Special Correspondent

19 hectares brought under the project supported by the KAU, Agriculture Department Project supported by the KAU, Agriculture Department

  • Stress on synergy between farmers and agriculture scientists
  • Project implemented at Kalatharakkal farmland in Kollayil panchayat

    Thiruvananthapuram: The District Panchayat has launched a People-Centred Integrated Rice Development Project in the Kalatharakkal farmland in Kollayil panchayat to enhance paddy production and promote sustainable farming practices.

    As many as 71 farmers and 33 farmworkers are involved in the project supported by the Agriculture Department and the Kerala Agriculture University (KAU).

    The programme that took off with the first sowing on November 17 last year, follows the Agro Eco System analysis, a practice recommended by the International Rice Research Institute, Philippines, to ensure better yield at reduced input costs.

    Nineteen hectares of land have been brought under the project. The farmers use the Uma high-yielding variety of paddy developed by the KAU.

    The project has been taken up under the Group Approach for Locally Adapted and Sustainable Agriculture (GALASA) programme promoted by the Department of Agriculture.

    "This is the first project to utilise rational farming techniques and achieve a synergy between farmers, farmhands and agriculture scientists. Another feature is that there is no subsidy for the farmers. Farmers avail of loans from the seed money of Rs.3 lakh deposited by the district panchayat in a bank. The loan is sanctioned by the bank on a personal guarantee," explains project leader S. Mothilal Nehru, associate professor, College of Agriculture, Vellayani.

    The project seeks to double the paddy yield from two to four tonnes per hectare through optimum use of local resources and sustainable farming practices. The total input cost is estimated at Rs.16,000 per hectare.

    Under the Participatory Technology Development Programme, farmers are encouraged to use organic fertilisers, bio-pesticides, beneficial insects and micro-organisms.

    "By introducing the concept of organic farming in a phased manner, we hope to minimise the application of chemicals that pollute the environment," says Mr. Nehru.

    New methods of spacing and judicious use of machinery also form part of the programme. Scientists from KAU carry out periodic field visits to keep a tab on the crops. The farmers and farmhands have agreed to use combine harvesters to reap the paddy. The participatory nature of the project has ensured that there is no objection to the proposal to use mechanised equipment.

    First harvest

    The first harvest is scheduled for February 25. Of the expected yield of 80 to 100 tonnes, 10 tonnes would be earmarked for the use of farmers.

    Of the rest, 20 tonnes are to be set apart to create a seed bank after the mandatory clearance from the Kerala State Seed Authority.

    The balance would be sold in the market to generate profit for the farmers. Mr. Nehru said each hectare was expected to yield a profit of more than Rs.10,000.

    The district panchayat is hoping to use the experiment to generate a model for sustainable farming that can be replicated elsewhere.

    "This is a major effort to revive paddy farming in the district. We hope to extend the project to 1000 hectares in the near future," says district panchayat president Anavoor Nagappan.

    KAU has chalked out a programme to develop a panel of farmer-centred resource persons for the subsequent phase.

    Value-added products

    The panchayat is working on a mechanism for procurement of paddy from the farmers at remunerative prices. It is simultaneously promoting the manufacture of value-added processed products by enlisting the cooperation of rice mills.

    Conservation of water resources and improvement and maintenance of irrigation and drainage systems also form an integral part of the project. Marked by sloping terrain, the Kollayil panchayat experiences severe drought conditions in summer. The majority of people in the area depend on agriculture for their livelihood.