Women farmers adopt improved cultivation practices to increase yield and improve their incomesStory
By Chandrika Patnaik
1 April 2023
Gram Vikas promotes improved practices in paddy farming in Kilupada village to increase yield and enable the wellbeing of Adivasi communities.
Demonstration of seed treatment practice during the training.
Photograph by Debasis Sahoo
In Kandhamal district, the farming community of Adivasis lives in areas covered with forests and hills, such as in Kilupada village in the forest fringe of Kandhamal district’s Baliguda block. The farmers here grow small quantities of vegetables in their backyards for their daily consumption in the dry months while they harvest millets, paddy and pulses over five months, i.e., from October to February.
In many Adivasi communities, women are the primary caretakers of their land. They help sow and harvest crops and use the paddy harvested in the previous season as seeds to cultivate again. Farmers sow up to 22-24 kg of paddy seeds on an acre. About 50% of these seeds will potentially germinate.
Thirty-five households in Kilupada village received pipe water in their homes in 2015. Historically, residents of this village depend on agriculture and the forests surrounding the village for their livelihood. Most inhabitants are small and marginal farmers who own between 0.5 to 5 acres of land and practice traditional agriculture. They cultivate their land during the monsoon season as there need to be more irrigation facilities during the dry months. The cropping pattern follows a conventional approach. Crops like paddy, millets, leaves, legumes, tubers, vegetables, and pulses are raised throughout the cropping season and harvested from October to February.
Gram Vikas works primarily with marginal and smallholder farmers, promoting improved practices in farming to minimise input costs and improve crop productivity. Mapping of the farming community in Kilupada village revealed that farmers follow the cropping pattern, which is conventional in practice, with high input costs and low output.
The team organised a meeting in Kilupada and demonstrated methods to select and treat paddy seeds before sowing. During the meeting, the selected farmers were willing to follow the improved practices in at least 20% of their total operational landholding on a pilot basis. Significantly, women led the farming practices as they aspired to increase production to improve their income.
Rinanti Mallik, 25, a young farmer with 2.5 acres of land, cultivates mainly paddy and vegetables during the Kharif season. She takes all the decisions on farming. Her husband, Pradeep Mallik, 28, works on construction sites in nearby villages as a daily wager. Aspiring to improve food security for her family and earn better, she says, “My husband prefers off-farm work. I cultivate our land and want to improve my family’s food security and earn better. So I attended the training and learned that paddy seeds can reduce input costs and increase yield when treated before sowing. I hope if I adopt this practice, there will be enough paddy for an entire year for my family, and I hope I will also sell some to earn an income. That is why I decided to try the improved practice on my land.”
Though the farmers had been cultivating their land, they needed to learn how to deal with the challenges of farming, like pest attacks or steps to increase yield and take measures to lower input costs. During the demonstration training by Gram Vikas, they learned about the seed treatment practice before the sowing season began. The process increases production by two times.
Anjani Mallik, 45, a mother of six, was part of the training and demonstration for improved practices and applied them to a portion of her five-acre land. She cultivates her five-acre land during the rainy season with the help of her younger son Balakrishna, 16, to feed her entire family. During the dry months, she works daily wage so the family has enough to eat. Her eldest son works in Kerala and sends a little money to help his mother meet expenses at home and provide for the family.
Anjani looks forward to getting a better yield, “I have applied the steps they taught us during the training and demo for improved practices on one acre of my land. I usually sow up to 22-24 kg of paddy seeds yearly for an acre of land. With improved practices, I have used far less. I have sown only 10-12 kg of paddy seeds in an acre. All the seeds have germinated well and look healthy.”
Rinanti Mallik says every treated seed she sowed has grown into a plant. The plants look healthy, and she is optimistic about having a good harvest. Rinanti took up the learnings from the demonstration on a pilot basis on 0.2 acres of land. In January, she harvested paddy on her pilot plot. Usually, she can harvest 6.5 quintals of paddy in the 2.5 acres of land she owns using the traditional practice. But on her 0.25 acre of land that she used for the pilot, applying the improved techniques, she could harvest 1.6 quintals of paddy.
Farmers in Kilupada will potentially increase production by 30-50% by adopting the improved farming practice this season. With improved production, there will be an increase in the production of straw or rice residue, which is a precious commodity for the farmers who use it as feed fodder and mulching for various crops. Potters also use straws, and farmers exchange the paddy stalk for clay pots.
Rinanti is hopeful, “If I apply the improved practice this coming paddy season, on the entire 2.5 acres of land, I can easily harvest 12 quintals of paddy. I can use 50% of the harvest to meet my family’s needs and sell the remaining six quintals in the market for ₹12 per kg and earn ₹7200.”
Rinanti Mallik in her paddy field.
Photograph by Debasis Sahoo
Debasis Sahoo, a Thematic Coordinator in Farm Livelihoods, Ankit Kumar and Runal Toppo, Thematic Coordinators in Planning Monitoring Documentation and Communication, helped collect data for the story. Mark Lancy Sebastian edited the story.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Chandrika Patnaik leads content production within the Communications team in Gram Vikas.
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