“We have at last found a solution to labour shortage. I am hopeful of sustainable farming”

Not long ago, farmers of Kavanthandalam, a village about 10 km from Uthiramerur of Kancheepuram district and situated along Cheyyar river, were extremely worried about the future of farming in their area.

Labour shortage was their main problem. Though this feature was nothing unique, the problem got compounded, given the proximity of the village to the Sriperumpudur-Oragadam belt that has become an important industrial belt in recent years.

“As Oragadam is only 15 km away, a large number of people preferred to work in factories there,” says G. Srinivasan, a young farmer.

The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, says another farmer, Sakthivel, has also been drawing a good number of workers from the village.

It was against this backdrop that Srinivasan was introduced to the method of mechanised transplantation by a private company about four years ago.

A couple of years later, he got an exposure to the System of Rice Intensification (SRI), a cultivation method requiring less nursery area, water and labour besides fewer seeds.

While broadly conforming to SRI principles, Kavanthandalam has been attracting the attention of policy makers.

Last week, Malawian farmers and officials visited this village, thanks to the initiative of the Water Resources Department under the Irrigated Agriculture Modernisation and Water bodies Restoration and Management programme.

Srinivasan says the village has 10 machines which have been procured under an Agricultural Engineering department scheme providing 50 per cent subsidy.

His brother, Venkatesan, says that importantly, the yield has gone up.

For every hectare, the yield is 6 to 6.5 tonnes a hectare, a rise of two tonnes.

Sakthivel says, “We have, at last, found a solution to labour shortage. I am hopeful of sustainable farming.”

Pointing out that SRI is gaining currency at a rapid rate in the State, a professor of agronomy of the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University says that about 10 lakh hecaters have been brought under SRI through various government programmes.

On their impressions, two Malawian farmers - Sheikh Alhajr Chale and Maggie Chisi – say mechanical weeders, meant for facilitating soil aeration, and the utilisation of fewer seeds have been of great education to them.

Rexy J.S. Tolani, a social and business development specialist working for a project of the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security in the Malawian government, says SRI is picking up in his country and the visit has provided them more insights into the concept.

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