Bringing hope during India’s worst ever drought

written by Anjula July 31, 2007


Indian Farmer

I recently had the pleasure of reading a truly inspiring story entitled, “Sowing Hope” about an amazing humanitarian named Joseph Curiale who is doing tremendous work in India. After having viewed a disturbing piece back in March on CNN about the thousands of South Indian farmers who have committed suicide because of a 7 year drought and their mounting debts, Los Angeles’ own, Joe Curiale, made the commitment to make a difference.

Due to the drought, more than 150,000 farmers have died countrywide and the numbers only continue to grow. As Joe mentions on his blog, with the desperate situation, many farmers feel that suicide is their only escape, leaving their young widows vulnerable to harassment from moneylenders, “…some of whom charge up to 450% interest (annually) and often demand partial repayment by raping the widows… An Indian film director had told me of one village where the moneylender would rape the women right in front of their husbands, further pushing them to suicide…”

Having now made several trips, Joe has been able to pay the debts of several widows and given hope to many more. With the support of compassionate and knowledgeable people, Joe has been able to step the aid up to the next level. With the aid of Asha, The Center for Sustainable Agriculture, The Prasad Eye Hospital, and experts in the field of micro-financing, Joe hopes to help transform the Indian village he first saw on CNN into a self-sustaining model of education, vocation, health, clean water, and organic farming, thereby reducing the high cost of pesticides both economically and to the health of the farm families.


People fetching water in Banda District (photo courtesy of

In the Jalaun district alone, over 24 farmers facing a similar situation have met this fate between January and July this year. An investigation on the part of ActionAid’s Hunger Monitoring project reveals that climate change, as well as oppression in Uttar Pradesh have combined to worsen hunger and deprivation amongst some of this populous state’s poorest citizens. The study, which involved in-depth discussions with residents of 13 villages in the region, shows that the second factor contributing to distress are oppressive social conditions.

The administration is failing to provide protection from moneylenders and landlords or sufficient support for livelihoods. Sudipta Kumar ActionAid’s regional manager for UP said the government response to the problems is far from adequate. “Addressing the farmer’s problem should be the top priority if Bundelkhand is to combat hunger and avoid further distress suicides,” he said. There is much to be done.

Want to learn how you can help to transform these precious lives from suicide to self-reliance? Read more about The Joseph Curiale Foundation and it’s efforts here.

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