Community care > Organic Farming
Organic Farming Core Team
Dr. Ujjwala Pendse
Mrs. Bhavna Apte
Mr. Jayendra Sutar
Despite significant investments in health and the necessary infrastructure the CSG realized strongly that healthcare efforts alone, though necessary, are far from sufficient. Strong link of health with food security, nutrition and economic sustenance led the group to venture into agriculture.
Current Agricultural Status of the Community
Exploring the Prevailing Agricultural Scenario Revealed:
- Largely rain-fed agriculture with paddy as the main crop with yields much below potential; most farmlands left barren post paddy harvest and exposed to uncontrolled grazing affecting soil fertility.
- Low incidence of 2nd crop – which was traditionally pulses, an important source of proteins and in addition contributing to nourishing the soil.
- Low land holdings – average 1.5 – 2 acres per household.
- Use of external inputs growing steadily – hybrid seeds, chemical based fertilizers, chemical pesticides which pollute potable and ground water resources and also increase expenses of the farmer.
- Inadequate attention to soil fertility.
- Low profitability in agriculture through high input costs and low yields.
Goals of Sustainable Farming
The thrust of the programme is towards making agriculture sustainable, ensuring food security and fulfilling the nutritional needs of families. The priorities are:
- Promotion of organic cultivation practices which help to nurture the soil and provide nutritious produce free from chemical residues
- Building capabilities in farmer groups to improve soil fertility, cultivation practices and thereby improve yields
- Promotion of diversified agriculture – cereals, pulses, oil seeds, vegetables, fruits, multi purpose trees to meet needs of food security, balanced diet, needs of fuel, fodder and cash through sale to meet other needs
People for Progress In India (PPI) has part funded our sustainable farming programme - http://www.ppi-usa.org/php/viewprojects.php.
Programmes And Activities Towards Sustainable Agriculture
With the above in view the CSG has undertaken the following programmes :
- Evolving a set of practices aimed at increasing yields of paddy in a few pilot plots. A group of 25 farmers undertook organic cultivation of paddy of which 20% exceeded taluka average. In a few plots, there has been a phenomenal increase in the yield from an average taluka level yield of 700 – 900kgs/acre to around 1600kgs/acre . The others still need to adopt cultivation practices and implement soil improvement measures.
- Encouraging cultivation of pulses as second crop – last year a group of 25 farmers cultivated pulses through cooperative protection against uncontrolled cattle grazing. This enhanced the nutritive value of their diet and on an average earnet net income of Rs. 2000over 3 months.
- Promotion of nutritional kitchen gardens in their backyards – this started in 2009 with 54 households increasing to 302 HH in 2010 and 115 HH in 2011. To date around 500 HH in 6 villages have cultivated nutritional gardens with seeds covering 12 varieties of vegetables given by MLDT. Vegetables grown in nutritional gardens – doodhi, karela, bhendi, kakdi, alu, baingan, gowar, maka, tomato, mirchi, lal bhopala, chawli.
- Promotion of local seed varieties and exchanging amongst farmers to promote self reliance, preserve traditional know how and reduce input costs
- Organic vegetable cultivation in kharif and rabi seasons commencing in December 2010. Going against the widely prevalent trend of monocropping, 25 farmer groups have cultivated range of 10 – 12 vegetables using local or improved seeds. Vegetables include creepers – doodhi, shirali, karela etc; greens – palak, methi, ambadi, math etc; tubers – suran, ratali, kand etc; vegetables – gowar, bhendi, baingan, tomatoes, chawli etc. In 2010 the number of farmers were 6; in 2011 it rose to 25 and by December 2011 it has gone to 30.
- Floriculture – 18 farmers have planted jasmine (mogra) saplings, the marketing of which is through a farmers’ cooperative. Mogra cultivation is possible in soils that are not very fertile, can be grown on slopes, require less land and fetch short term cash returns. Total of close to 4000 saplings have been sown.
- Tree plantation on farms. Multi purpose trees – fruit (chickoo, peru, avla, phanas etc), green manure(glyricidia, hadga etc), organic inputs (karanj, kadulimb etc) , wood (Bamboo, shivan etc), fuel, fodder etc have been encouraged through distribution of saplings to 25 farmers. On an average 10 saplings per farmer have been distributed and planted.
- Awareness camps with farmers – Close to 100 farmer camps have been convened to dialogue with them about their current farming experiences, water harvesting, identify successes as well as issues and share rationale and value of organic method of cultivation
- Capacity building workshops – Around 50 farmers have been trained in various facets of organic cultivation to include seeds processing, organic inputs production, organic paddy cultivation and vegetable cultivation practices. Further exposure visits have been organized to various farms to learn from progressive farmers their cultivation practices.
- Financial support to farmers towards purchase of pump, pipeline, fencing etc.
- Encouraging and inducting schools into organic farming practices – Worked with class 7th of 2 residential tribal schools to teach children various facets of organic farming like vegetable cultivation, compost preparation, tree plantation. The vegetables harvested were used in their meals. Children were greatly encouraged to see healthy vegetables growing through their efforts.
Marketing of Agro Produce
Goals of sustainable farming can be met when there are marketing channels which: CSG is part of an innovative marketing initiative spearheaded by an informal network – Mumbai organic farmers and consumers association – MOFCA called the Hari Bhari Tokri. The intent is community supported agriculture and links consumers and farmers directly. MOFCA aims to:
- Give fair price to farmers
- Are transparent
- Are stable and not subject to volatile market fluctuations
- Eliminate middle men who eat into the returns of farmers
It has begun with weekly supply of vegetables to a group of 200 consumers in Mumbai who register and make advance payment for 16 weeks. The price they pay factors all cost elements involved in the cultivation and delivery of vegetables to consumers including efforts of monitoring, coordination and capacity building of farmers. The initiative began in December 2010 and is currently close to completing the third season. Seasonal vegetables are grown by farmers covering between 10 to 12 varieties. Fixed price per season is paid to farmers insulating farmers from erratic market forces.
- In the first season,6 farmers participated supplying over 1000kgs of vegetables grossing revenue above Rs. 25000/-
- In the second,25 farmers supplied over 3000 kgs grossing revenue above Rs. 80,000/-
- In the current season,30 farmers are participating supplying over 5000 kgs grossing revenues above Rs. 1,25,000/-
An added feature of the current season,was the sorting and packing operations which were undertaken at Bhopoli through the services of a self help group and organic team of CSG.
The fixed price works out much above the weekly fluctuating price that the middleman offers to farmers and that too for select vegetables. Besides due to low cost of inputs – seeds, farm produced organic fertilizers and bio pesticides overall profitability of vegetable cultivation is higher than chemically grown vegetables sold to middleman.
- Enhance capacities of the farmer groups in sustainable farming with special emphasis on soil improvement and yield improvement in paddy and vegetable cultivation
- Implementation of participatory guarantee scheme (PGS) within this group as part of organic certification process
- Awareness camps with farmers on sustainable farming and its benefits
- An important initiative just launched is creation of models of self reliant and sustainable 2 acre farms which fulfill household food security and balanced nutrition needs as well as generate cash surplus to part fulfill other family needs. Maharashtra Knowledge Foundation (MKF) is spearheading this initiative in 9 agro climatic zones within Maharashtra using technical inputs from Chetana Vikas, Wardha who have piloted such a model within their zone. Three farms have been selected to work over 5 years and results of this will be monitored and documented. It is intended that creation if such successful models of sustainable farming adapted to each zones unique context will provide impetus for its replication. This could help to part address the current crisis in agriculture acutely being faced by small, marginal farmers.
- Optimize transportation costs through increase in supply quantity
- Explore marketing of grains and other produce
- Formalise institutional structure