The farms near this land too hardly yield any crops.

This year too, like he does every year, Sonule sowed seeds of jowar in his own land in the month of June. This year too, like in other years, he did not expect much to come of it. The severe drought in the months that followed convinced him that he was right – there would be hardly any crop to speak of. The neighboring farms too were going through the same crisis.

Imagine his surprise then, when within a few months the jowar crop grew, ripened and was ready to reap.

But, there was a babool tree in the middle of the farm and it was very difficult to work under this thorny tree.

Ashok decided to cut the tree but, just as he was getting ready to do so, he noticed that there were many birds nesting in the babool – they were totally dependent on his crops for food as the neighboring lands were still barren.

This made Ashok think. Why was it that only his farm was flourishing despite the drought and the neighbours’ were still without crops?

He looked at the birds chirping happily on his farm and wondered if the crop had been given to him to feed these hungry birds.

Ashok then decided to take care of these birds. He also noticed that the birds did not have any source of water nearby so he, along with his family, got small pails of water and placed them around the farm and under the tree.

“Ya pakranna suddha daana, paani ani rahayla jagaa hawi naa. Mee tyana asa kasa sodaycha?” (These birds also need food, water and shelter. How could I leave them alone?) says Ashok.

Ashok’s selfless actions soon caught the eye of a local newspaper reporter, Babasaheb Nirle of Lokmat Times (Kolhapur, Maharashtra edition), who wrote an article about him.

“I felt this was something very unique and kind that he was doing. Even a single bag full of jowar is a big thing for farmers like Sonule in this extremely drought affected area of Kolhapur. Giving away the entire field to the birds when he himself lives in a hand to mouth situation was beyond imagination. I thought this should be appreciated,” says Babasaheb.

When The Better India contacted Ashok Sonule, he was overwhelmed by the attention he was getting. He had never thought that his simple act of kindness would give him so much recognition. However Sonule agreed that he would do more towards the society and nature if he had the resources to do so! If his 0.25 acres land could have a better water system. If his family was able to survive the harsh reality of a farmer’s life.

We thank the local photographer, Mr. Deepak Gurav Kop, for immediately arranging pictures and videos for us. The villagers are excited to see the news and their pictures online.

VIEW: Original story with photographs on The Better India


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