Making Agriculture Productive
86 percent farmers in the region are small and marginal farmers. The crops predominantly cultivated in the region are cotton, castor and pigeon pea. Farmers were not organised in collectives to leverage the strength of numbers. Traditional methods of farming, unproductive practices, misgivings about new methods or alternative crops and lack of exposure to scientific best practices impeded the development of agriculture as a promising source of livelihood. The younger generation shied away from their farms and preferred factory jobs over farming.
Aatapi strove to understand traditional farming practices and crop patterns in the context of local soil and water conditions in the initial phase of its intervention. It worked with farmers to consolidate their traditional practices, created linkages that equipped them to access their rights, entitlements and, low interest micro and bank finances and strove to increase availability of water for irrigation.
Aatapi acquainted and motivated farmers to adapt new techniques and technologies and facilitated their access to knowledge by facilitating interaction with experts, institutions and fellow farmers to enhance the productivity of agriculture. Structured technical trainings by experts, regular meetings, exposure visits, cross learning and adaption of scientific farming techniques enabled men and women farmers to decrease input costs and boost productivity. This positively impacted their standing as farmers and the wellbeing of their families.
Aatapi initiated a partnership with the Coastal Salinity Prevention Cell (CSPC) and gained strategic insight on salinity resistant agriculture practices to retract the impact of salinity ingress in the area. Injudicious use of chemical fertilisers had resulted in degradation of soil health. Aatapi re-introduced traditional practices of composting and vermicompost. These correctional methods enabled farmers to improve soil health. Many farmers benefited from aligning farm practices in accordance with the soil and water testing report.
Crop production increased by 20 percent and input costs decreased by 30 percent; 850 farmers benefited. More than 50 percent increase in income, 112 farmers benefited.
Farmers were encouraged to switch to unconventional and smart methods like drip irrigation, furrow method and inter cropping. Sustainable practices like borewell recharge structures, farm bunding and other appropriate methods of soil and water conservation had significant impact on increasing income from agriculture.
The Vivekanand Farmer’s Sangathan
F Farmers P Producer O Organization
Aatapi realised the need to create local synergies to combat market forces, effectively access resources and transform agriculture from a liability to an asset. Aatapi empowered men and women farmers to help themselves, built their capacities, catalysed the formation of a farmer’s group – the Vivekanand Farmer’s Sangathan, a Farmers Producer Organisation, FPO, to leverage the power of collective strength and prepared them to lead and manage the community organisation. The creation of a Tool Bank of farm machinery and equipment managed by the FPO enabled small and marginal farmers, especially women farmers to tap the advantage of modern technology, reduce drudgery and enhance productivity.
More than 1500 farmers have benefited – increased yields and decreased costs, by adapting this package of best practices.