The Kerala Agricultural University has launched the scheme to combat shortage of workers in farming operations.
KANNUR: Paddy cultivation is going hi-tech. Farm workers equipped with power tiller, transplanter, reaper and thresher can be contacted on their cell phones or at their office to get their services!
The model scheme is being implemented by the Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVK) at Panniyur here under the Kerala Agricultural University (KAU) in Pariyaram grama panchayat as part of its farmer-friendly and labour-friendly project financed by the Planning Board. The objective of the plan is to combat labour shortage in the region. Figures show the area under paddy cultivation in the State has declined over the last 30 years, from 8.94 lakh hectares in 1974 to 2.89 lakh ha in 2004-05. The KVK’s model scheme was conceived after the successful outcome of an on-farming testing on mechanisation in paddy cultivation conducted at Koovod in Pariyaram. For a start, 20 farm labourers employed in paddy cultivation were constituted as a task force with the help of the panchayat. The group was given on-the-field training in every aspect of scientific rice cultivation, including operation of farm machineries.
“Rice being a labour-intensive crop, non-availability of timely labour was the most critical problem faced by farmers,” said KVK head K. Abdul Kareem. Withdrawal of even traditional paddy farmers from rice cultivation cannot be attributed to low profit or lack of interest alone, he said adding that shortage of labour also contributed to the fall in the area under rice cultivation.
There are also factors such as occupational migration of paddy labourers from their monotonous and tedious work under adverse conditions to other lucrative fields, Dr. Kareem said. For the field training of the task force, five hectares of uncultivated paddy land has been leased from farmers of the Mavichery Padashekharam.
Agricultural implements for their field operation have been supplied free of cost by the KVK. In addition to the power tiller, transplanter, reaper and thresher, the group has also been provided seeds and fertilizer. Members of the group have been given maroon colour uniforms. They have also been given mobile phones.
According to KVK officials involved in the training, the task force would undertake any field-level operation on contract basis as per the rate fixed for each work. It can broaden their operation in future, they said adding that it will ensure them steady employment.
The project is all set to be a success story as it also benefits paddy farmers struggling to find labour for timely completion of works in fields at a lower cost. The project is an innovative model that can be replicated across the State though it is not a remedy for all the maladies affecting paddy cultivation in the State. If it becomes a success story, it can also check the process of large-scale paddy land conversion.
The KVK had earlier developed the Compact Area Group Approach for mite control and the Ayyankunnu model to fight bud rot disease in coconut.