Mrs. Revathi is a young farmer living in Nallampatty village of Pennagram block of Dharmapuri district. Though farming is the primary occupation of the household, her husband prefers working as a driver in the nearby town, as the returns from the one acre of dryland farm is not sufficient enough to run the family. Not willing to leave the field fallow, Revathi took up farming on the one acre of dry land. She practiced conventional farming, often facing hardships in getting one successful crop. Production costs were high owing to dependence on external inputs. Also the soil health deteriorated over time, affecting productivity.
In the year 2011, Revathi got an opportunity to participate in a Farmer Field School (FFS) program, organized by AME Foundation. To start with a group consisting of 20 young women was organized. These women were already member of SHGs involved in savings and credit activity. The women were initially trained on sustainable agriculture and were further trained to become farmer facilitators.
While learning during FFS, she implemented many ecological practices on her field. She focused on harvesting rainwater by ploughing across the slope and on increasing soil fertility by incorporating green manure. For this, she raised sun hemp prior to main crop to produce enough biomass. She also applied biologically enriched Farm Yard Manure by adding of Rhizobium, Phospobacteria, anti fungal like Trichoderma viride etc.. For controlling pests in groundnut crop, she innovated low cost yellow sticky traps and installed in groundnut field to attract aphids, which was a major sucking pest. She raised sorghum as border crop to prevent sucking pests, and raised castor to trap lots of worms which otherwise would have attacked groundnut crops. Thus she avoided spraying pesticides. By including red gram and cow pea as intercrops in groundnut, she also diversified her cropping, also reducing risks. The diversity on the farm not only increased resilience to her farm and livelihoods, it also yielded a good income. Revathi could earn Rs.85000 from her dryland, which seems unbelievable. The cost of production was also lesser by about Rs.3450.
Revathi has several other complementary activities on her farm. She raises 13 kinds of vegetables – the produce of worth Rs. 1000 is harvested every week. Fodder bank and azolla cultivation provide continous supply of feed to the cattle. She earns around Rs.1000 per month by selling milk. Revathi also started mushroom production on a small scale with 2 beds. She harvests around 250 grams, every alternate day. The vegetables, the milk and the mushrooms are providing a healthy nutritious food for the family. The surplus provides regular income too.
Revathi is really proud of her achievements. She feels she has succeeded in making her farm sustainable, providing healthy and nutritious food for the family, fodder for the livestock and income for the household. With her increased capacities and awareness, she now serves as the resource person on ecological agriculture.
This article has been developed by J. Krishnan. He can be contacted at email@example.com.
Smt. Revathi can be contacted at Door.No. 3/1A, Nallampatti village, B.Agraharam, Pennagaram Tk., Dharmapuri Dt., Tamilnadu, PIN 636 813.