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Leading from the field

Assistant agriculture extension officer S. Jaya with farmers in Vengaivasal near Medavakkam.

Assistant agriculture extension officer S. Jaya with farmers in Vengaivasal near Medavakkam.   | Photo Credit: D. Madhavan

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Agricultural officer S. Jaya has been closely working with farmers in Vengaivasal village, providing them with information about crops, agricultural methods and natural resources that can be utilised well

Every day, after school hours, S. Jaya would cycle to her farmland to help her mother dehusk sesame seeds, which Jaya would stored in jute bags.

She would them load a few gunny bags with sesame seeds on to her cycle, and ride back to her house, where the she that contains sesame seeds in her cycle and pedals back to her house to dry them. She would make at least three trips every day between her house and her farmland, separated by a distance of three kilometres, top carry out this work. That was back in Tenkasi, her native place.

Years later, Jaya is still engaged with the world of farming. She enjoys dipping her feet in the muddy farmlands in Vengaivasal, a small village panchayat near Tambaram and Medavakkam. There is some farming going on here, and Jaya plays the role of someone who assists farmers. She works as assistant agricultural extension officer in Vengaivasal village which comes under Medavakkam revenue firka in Kancheepuram district, which has 78 revenue firkas in its 13 blocks.

In Vengaivasal village, paddy is raised, and the farmers do so with two cropping seasons between August and February.

“With an agricultural background behind me, I am able to understand the distress farmers can go through, also their needs, better. As they know that I am familiar with agriculture and its challenges, I have been able to connect with these farmers as an agricultural officer a lot more easily that it would,” says 41-year-old Jaya.

After completion of a diploma programme in agriculture from Gandhigram Rural Institute (Deemed University), Jaya joined the agriculture department of the State government a decade ago in 2009 as assistant agriculture extension officer in Tenkasi.

“As an agricultural officer, one should have a lot of patience while listening to farmers’ woes and requirements. Most of the farmers in Vengaivasal village know me very well and they all have my phone number,” says, Jaya, a mother of three children.

Responsibilities as an agricultural officer, especially in city outskirts where farmlands are shrinking, there will be the inevitable sacrifice of what is family time. Because, agricultural officers have more work to do in persuading a remnant of farmers to continue farming and not abandon the profession. At Vengaivasal village, near Medavakkam, a great number of farmlands have been converted into housing plots over the past many years.

“On one occasion, I had to ask my mother to take my daughter who had suffered burns on account of a bowl of hot sambar falling on her shoulder, to the hospital as I was rushing to attend a farmers’ awareness programme in the district. That incident still worries me a lot as my daughter still suffers from that injury,” says Jaya.

What does the role entail?

In Kancheepuram district, on an average, each revenue firka has six agriculture headquarters with an assistant agriculture extension officer attending to a raft of issues relating to farming and farmers.

Agricultural extension officers have to provide farmers with information about crops, agricultural methods, natural resources that can be utilised well and in a sustainable manner, threat to crops from pests, how to construct proper irrigation schemes, the economic use and storage of water and how to save on the costs of farming equipment.

They have to ensure that farmers understand this information and use it gainfully in their farming.

They also collect soil samples for testing and recommend types of crops that can be cultivated on the tested soil ensuring maximum yield per hectare for farmers. They also distribute seeds through a subsidy system, advise farmers to raise a nursery and seed treatment. They encourage farmers to go in for machine planting and crop nutrients. Farmers are introduced to special apps that are aimed at helping local farmers get to know of various government agricultural schemes for farmers.

These officers are also roped in flood and drought relief works.

Agricultural extension officers also work closely with agricultural scientists in research projects. They assist cattle farmers, and guide and assist veterinary surgeons in the treatment of different diseases afflicting animals.

Each agricultural extension officer is connected to a district agricultural development centre.

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Printable version | Jan 26, 2020 2:30:39 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/leading-from-the-field/article30230752.ece

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