An informative post on farmer suicides in India by Rida Bilgrami on the do no harm blog, which features writings by students in Development Studies at the London School of Economics:
“From Punjab to Andhra Pradesh, more than 250,000 farmers in rural India have committed suicide over the past decade. (This reported figure is said to be an underestimate since it doesn’t take into account women farmers, dalits and adivasis and tenant farmers who do not have land registered in their names). The suicides are situated within a perfect storm of crises with ecological, economic and social dimensions. The proximate cause of the suicides is rural poverty and extreme indebtedness but behind this lies a complex interaction of systemic factors, which have led to the current state of affairs. Many attribute the origins of India’s agrarian crisis to the economically and environmentally unsustainable practices of the Green Revolution that achieved relative success in boosting yield in certain crops but neglected to take into account issues such as land distribution and the long-term economic costs of an input-intensive agriculture model.”
In her posts, Rida asks whether this question is specific to India. I know this is not common among cotton producers in Mali, who my coauthors and I are studying with the objective of potentially providing them with crop insurance in the near future.
Still, those suicides vividly illustrate the plausibility of the “safety first” hypothesis put forth by Scott in his classic book The Moral Economy of the Peasant, the first chapter of which I assign as a reading when discussing agricultural households in my development seminar.
For the foodies who read this blog (and I know there are more than a few of you), Rida also writes a foodie blog called Food Across Borders.