Posts filed under ‘Information for farmers’
Bhubaneswar: In a small village in Orissa’s Sambalpur district, in a small house, a family looks to its neighbours for support. 61-year-old Shukla Chand killed himself by drinking pesticide. In this part of Western Orissa, this has become a frighteningly familiar story. Since November, 11 farmers from here have killed themselves.
Farmers have been catapulted from one crisis to another in Orissa since 2009. Floods, drought, and then exceptionally heavy rainfall last year before the harvest. The deaths of 100 farmers have officially been registered as suicides. The state government says it wasn’t their failed crops that drove them to their death.
For farmers whose crops were wiped out by pre-harvest rains, the Centre has sanctioned Rs. 400 crore for Andhra Pradesh and another Rs. 600 crore for Maharashtra. No compensation for Orissa has been announced so far.
The state government, led by Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik of the Biju Janata Dal, has offered to pay farmers Rs. 400 per acre for rain-fed areas and Rs. 800 per acre for irrigated land – only if the farmers can prove he has lost his entire crop. But farmers point out they invest at least Rs. 9,000 per acre for their paddy crop. So the compensation being offered is worthless.
For farmers like Shukla Chand, it seems like there’s no one on their side. His suicide note says after his last crop of paddy failed just before the harvest, the loans he owed seemed insurmountable. He had cultivated eight acres of paddy with an initial investment of Rs. 80,000. He then took a bank loan of five lakh to buy a tractor, and another three lakh from private money lenders. When heavy rains destroyed his standing crop in November last year, he could no longer cope.
“The Centre and state are playing a cruel joke on our farmers. The policy to compensate for losses due to calamities has not kicked in. There are thousands of farmers like Shukla Chand who are not dead as yet, but on the verge of death,” says Saroj, the leader of a local cooperative of farmers.
Crucial operations for the Kharif paddy cultivation like transplanting and beushaning (blind cultivation) have come to a standstill in Balangir district due to the lack of rainfall since the first week of August. There is a threat of drought here.
Most agricultural lands in the district are upland where paddy is sown by the broadcasting method. Agriculture official sources said that broadcasting of paddy cultivation has been taken up in 1,01,100 hectare of land. However, shortage of rainfall has affected beushaning.
Similarly, in Bahal (low land), transplanting has to be taken up in 77,000 hectares of land, but the absence of rain has affected the operation. The transplanting process has been completed only in 60 per cent of the Bahal land.
A few days ago, Bongomunda and Titilagarh blocks received good rain. However, there has been no rainfall in Patnagarh and Balangir blocks, said an agriculture official. Unless there is rainfall within the next seven days, the crop situation, first of all, in uplands would be really precarious. As such, 30 per cent of upland has not been covered at all, he pointed out.
If the prolonged dry spell continues, it may result in drought, said the agriculture official. As farmers point out, in previous years they used to complete all operations, including transplanting and beushaning by Shravan Purnima as there was hardly any problem of rain. The number of continuous rainy days, locally known as Jhadi Barsha, is absent this year.
There seems to be a drought-like situation. The district administration should prepare contingency plans for this, said president of the Zilla Krushak Mahasnagh Sudhir Parischha.
With the monsoon playing hide-and-seek, farmers are worried to save their crops while a few of them expect formation of low pressure to end the dry spell.
BHUBANESWAR: Orissa government will provide four terminal market yards to enable the farmers to sell their produce at market prices. The move comesin the wake of mounting criticism from the opposition Congress and BJP over increasing number of farmer suicide cases.
One of the terminal has already been constructed at Sambalpur with an investment of Rs 86 crore and three others are coming up at Cuttack, Berhampur and Rourkela, Orissa agriculture minister Dr Damodar Rout said here on Tuesday soon after addressing at a seminar on sustainable sugarcane initiative.
Dr Rout informed that although Orissa is the fourth largest vegetable producer, its farmers were not getting adequate returns on the investment because of high input costs and unscientific farming.
“We have been asking the farmers to use technology and modern method of farming to save costs. It will take some time for the farmers to adopt the new methods like drip irrigation and use scientifically developed agriculture tools and equipment,” Dr Rout observed.
The minister stated that the government had decided to as many as cold storages possible in the state through private entrepreneurs. “We are going to conduct a feasibility study of the existing cold storages which are lying vacant for all these years. Besides, individuals and cooperatives will be encouraged to build new cold storages. They will avail the Central government’s recently announced 40% subsidy and another 15% by the state administration,” Dr Rout said.
To a query as to why the state government had not yet come out with a specific sugarcane policy as announced by him a few months ago, the minister said a comprehensive policy was being drafted by the agriculture department to encourage crops like sugarcane, maize and horticulture produces.
A district-level workshop on SRI method of paddy cultivation was held at Rajaji Town Hall at Padampur in Bargarh district under the chairmanship of president of Shramika Sangha, Sohela, Muralidhar Sahu on Tuesday.
The workshop was organised by Sahabhagi Vikash Abhiyan (SVA) in collaboration with Dehradun-based NGO People’s Science Institute (PSI). While State SC/ST Development Minister Bijaya Ranjan Singh Bariha attended the workshop as chief guest, Padampur sub-collector Prabhat Ku Bhoi and NAC Padampur chairman Pritam Meher were the guests of honour. District agriculture officer Pradip Kumar Barik attended as chief speaker.
Sahabhagi Vikash Abhiyan (SVA) has been working on the development of agriculture in western Odisha and it has been organising various training programmes for farmers in Bargarh, Kalahandi, Nuapada and Balangir districts.
Notably the SRI method of paddy cultivation yields double production to the farmers. In the workshop, several successful farmers from Bargarh district who followed the SRI method gave their view and explained the advantages of the SRI method. Among others Bargarh district coordinator of SVA, Hrushikesh Pradhan, programme officer of SVA, Satyanarayan Kar, plant protection officer of Padampur, Tapan Ku Mohapatra and VAW Padampur, Upendranath Kuar attended the workshop.
Odisha’s agrarian economy is facing two challenges: disasters like drought, flood and cyclone and lack of input intensive farming practice for poor farmers. In the State’s western region, drought occurs every alternate year. People can no more rely on agriculture for their subsistence.
Costs of inputs like seeds, fertilisers, pesticides and wages have registered a substantial hike, whereas the market has failed to provide a competitive price to the farmers. The State’s agriculture policy considers agriculture as an industry and the benefits of the policy skews in favour of rich farmers. There is a growing consideration for commercialisation of agriculture.
Since there is no ceiling on land holding, this would promote land alienation. The poor farmers would sell away their land and prefer to remain as wage earners.
The current approaches of agriculture give emphasis on promotion of hybrid seeds, water-intensive crops like sugarcane, which would surely increase the frequency of drought, especially in western Odisha, where the monsoon is always erratic. Farmers belonging to all economic strata are after paddy and cash crops, where investment is high and the return is not guaranteed.
Farming of short-duration paddy, minor millets and the like, which was really providing food security, are on the decline because of the faulty policy and programmes. While rain-fed agriculture is the reality of this region, irrigation has been shown as the only panacea for this problem. But whatever irrigation potential has been created, the actual irrigation is much less than practised. Irrigation efficiency is abysmally low here because of predominance of paddy.
In coastal Odisha, though yield and production are high, flood and cyclone have been crucial in sustainability of agriculture.
Rising prices of inputs are another threat. The shift from foodgrains to cash crops is rapid, which is a threat to food security. The fluctuations in the market, poor functioning of the existing irrigation systems, water-logging and drainage, erratic behaviour of monsoon and mono cropping are the significant factors in the sustainability of agriculture in coastal Odisha.
The Government approaches both flood and drought as two different sets of problems. For flood control, the present thinking is to come out with a second dam on the Mahanadi. And for drought, the approach is for developing irrigation infrastructure. But over these years, crores of rupees have been spent on developing irrigation wells, bore wells, minor irrigation projects, etc, with very little impact on agriculture. In most of the cases, these infrastructures are not in use because of structural problems, improper management, inappropriate cropping pattern and poor linkage between the farmers and the agriculture and irrigation departments.
The water resources department holds the view that it has offered the best possible system design, which needs no change. It is the people who must change their habits and use the system as per the design provisions. The department is, however, not prepared to accept the fact that the design provisions and the system performance to support the desired crops are incompatible. Thus, the issue of improving irrigation efficiency has come to a dead end due to non-congruence of the stands taken by each stakeholder. What is being done in this regard is simply for the sake of doing something. Key issues are not being touched.
Still worse is that many of the current programmes are a mere repetition of ideas which already had failed in the past. Shifting incumbency in the Government makes it difficult for the newcomers to recognise the old wine presented in a new bottle. Well, things will continue with whatever is considered appropriate by the reigning authority at a given point of time, but the desired result will not definitely come unless the key issues are addressed.
Nothing is sacrosanct in this world; much less is a design methodology of an irrigation system. To the onlookers, it is already obsolete. Only the authors are sticking to it as their all-time best. If the present system has defied improvement for about half a century now, logically there is a case for reviewing it by a group of high powered onlookers. Unfortunately, the irrigation fraternity is so deeply entrenched and their lobby with any Government is so strong that it has been ordinarily impossible to make any dent on their fortress. It will need an extraordinary effort of the kind of public demonstration to shake the immobile.