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Ecological farming is the way forward

Mrs. Indrani adopts ecological practices on her farm

Indrani is a small farmer owning one acre of rainfed land and lives in Mangarai village of Pennagaram block in Tamil Nadu. Her husband is a government employee and hence farming took a backseat. Even though she grew occasionally groundnut and paddy (tank-fed), she wasn’t very keen on adopting good farming practices. She relied on the local input seller and applied chemicals to the crops, based on the seller’s advice. She never even knew that alternatives to chemical farming, existed.

Indrani is not only a member of SHG group but also manages four such groups. These groups were formed by MYRADA, an NGO, around 12 years back.  Being an animator cum director, Indrani participates in MYRADA’s board of directors meeting every month. In one such meeting, MYRADA-manager shared the outcomes of a Farmer Field School being conducted by AMEF, an NGO working in a neighbouring village. Indrani realized that she was not earning anything from the way she did farming. She, for the first time learnt that there were eco-friendly ways of doing farming.  Out of growing interest, she interacted with the women, who had been trained through the Farmer Field Schools.

In 2015, when AME entered her village to help farmers to adopt ecological ways of farming, Indrani was the one who proactively came forward and organized the FFS group. She participated in all the FFS sessions and enriched her knowledge on ecological agriculture. She gradually gained more confidence in taking appropriate decisions to address problems on her farm. She started using botanical pesticides. She installed yellow sticky traps to attract sucking pests. She raised sunhemp prior to groundnut to control weeds. She replaced chemical fertilisers with biofertilisers and observed that her costs were low. “Now I prepare NSKE, botanical pesticides and yellow sticky traps on my own. I have stopped using chemical pesticides totally. Previously, I used to spend Rs.8000-10000 per acre on purchase of fertilizers, pesticides, weeding charges etc.. but now I spend only around Rs. 4000/-. By adopting alternative methods, I could save an amount of Rs.3000-4000/-per acre”, says Indrani.

In fact, adoption of ecological practices saved her crop in 2016, when there was acute drought. Indrani having understood the importance of soil moisture conservation adopted several practices – in-situ ploughing of sunhemp was done to improve organic matter content in the soil, bioenriched FYM was applied, adopted across the slope ploughing to enhance the water holding capacity. “When, other field crops of groundnut suffered at critical crop growth phases like flowering, peg formation, pod formation due to moisture stress, my groundnut field could survive and I could harvest 50 to 60% of groundnut yield. The crop loss was only to the extent of 40 to 50%, while it was total yield loss for other farmers”, says Indrani.

Indrani is presently a happy farmer cultivating crops like groundnut, Samai, Ragi etc., following ecological practices. Having gained from eco-friendly ways of cultivation, Indrani has been instrumental in spreading it by educating the members of the three SHGs. She also shares her experiences in gramasabha and panchayat level meetings. “Our village’s organic and healthy environment can be regained if ecological agriculture is followed in all types of lands (dry, wet and garden)”, says Indrani, confidently.

Ms. Indrani can be contacted at 9943316249

The writeup has been developed by Mr. J Krishnan, AMEF. He can be contacted at krish72oxigen@gmail.com