Farmer's Share: Towards Dignified Rural Livelihoods

Farmer’s Share in Shoranur, Kerala, is a space where highly inventive experiments on food, clothing, pottery and architecture happen, and dignified rural livelihoods are facilitated. Ambrose, who piloted Farmer’s Share, is a Gandhian and his actions and activities revolve around the idea of Gram Swaraj. He started off working as a mason after completing 10th standard, and later got involved in the Gandhian study circles in Ernakulam, thereby absorbing the philosophy into his life. He later ran an organic food hotel in Ernakulam and then an organic store in Bangalore. When the organic store business became too big and it conflicted with his values, he gave off his share to his business partner and returned to Kerala.

Farmer’s Share was thus established in 2017 by taking a 10 acre land on lease, with the intention of being a permaculture and crafts learning centre, where their lives and products evolve in tune and pace with the rest of nature.

Farmer’s Share, Shoranur (Photo by Ashik Krishnan)

The Premise

One of the proposals of ‘Gram Swaraj’ by M. K. Gandhi is that every locality should stay strong in multiple aspects, including that of governance, production and distribution of its resources. It is evident from the 74 years since India’s independence and counting, that centralisation of these different aspects cannot function without some forms of injustice or exploitation. People in the lowest rung of the society, the marginalised, continue to be subjugated in democracy. Labour rights are violated and the rest of nature is exploited in the case of centralised, mass production and distribution systems. The answer to all these forms of injustices is that the models of society remain small, such that they can govern themselves, attain swaraj.

Our relationship with the rest of nature will then not be about extraction and control, but of mindful consumption and regeneration. Small-scale production systems will be developed that would address the fundamental needs of humans in these small societies. Humans would then be able to meet their needs in a convivial and just manner and we would have a least violent and least corrupt society. It is this comprehensive dream of Gram Swaraj that Farmer’s Share works towards.

Exhibit of pottery, hand-woven clothes and value-added products (Photo by Ashik Krishnan)

Food and farming

The first priority in the actions and activities of Farmer’s Share is given to food and farming. Ensuring a dignified livelihood for the farmers, a fair price for their produce and enabling least wastage of resources are focused upon. “We have a limited understanding, a skewed intellectual understanding, that food is required for sustenance. We don't really recognise that it is a fundamental need and those who produce it must be appreciated,” says Ambrose.

If we consider our fundamental needs of food, clothing and shelter, they are all directly related to the soil. Therefore it is imperative that our vision for progress should be one which integrates this understanding. While the education system has the power to integrate this understanding in the society and its people, what we have today is a system where learning happens out of economic interest. We tend to believe that our needs will be met if we