The bunds act as check dams and prevent soil from getting washed away

A general opinion prevails among many farmers that more water means better yield. It is not true.

“In fact, more than 70 per cent of the irrigation water, especially in flood irrigation, evaporates. Only a small quantity reaches the root zone of the plants and gets utilised,” says farmer A.L Somala Devi, Mandya district, Karnataka.

The University of Agricultural Sciences, Bangalore, conferred the Best Farm Woman award (district level) on her. Economical use of water with proper planning is essential to get a good yield. Especially during the summer months, farmers must go in for optimum use of water and conserve as much as possible, according to her.

Strolling around her farm one notices a number of raised mounds of earth on the fields.

Preventive bunds

“These bunds serve two purposes. One, they act as effective check dams and prevent water from running off; two, they prevent the surface soil from getting washed away by the running water,” she explains.

In addition, she has also dug some small ponds in her farm to store rainwater. She raises coconut, arecanut, sugarcane, paddy, mulberry, ragi and napier grass. Cows and sheep are also reared in her farm.

“I am a strong believer in traditional farming. I do not use chemicals, which spoil the land. The soil is like a mother's womb and must be nourished and taken care of,” she says. Mulching dry leaves in the fields is a regular practice which she says, “prevents moisture evaporation and controls weed growth.”

Vegetables are grown in a small patch. Waste water from the kitchen irrigates the vegetable garden.

Grow some vegetables

“I am surprised when I hear people speaking of malnutrition or increasing food production. If farmers in every village in the country grow some vegetables in their land then the concept of food security for the farmers' family can be solved.”

The excess vegetables can also be sold, thus fetching the farmer some extra money.

The farmer says with a sense of pride that she does not visit the market for buying vegetables.

All her kitchen needs are met from her vegetable garden.

Personal advice

“My suggestion to farmers is that they should grow different crops, trees and rear animals in the farm. Do not practise monoculture (growing only one crop), because if any pest or disease attacks the crop then you will face huge losses.”

How does she manage any pest attack?

She says: “As long as farmers know the medicinal value and methods of using neem, basil, parthenium leaves, or cow's urine as pest repellents, the problem can easily be tackled. “When there are so many low cost methods and bio-pesticides available, which can be made easily in the farm and are effective, a farmer need not borrow at high interest rates for growing crops.”

Two main problems

“Today's agriculture faces two main problems,” she says.

“One pertains to lowering the input cost, and the other, marketing. If these two are solved then our farmers will succeed,” she says.

Her advice to farmers is that even if one is not fully convinced of practising organic agriculture, he or she can try using both the natural inputs in a piece of land and also grow crops using chemicals in the rest. “Seeing is believing. This practice over time can change a farmer's perspective towards organic methods,” she says.

Cost of inputs

Today one cannot do chemical farming alone. Shortage of the inputs and the cost factor really create a problem for farmers.

“Natural inputs need to be used if we need to come out of excessive spending on chemicals,” she argues.

Instead of depending on some unknown middlemen to exploit the farmers it would be better if farmers organise themselves into small groups and start some sort of cooperative farming and marketing on their own.

For more information readers can contact Mrs. A.L Somala Devi, No 145-Hemmanahalli, Athgoor, Hobali, Maddur taluk, Mandya district, Karnataka:571428, mobile:09845746046.