New millet farming enthuses tribal ryots

They are now ready to take it up in the next season in Hukumpeta mandal

Published - September 02, 2017 01:36 am IST - HUKUMPETA (Visakha Agency)

Farmer Mahadev showing the difference between a ragi plant in traditional farming and SRI farming at Rangasila in Hukumpeta mandal of Visakhapatnam district.

Farmer Mahadev showing the difference between a ragi plant in traditional farming and SRI farming at Rangasila in Hukumpeta mandal of Visakhapatnam district.

Believing in what they have seen tribal farmers in Hukumpeta mandal are ready to shift to to a new method of farming the millet even before the harvesting conclusively proves its benefits. The experience of Mahadev and Tulasamma are quite contrasting.

Having gone to training at Kusumi in Srikakulam district for systematic ragi intensification (SRI) farming demonstration and training, Mahadev of Rangasila persisted with it braving opposition from his wife and father, who threatened to plough down the transplanted ragi, the main objection being to the spacing between the seedlings. Tulasamma of Ontipaka told her husband stoically that they have to put into practice what knowledgeable people are saying and if there was loss they had to put up with it. For both the families, crop loss means not meeting the staple dietary needs of members.

But after seeing the tillers on a single plant that are much more- 30 to 35- than two or three in traditional cultivation several farmers are enthusiastic about it and taking it up in the next crop.

The SRI ragi farming technique is launched this kharif as a part of the Comprehensive Revival of Millet Programme (CRMP) of the State government covering 44 mandals in seven districts of Andhra Pradesh. The programme targets to restore cultivation of nine varieties of millets in 1.35 lakh acres.

The idea in introducing SRI method is to increase productivity from the present three quintals to six quintals an acre.

In 16 mandals in the three North Coastal districts and East Godavari in each mandal 2000 acres has been targeted for millet cultivation. Of this 10 % is proposed to be taken up for SRI ragi farming.

"So far 1000 acres has been achieved and we may add another 500 acres," says M. L. Sanyasi Rao, regional programme manager of Watershed Support Services and Activities Network (WASSAN), lead technical agency for the programme.

The farmers were taken to Hubli area of Karnataka where they are claiming to get 20 quintals. They had undergone training locally too. Farmers are now learning to use cycle and wooden weeders that save lot of time and help them take care of the other crops. Running over the plants with a wooden log would help growth of more tillers. Farmers say such tools should be made available by the Agriculture Department.

"In Hukumpeta mandal against a target of 200 acres for SRI ragi only 35 farmers came forward and as a result it was taken up in only about 35 acres. On the top of it, there was no rain to take up transplantation in the specified 11 and 18 days," says P. Devullu, secretary of Sanjivani, an NGO working among tribal farmers. To overcome the problem, they decided to raise nursery beds in a staggered manner so as to match them with spell of rain required for transplantation. Seeing the results in a limited area, now farmers are quite enthusiastic.

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