The image of Indian Agriculture has become rather stereotypical – the poor, thin, debt ridden farmer begging the skies for rain, the suicidal Vidarbha farmer or the rich sugar baron / zamindar. Older people in the village complain that the younger generation is now least interested in tilling the land. They all would rather go in for a city / government job. The future of India as a predominantly agrarian society is no longer such a surety, given the uncertainty of the ‘field’. GM foods, subsidised chemical fertilisers, water logging and salination of soils, madly fluctuating market prices of agricultural produce, grain rotting in godowns, a poor public distribution system are the other side of a now strongly critiqued Green Revolution. While all this and its variants exist, there is more.
So, here is bringing you some good news from the Agricultural Sector, for a change:
System of Crop Intensification (SCI)
Following the successful implementation of System of Rice Intensification (SRI) – a method of cultivating rice using scientific but sustainable methods – WOTR has gone on to introduce this modified method for other crops too. Crops like maize, vegetables, groundnut, sunflower etc. are productively grown by this method, called System of Crop Intensification (SCI). This is a move to promote low external inputs, increase land productivity, use of indigenous seeds, and reduce cost of cultivation. It involves promotion of agricultural demonstration plots, vermi-compost pits, training farmers on better practices of transplantation, crop geometry (spaced planting), soil and manure preparation, correct tillage operations, seed treatment, better sowing methods etc.
Farmer Field Schools (FFS)
Under its PPCP (Public Private
Community Participation) initiative, in May 2011, with the help of the Agriculture Department, WOTR started Farmer Field Schools to guide farmers mainly for their cotton crop, from the very first stage onward, right from preparing the land for sowing to harvesting the crop, sometimes even the marketing of their produce.
The farmers also responded whole heartedly and their genuine participation. They not only followed all the instructions diligently but also developed an insatiable appetite for more and more information. Like schoolchildren learning the alphabet, they assembled every week to learn the basics of agriculture, have doubts resolved and even brought insects and pests from their fields to the ‘classroom’ to discuss whether it was beneficial or harmful to the crop and suitable action for it.
FFS is an effort toward bringing new technological advances in organic and sustainable agricultural practices to the grassroots. It aims at achieving maximum yield at the least cost to farmers, while also keeping in mind the long term sustainability of their lands.
Through FFS, the community has been able to increase the productivity of their agricultural land, significantly reduce their expenditure on chemical fertilizers and increase income from agriculture. A key aspect of FFS is a move towards informed sustainability- stressing on organic fertilisers and soil health after soil testing with use of appropriate soil nutrients.
The uniqueness of FFS is its integrated nature, combining private funds, technical expertise from government and universities and NGO facilitation. The technical support is given by the Government Agriculture Departments at District and Taluka levels. The programme is facilitated by WOTR. Activities like Capacity building, community awareness and mobilisation and management are funded by ITC Ltd. Resource persons and experts from places like Krishi Vigyan Kendra, Kharpudi, Jalna (KVK) and Badnapur University Agriculture Research Centre, also lend their valuable inputs.
Also, this is now an effective platform which farmers can use to avail information about relevant schemes and also for the overall development of their villages. FFS also has a very strong social impact by being open to all levels of farmers and bringing them together as a group with common concerns. The farmers have now realised the potential of coming together as a group.
The Village Development Committee has been given the reins of running an unusual bank – Agricultural Equipment banks.
The Agri-Equipment bank has all farm implements – weeders, howers, sprinklers, sprayers, threshers etc. These can be rented by the farmers at pre decided rates on first come, first serve basis. This ensures that even small, poor farmers get access to equipment which otherwise they would never afford to buy. This money from this goes back into a common maintenance fund to repair and replenish the stock.
We at WOTR look toward dynamising the field of Agriculture and making it truly viable and sustainable in today’s day for farmers in all our project areas. This might seem an impossible dream but well, to quote John Lennon, “You may say we are dreamers, but we are not the only ones…”