Innovative Agricultural Practices in Devsingha village

Adopt Innovative Agricultural Practices

Devsingha village is five kms.  from Tuljapur town in Osmanabad district of Maharashtra. It is witnessing not only the emergence of women farmers but their eco-friendly innovations in cultivation. Like other rural communities, traditional agriculture is their main livelihood. Most of the households own small pieces of land. Their livelihood depends on land, climate, limited resources and market. This community has shown that collective work with Gram Panchayats and local administration is essential to pool local capacities to identify and solve local problems and to bring about some enduring impact.

Background
For the last 10 years, the community has had less rain and has suffered water scarcity. The use of costly chemical fertilizers and pesticides along with market variations in product price have contributed to degradation of land and low productivity. Thus farming is a business of high investment and low returns. Unexpected weather conditions, lack of information and training on new methods to cope with climate risk are some of the problems faced by the community.

The Women’s Federation (henceforth referred to as the Federation) in Tuljapur organized a meeting of SHGs of this village to understand the vulnerabilities and resources of the village which led the women to undertake a hazard mapping in May 2011. Community leaders, SHG members, youth and Panchayat members participated in the mapping process. It was decided that local problems should be taken up with elected Panchayat and government officials to solve them and also initiate their own remedies.  The Table below presents the details of their deliberations.

Table: 1
Problems and Priorities of the People of Devsingha village

Problems

Priorities

  • Many trees have been cut and no new saplings have been planted
  • Houses do not have safety features and strength
  • Land has become less productive
  • Shortage of water
  • There is no water harvesting system in the village
  • Farmers depend on single cash crop. Village agriculture does not address local food security and nutrition. Thus, despite being a farming community, they to buy vegetables from outside market, thus their expenses increase.
  • Vulnerable to diseases due to unsafe drinking water
  • Community practice of open defecation that impairs personal hygiene and causes disease, environmental pollution
  • Promote low cost organic farming, create local inputs, adopt new technologies
  • Address labour issues by sharing the work with women’s groups
  • Start with small pieces of land of people who are interested
  • Slowly expand the areas and varieties that are required for local communities
  • Change the crop pattern according to the availability  of water (increasing number of farmers have resorted to sugar cane cultivation which is highly water intensive in the entire Latur district which has eight sugar mills)
  • Demolish the old bridge and build new one for safe travel
  • Construct a road to agricultural field should be to facilitate movement of people, cows and buffaloes and agricultural equipment.
  • Improve infrastructure at the health sub centre

As can be seen in the above Table, agricultural problems are prominent, although demolishing the old bridge to build a new one, constructing a proper road to the farms, open defecation, felling of trees, water pollution figure in the list of problems identified. Hence, the Federation encouraged the SHGs to form a Krishi Mahila Mandal or KMM (Women’s Agriculture Group) to think and act collectively on agrarian concerns.

Krishi Mahila Mandal

In June 2010, Krishi Mahila Mandal was formed with 17 women members to address various issues in cultivation, labour and marketing on a collective basis. Each member contributed Rs. 50 per month towards Krishi Mahila Mandal savings. They used this money to give small loans to members for purchasing seeds, preparation of land, buying motor and irrigation pipes, etc.

Krishi Mahila Mandal held monthly meetings to deliberate on ensuring family food security. They dealt with the following:

  • What they can do collectively to reduce the cost and increase productivity in agriculture
  • Methods of traditional seed  preparation and cultivation of different crops
  • Which crops can be cultivated with organic manure.
  • How to get control of land for women to cultivate required pulses, oil seeds and cereals.
  • How to develop a demonstration plot for learning
  • How to do inter-cropping to get additional income and protect the soil without any  extra investment.
  • Share their experience of  increasing the productivity with low costs to other communities

Since they were practicing the traditional and harmless way of farming 20 years back, they are aware of the benefits of organic farming. However, technical knowledge is required from experts for improving the productivity of the land (soil testing, application of appropriate nutrients to overcome deficiencies and to identify the appropriate crop for the type of soil), for crop diversification, etc. For the purpose, the Federation connected KMM to Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVK) at Tuljapur, Agricultural University at Parbhani and to the Department of Agriculture.

Swayam Shikshan Prayog, February 2012

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