Punjab

Group Farming for Empowerment Using Convergence Method

Dilbag Singh | February 09, 2019 06:16 PM

NAKODAR: The Organic Agriculture is held at 40 acres of land at Sadivayal Village, Thondamuthur Block, and Coimbatore District, Tamil Nadu. The hamlet has a tribal population of rules community constitutes 44 households. In the absence of irrigation facilities, villagers primarily depend on rainfed agriculture and once in a year, they cultivate rice. However, as agriculture production is not sufficient for most of the families to sustain them through a year, villagers also resort to daily wage labour activities in nearby forest area, said a report posted on website,data.gov.in.

The report said that the main objective of Amrita Farmers Groups is to improve the livelihood of poor and marginal farmers by bringing them into groups by adopting innovative Agriculture Activities and to improve the overall security of farmers- food, social, health and safety. After various discussions with farmers groups, Amrita SeRVe(Amrita Self Reliance Village) team came to the conclusion that to enhance the income of farmers; group farming is the best method. The increase in their income could only be possible by group farming and all-around support from various line department using the convergence method and the project investment which can lead to sustainable livelihood enhancement.

Training to farmers, the input of fertilizer, seeds will leads to agriculture activities looking for economic independence and social empowerment. The convergence method is the need of the hour and highly recommended by Prime Minister of India.  On 09 May 2016, a resolution was passed at the village level where 20 such most deprived families of the village were selected to start group farming and started an bank account under Canara Bank Alandurai under the name of Amrita Vyavasayam  Kulu . Together they defined the responsibilities and formulated guidelines for internal management. The Amrita SeRVe team too focused approach to address of various needs of farmers. Starting with the activities like the selection of seed, soil testing, seed testing, crop planning, water budgeting & water conservation measures discussed with the group and helping to find solutions. Upon completion of the discussion, farmers began their activities on June 20th 2016.

“A new approach was taught by Amrita SeRVe ,” explains A. Rangaswami  a farmer from the small tribal village of Sadivayal in Tamil Nadu. “The result we all come together to start farming at 35 acres of land which is fallow land from last five years.

 .The group contributed their labour for land clearance, land development, land plotting, constructing water channel and fencing the area. Using convergence method the tractor for Primary-tillage and cage wheel is rented out from Pudhu Vaazhvu- farmer’s federation and seed is provided by TNAU and DST Project and the institution and capacity building program is supported by DST-Seeds.

The production and use of Bhavani rice has been on the decline over the last 10 years, however, it was once a staple food of the Sadivayail village as well as Tamil Nadu. The farmers suggested they prefer to grow Bhavani because of its taste, reasonable price and nutritional value. It is also in high demand among the Flattened rice (also called beaten rice) and Aval or Poha making industries. The potential for by-product sales also increases as its hay (or straw) are also in high demand among farmers and mushroom growers. With this, the initiative is also trying to bring about good health habits and generate a traditional seed bank for Bhavani rice.

 Honestly, we didn’t have a clue about Bhavani Rice,” says Mrs. Soraja, another local women farmer of the group. “In our childhood days we usually use Bhavani rice as subtle food but once hybrid rice introduces slowly our traditional variety vanish. We try to bring lost’ traditional rice varieties of Tamil Nadu origin.

Amrita Sadivayail  Vyavasaya Kulu (Amrita Sadivayail Farmers Club) purchased 590 Kg of rice from various sources using the convergence method (500 kg using DST-Seed and 90 Kg from Tamilnadu Agriculture university). For one acre land, we almost required 25 Kg and the seed was purchased at the rate of 30 Rs /Kg. Primary tillage is done by using tooth harrow(five tooth).  The land preparation is a tough job to handle because agriculture is done after the gap of five  years,  It is used to further loosen the previously ploughed land before sowing. It is also used to destroy weeds that germinate after ploughing. At the same time seeds are kept for 24 hours socked in Beeja Mridam for seed treatment which prevents and controls seed-, soil-, and air-borne diseases. Drain and dry the seed in the bag for 24 hrs in a shady area where air can circulate around the bags.  Secondary tillage using a cage wheel is used to prepare the wet land and final harrowing and levelling just before sowing. It provides the breaking of clouds and the mixing of crop residues. Then we prepared eight seed bed at different locations. Pre-germinated seeds are broadcast in the well-leveled seedbed. The seedbed is irrigated three days after sowing with water coming from the natural main stream from the top of the hill. Farmers applied Jeeva-mridam and Beeja-mridam at regular intervals.  Monitoring of the seedbed and regular visits are done to observe the occurrence of pests or diseases.

26 days old seedlings are transplanted to the prepared paddy. Random planting methods are used for transplantation where two to three seedlings are transplanted per hill. For one acres average 6 women worked for 1 ½ days. Different groups of women worked for 15 days to finish all 35 acres of land. Water in the paddies is maintained at 3−5 cm depth during most of the growing period. Farmers use hand-weeding method to remove weeding at regular interval of time. 140 days are required for harvesting out of which the farmers are applying organic fertilizer and pesticide for 110 days.  Direct control of weeds can be done through manual weeding by hand and starts between 20 -40 days after sowing. After 140 days the farmers harvested the paddy and sold it for 28 Rs/Kg. The total production in 35 acres comes around. 3.6120 tones( 36120 kg) . They sell the straw at the rate of 24.000 Rs per acres. So each farmer earned a profit between Rs 18822 per acres after all other expense.

Convergence and group farming

In convergence, since the farmers themselves save seed for the next cultivation, there is no necessity for buying the seed from an external source. They also use cow dung and urine from their cattle which is free of cost to make bio-fertilizers and bio-pest control. In addition to cow dung and urine, they need some fruits, jaggery, etc. which costs around Rs. 2000.00 for each. Since the material costs for purchasing inputs are reduced, there is no need for external transportation. For labour intensive work, labour is sourced from the farmers themselves who are working for their own land, thus the amount spend on labour is reduced. Even though work required is the same in both convergence and outsourcing, the rate for the work per person is reduced by half, and the total amount also nearly got reduced by half the outsourcing amount. The total amount spent on outsourcing calculates to Rs. 58,000.00, whereas convergence came in at Rs. 25,000.00, reflecting a saving of Rs. 33,000.00 by group farming.

Vallingiri explains. “that by doing organic we are able to increase our production twice and also free from money lender by paying  back the amount we got by farming.

The farmers group got confidence so that in 2017 farmers are ready to go for organic certification and they can improve the yield and bring back the traditional variety back. The yield is less because in the first year itself the farmers agreed to go for organic.

Amrita SeRVe aim to promote new practices where health and ecosystems are protected, and ensure food security in the villages in which they operates. This analysis shows that the role of Amrita SeRVe in promoting organic production, providing technical support and a secured market, is a motor element in influencing the farmers’ decision to convert to these new practices.

It is suggested the Government should support the organic farming industry by fixing a competitive price for the paddy produced by small & marginal farmers. A relatively larger initial investment is needed in organic farming thus the need for government support and cash back policy during the critical conversion from conventional to organic, is required.

Another area for consideration is a new system of capacity building and research which blends traditional methods with technology to reduce the yield gap between organic and conventional farms which remains high.

The responsibility of narrowing that gap of three year results to convert the farmers to organic farming needs the support of civil society at large. If the price of organic rice is higher and gets the proper support of civil society, society get the health and environment benefits. Information and technical knowledge sharing is required for this. The case study revealed the convergence method is one of the best methods we can adopt for the future for the sustainable growth of agriculture and bring income stability to marginalized communities.

The whole project is coordinated by Sreeni K.R , Program Manager Amrita Serve.

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