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Sustainable Agriculture and Livelihoods


Sustainable Agriculture and Livelihoods

Agriculture is the prime occupation of 80% of the State’s rural workforce and thus it contributes substantially to their annual income. Any socio-economic development programme for the community bereft of agricultural development may not sustain. SACAL believes that agriculture can only be sustainable when it is not dependent on external inputs, such as seeds, chemical fertilisers, pesticides and herbicides. It’s a fact that 85% of farmers in the State are small and marginal land holders and nearly 90% of the net sown area practise rain-fed agriculture. Neither can they afford burgeoning cost of food production nor can bear crop failure incidences due to vagaries of nature or from any other results. Rather it should depend on locally available and cost-effective inputs and able to produce healthy, nutritious, geographic specific and culturally approved food. Thus, securing food production is as much important as minimising the cost of production is.

As agriculture plays a pivotal role in our ecosystem, farming can only be sustainable when it does not adversely affect our environment and ecology. In recent years, some parts of the State or other get hit by some type of calamity or other in different magnitude, which badly impacts our crop production, lives and livelihoods. Since a major chunk our farmlands are owned by small and marginal farmers, they suffer the maximum burden. Such climate change induced calamities are likely to affect the globe in the coming days.

Therefore, it is high time that a risk free, cost effective and less external dependent farming culture be adopted so that the small and marginal farmers who occupy less than 2 acres of land could secure their croplands. There comes the need to promote organic farming– a farming culture that requires less irrigation, no chemical fertiliser, no pesticides, and no herbicides and thus ensures a secured food production. It is environment friendly, suitable to our ecosystem, produces healthy, nutritious and region specific food suitable to the local climate. Under this premise, SACAL expedites organic farming culture in its operational villages through system of rice intensification and system of millet intensification. The organic culture is not limited to foodgrain production, but farmers are being promoted for commercial vegetable cultivation, cultivation of pulses and backyard kitchen garden also.

Background

SACAL believes that agriculture can only be sustainable when it is not dependent on external inputs, such as chemical fertilisers, pesticides and herbicides. It’s a fact that 85% of farmers in the State are small and marginal land holders and nearly 90% of the net sown area practise rain-fed agriculture. Neither can they afford burgeoning cost of food production nor can bear crop failure incidences due to vagaries of nature or from any other results. Agriculture should depend on locally available and cost-effective inputs and able to produce healthy, nutritious, geographic specific and culturally approved food. Thus, securing food production is as much important as minimising the cost of production.

As agriculture plays a pivotal role in our ecosystem, farming can only be sustainable when it does not adversely affect our environment and ecology. Further, agriculture can only be sustainable when its dependence is less on external inputs such as irrigation, chemical fertilisers, pesticides and herbicides, and more on locally available matters such as farm yard manure and other organic crop matters.

Local crop varieties are more suitable to local conditions and have the required resistance ability to cope adverse climatic conditions and weather fluctuations. They have the natural adaptability to grow in local conditions and thus, local crop varieties are more appropriate and dependable than foreign breeds.

The Context

The introduction and popularisation of paddy and maize cultivation has hypnotised the farming community across the country in the recent years. Even if it takes a fortune to grow high yielding and hybrid varieties of these crops, that does not hinder the farmers. The monocropping system has virtually mesmerised the tribal farmers in the hilly and mountainous regions too. Even though they know that these crops are water intensive, require best quality farmlands, controlled irrigation system and whole lot of chemical inputs for better outputs, they can’t help themselves from crazily following the cropping system. It becomes a virtual trap, when the primary livelihoods become too risky, and farmers do not have enough resource to fall back on.

The tribal farmers in Gajapati and surrounding regions are mostly small and marginal holders. They occupy lands that are characterised by undulation, sloppy, uneven normally come under the second and third category of farmlands, largely follow rain-fed agriculture. Traditionally the tribals used to grow millets, local variety pulses and vegetables in a mixed system of farming. The cultivation sustained adverse impacts of weather and climate; and provided the much-required food and nutrition to the laborious tribals.

SACAL’s Approach

SACAL endeavours to establish a risk free, cost effective and less external dependant farming culture so that the small and marginal farmers who occupy less than 2 acres of land can secure their crops. There comes the need to promote sustainable farming– a farming culture that requires less irrigation, no chemical fertiliser, no pesticides, and no herbicides and ensures a secured food production. It should be environment friendly, suitable to the local ecosystem, produces healthy, nutritious and region specific food suitable to the local climate. Under this premise, SACAL expedites organic farming culture in its operational villages through system of rice intensification and system of millet intensification. The organic culture is not limited to foodgrain production, but farmers are being promoted for vegetable cultivation, cultivation of pulses and backyard kitchen garden also.

The local food varieties such as millets, vegetables and variety of pulses are encouraged among farmers. Restoring traditional food habits is another aspect to encourage food production. Food fairs, demonstration fairs and seed exchange fairs are regularly organised in the field locations to spread greater awareness not only among the farmers but also among the govt officials and general population. Food demonstration camps and serves are conducted at AWW centres and Primary schools. The interventions have resulted in expansion of millet cultivated land in the region considerably. Farmers are promoted to adopt system of millet intensification and line sowing methods. The production rate has also been increased from 3-4 quintals per acre to 10-12 quintals per acre.