Crop planning boosts productivity and incomes of small and marginal farmersStory
By Chandrika Patnaik
13 March 2022
Marginal and small farmers in 48 villages learn and apply crop planning techniques to improve irrigation methods, fight pest attacks and practice mixed cropping.
External resource person shows how to select the soil to send to lab for testing.
Photograph by Narayan Sahu
When Krushna Chandra Bhuyan lost his entire harvest of 25-28 tons of tomatoes last year, he was in shock. A 34 year old marginal farmer from Raghunathpur village, he cultivates tomatoes on his 0.5 acre land during the winter season. “During the Rabi season last year in September, I cultivated only tomatoes hoping to harvest 25-28 tons over a three-month period.”
Krushna invested approximately ₹10,000 on input costs like buying , fertiliser, pesticide, field preparation, electricity costs for running a motor for irrigation, man-days spent looking after the plants,etc. He had hoped to earn ₹45,000 during this period after meeting the input cost as tomatoes are sold at a high price during the beginning of the season. In the past years, during the same time, he had sold tomatoes at the rate of Rs.25/kg in the wholesale market. But, unseasonal and heavy rainfall washed away more than half of his crop causing a huge loss.
Krushna could not earn a single rupee, “Heavy rainfall during October 2021 washed away more than sixty percent of my crops. I could only recover the input cost of ₹10,000 from the crop that survived. I needed the money badly during that time but could not earn even a rupee.”
In Raghunathpur, a small hamlet in the Rayagada block in Gajapati district, all 27 households are engaged in farming. Farmers here have small and marginal land holdings. They have been growing paddy in the monsoon season and vegetables like brinjal, tomato, green chilly, cucumber, sweet corn, groundnut during winter months. Even though farmers cultivate throughout the year, the yield and the subsequent income from the yields is abysmally low. A primary reason for this is the traditional method of cultivation, which exposes the crops to drought, erratic rainfall and pest attacks.
Adoption of best crop practices improves productivity and can contribute to greater yields with improved quality. Crop production depends on climate, natural resources, access to inputs, etc.
In December 2021, Gram Vikas conducted awareness sessions on agriculture, nutrition, water budgeting, organic farming, nursery raising, and composting with the community with the help of an agriculture specialist. During the sessions conducted in Raghunathpur, farmers from two Farmer Producer Groups (FPGs), Maa Thakurani Krusaka Utpadaka of Raghunathpur village and Anugraha Krusaka Utpadaka Goshti from Saura Kujasing village were present. In Gajapati district, farmers belonging to Raghunathpur, Saura Kujasing, Bikrampur, Nityananda Nagar, Nuagaon, Gudisahi villages were mobilised to form nine FPGs in the past five months. So far, crop planning has been conducted in ten villages. Traditionally, the selected villages have been practising mono cropping cultivation with rice as main crop, followed by some vegetables.
Krushna, a member of Maa Thakurani Krusaka Utpadaka Farmer Producer Group says attending this session made a lot of sense to him, “If a small farmer like me cultivates multiple crops on a single piece of land, even if there is inclement weather, crops which are comparatively more resilient will help salvage the situation. If one crop cannot survive an unfavourable climate condition, probably another crop growing on the same piece of land might survive. This time, I shall cultivate tomatoes ,radish and grow pumpkins as a border crop. This will minimise my loss to a great extent and will not be a total washout.”
Farmers, with the help of the agriculture specialist, prepared crop plans for Kharif and Rabi seasons. This was based on the previous year’s agriculture data and local weather conditions. The aim was to promote crop diversity.
Surendra Kumar Rout, 45, is a farmer from Bhutadihi village in Nayagarh district. He along with other members of Maa Bauti Farmer Producer Group attended the crop planning session in their village on 26 December 2021. Out of the five acres of land he owns, he uses three acres for paddy and two acres to grow sugarcane. He felt the learnings from the crop planning session will be even more beneficial if an agronomist guides the farmers individually based on the farmers’ land and soil structure, local climate conditions and water availability. “I would request an expert to visit my field and advise on crop varieties suitable for my field. There is heavy frost and pest attacks in this area. He can guide me to choose the right kind of crop. Getting advice from an expert at least for one season would help us to learn about crop varieties suitable for our land. For now, I intend to do multi-cropping on my land.”
“Monocropping involves a lot of risk. With erratic weather conditions these days, I am bound to incur heavy losses if I bank on one crop. At the end of the day, farmers too want to earn a decent income and prosper,” says Basanta Pradhan, 40, of Kantabania village from the Jai Jagannath Farmer Producer Group.
Through crop planning farmers are provided with low cost technical solutions to help them improve irrigation methods, fight pest attacks and practice mixed cropping. The initiative will cover 450 farmers in 38 villages in Gajapati and 643 farmers in 10 villages in Nayagarh district.
Farmer Krushna Chandra Bhuyan inspecting the tomato plants in his field.
Photograph by Narayan Sahu
Prasanta Kumar Nayak, Field Expert for Farm Livelihoods, Ramesh Naik and Narayan Sahu, Thematic Coordinators for Farm Livelihood, helped in data collection for the story. Ganesh Chakravarthi edited the story.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Chandrika Patnaik leads on content production within the Communications team.
Local youth as Vaccine Buddies convince rural communities to overcome vaccine hesitancy
Vaccine Buddies accelerate progress towards 100% COVID-19 vaccination coverage in remote rural Odisha.
Adivasi communities use Google Earth Pro to digitally map their villages
Young Adivasi women and men create a GIS-based village information system and a digital map of their villages