New land reclamation brings hope

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Judicious use of new environment-friendly methods and inputs has helped farmers to reduce their costs significantly while improving income as well as productivity.

Siadulari (45), is just a small farmer of a little village (Padaraha village of Kanpur district) but she is a symbol of hope for the resurgence of India’s agriculture and its economy.

It has been said time and again that farmers’ crisis is rooted in two big problems. First, they’ve been trapped in expensive technology and inputs. Over 80 percent of India’s farmers are small farmers and they can’t afford expensive, high-risk technologies. Second, these technologies linked to chemical fertilisers, pesticides, weedicides etc., are also not environment-friendly as they harm the natural fertility of soil and over-exploit as well as pollute water sources.

So what farmers really need is a path to get out of these ecologically destructive and expensive technologies but the question is whether they can do this without reducing their productivity.

This is where the work and experience of Siadulari comes in. She has demonstrated with her hard work that it is possible to protect or even increase production while getting out of the existing trap of expensive, ecologically destructive technologies.

She is not alone in achieving this, although she has played a leadership role. Many other farmers in this village describe similar achievements.

While the use of chemical pesticides has been stopped completely by most farmers in this village, they continue to use chemical fertilisers in very low doses. They’ve started relying on composted manure and amrit-pani, a mixture prepared from neem oilcake/oil, cow urine and other locally available ingredients which helps to keep away pests and disease. Careful use of new environment-friendly methods and inputs have helped farmers to reduce their costs significantly while improving income as well as the quality of their soil. Also the food obtained by these crops is more nutritious and tasty.

These changes have been brought about under a project implemented by Shramik Bharti (SB) a voluntary organisation. This project has two components: (i) reclamation of sodic land using organic methods and (ii) improving prospects of sustainable farming by small farmers using organic, ecofriendly and low-cost technologies.

The increase in productivity is partly due to the reclamation of sodic soil, but it has also risen on normal land, says Siadulari as she has been involved in this effort with a lot of enthusiasm from the outset. She proudly points to the various compost pits on her farm, and a good crop of healthy tomatoes which has managed to survive the vagaries of unfavourable weather. She has helped to convince many other women farmers to accept new environment-friendly methods.

Some farmers were helped and encouraged (without providing cash incentives) to set up demonstration farms on their land. All farmers in the village are small farmers and they have been very happy with the new cost-reducing methods. In addition more encouragement to tree-planting and horticulture has made the village greener.

They are equally enthused with better nutrition and taste of food crops, including rice, wheat, mustard and vegetables. “The tomatoes here are so famous that traders themselves come to the village to buy the crop,” says Shivani Singh, a coordinator of SB.

Similar success has been achieved in other villages of this block like Dibanivada. Here reclamation of sodic land using organic methods has been taken up on a significant scale.

Sushila Yadav, a Dalit farmer, explains the technology: “We first spread raw cow dung on a patch of sodic land along with paddy residues or pual. This is done at a time when the paddy crop is to be taken. Then later wheat crop can be taken.” She is encouraged by the healthy yield given by the land that earlier produced almost nothing.


Bharat Dogra

Bharat Dogra

The writer is a Delhi-based freelance journalist who writes on social concerns.

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