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Institutions come together in promoting organic farming

Exhibition of organic products and technologies
Exhibition of organic products and technologies

Mainstream agriculture institutions through collaborative initiatives are playing a role in promoting organic agriculture. Krishi Vigyan Kendra in Karur with its multi institutional approach helped farmers in Karur district to switch over to organic ways of farming, in turn helping them increase their net incomes and farm employment, besides building self reliance.

Even though India has vast potential for organic production and marketing, its achievement on production, certification and export is low due to various reasons. Lack of sufficient education on production with specific standards, lack of easy accessible information on organic methods, requirements and markets for interested farmers, lack of good consumer information on organic farming and organic food, high distribution costs, lack of effective documentation and dissemination of research results among farmers and advisors, insufficient practical orientation of research etc., are some among them.

During a PRA and focus group discussions, Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVK) in Karur identified the problems faced by the organic growers of Karur district, such as low productivity, improper recycling of farm wastes, low remunerative price, lack of markets, lack of information and knowledge on organic agriculture etc. To promote organic farming, to increase the productivity and to help small holders in group certification, KVK Karur started working with the farmers in the region.

The villages were grouped into clusters based on close geographical proximity and uniformity in farming system. About 4 clusters were formed covering 63 groups. Major crops grown in these clusters are paddy, sugarcane, banana, groundnut, and millets and horticultural crops like vegetables, tapioca and banana.

Institutional Approach

KVK Karur has been promoting organic farming in the district through Institutional Approach. It worked with State Agriculture Universities (SAUs) and Research Stations for information on production aspects, National Center on Organic Farming (NCOF) for financial support, APEDA for standards and quality control, marketing institutions for marketing information and procurement and dissemination of technology and with peoples institutions at the cluster level. Each institution had a specific role to play.

Capacity building

Trainings and demonstrations were organized for knowledge and skill up gradation. Trainings were imparted to farmers on organic farming with various topics like soil fertility management, principles and practices of organic farming, organic input production technologies, use of natural resources and ITK, documentation in organic farming and certification, post harvest techniques etc., both at farmer’s field and in KVK campus. During 2006-08, around 3402 farmers were trained by KVK.

Demonstrations were conducted on the use of bioinputs and use of biogas slurry. Demonstration on use of bio inputs was done with the financial support of NCOF, Ghaziabad. Three demonstrations were conducted in paddy, bhendi and banana in the villages of Vadaseri, Archampatty and Muthalaipatty respectively on bio inputs. It had created confidence among the farmers on organic production technologies and other fellow farmers have accepted to adopt these technologies on trial basis in minimum area. The inputs namely bio-fertilizers and bio pesticides, (Azospirillum, Phosphobacteria, Pseudomonas & Trichoderma), bio control agents (Trichogramma japonicum,. Trichogramma Chilonis), green manures (Sunhemp, Daincha, Calotropis, Avarai, Kolinji) and animal based manures and growth promoters (Panchakavya, Amirthapani, Vermicompost, vermiwash, fish amino acids, fruits extracts), traps, botanicals and various enriched manures were supplied to farmers.

Importance of enriched biogas slurry was demonstrated at five locations in the crops viz., sesame, sunflower and groundnut. Biogas slurry was enriched with nitrogen fixing and nutrient solubilizing bacteria and fungi and this technology and its usage were demonstrated in addition to the use of various organic inputs. Pulutheri, Seethapatti, Vadasery, Tharagampatti and R.T. Malai from Kulithalai and Kadavur blocks farmers were involved in these demonstrations.

Wider awareness

Exhibitions, mass media programmes and exposure visits were organized to create awareness on a larger scale. More than 760 farmers were exposed to organic farming concepts by organising around 14 visits during 2006 to 2008. Around 21 exhibitions were organized at various locations during 2006-2008 and nearly 20000 farmers, farm women, rural youth and extension functionaries have participated. Through these exhibitions, awareness on organic farming and its importance was created widely among the farming community of Karur and nearby districts and also developed excellent network among the organic growers and between organic growers and consumers of organic produce.

Similarly, mass media like TV, radio and newspapers were utilized for wider reach. Several publications in the form of folders, booklets and manuals were brought out. Quarterly newsletters “Organic renaissance” were published to share latest updates and trends in organic farming.

An impact study conducted with sample farmers indicated that, by 2008, around 83% of the respondents had high level of knowledge on organic farming in all aspects like principles of organic farming, soil fertility improvement, land selection for organic farming, pest and disease management, post harvest technologies and documentation and certification process etc. This is almost double when compared to the figures of 2005, wherein only 42% of the respondents had high knowledge levels.  This can be attributed to more number of trainings, demonstrations and extension activities organized by the KVK at regular intervals.

Farmers as technocrats adopting organic farming practices

Majority of the respondents (85%) were found to adopt the organic farming practices in scientific manner -from field selection to harvest and marketing. Around 96 organic growers group were organized – 27 in 2006, 47 in 2007 and 22 in 2008. There were around 1930 organic farmers registered in these groups.  In each group a leader was identified on consensus mode and they were trained on organic farming in standards for organic cultivation, documentation and procedure for certification and marketing. By this way the group leaders emerged as technocrats and disseminated the technology. They were also responsible for documentation and maintenance of the standards. During 2006, four organic growers started serving as technocrats, which further increased to 17 in 2007 and 53 in 2008.  With technocrats, technology spread was high. Belonging to the local area, their acceptance and credibility were high.

The registered farmers allotted specific area for organic farming. In these small areas they started implementing organic practices with the support of KVK. In 2006, 116.82 hectares were under organic farming cultivated by 532 registered farmers. The crops grown were paddy, banana, sesame, sunflower, groundnut, green gram and black gram etc. In 2007, the area under organic farming increased to 269.63 hectares.

Increasing self reliance

Most of the organic inputs were produced locally reducing dependence on external inputs. The most widely used organic manure is vermi compost. Totally 44 farmers in the operational area started vermi compost production units. Vermicompost produced was used on their own fields and the surplus was sold to others in the village. The remaining farmers used farm yard manures, enriched farm yard manures with bio fertilizers for basal application. The total production capacity of the 44 vermi compost production is 399 tonnes per year.

Majority of the farmers prepared Panchagavya and Insect repellents whenever they needed. To supplement the organic input requirements, 18 units to produce Panchagavya and insect repellents were established during 2006 and the same had increased upto 56 during 2008 for large scale production.

Use of organic inputs reduced the input cost while the organically grown produce fetched additional price, leading to additional net income of about Rs. 1130, Rs 1250 and Rs. 1820/ha during 2006, 2007 and 2008 respectively. Establishment of various organic production units created additional employment opportunities of around 142, 198 and 210 man days during 2006, 2007 and 2008 respectively.

Organic input production unit
Organic input production unit

Linking producers and consumers

Consequent to increase in area under organic farming, the availability of the organic products in Karur district, also increased. To create awareness among consumers, exhibitions were organized at different places. Also an excellent network for marketing of organic produce was established with the market promoters. KVK also participated in various exhibitions both at the state and at the national level and created special market for organic sesame. With the support of KVK, processing units for organic sesame and organic rice were also established. Through certified processing units, the availability of processed products increased in the district.

 

Conclusion

Krishi Vigyan Kendras are established to serve as Knowledge and Resource Centres for improving the agricultural economy of the district by linking the national research with extension system and farmers. Through their interventions, KVK Karur has played its role by helping farmers to switch over to eco-friendly organic practices. This was possible owing to their multi agency approach involving various institutions like State Agricultural University (SAU), National Centre for Organic Farming (NCOF), Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA), Processing Institutes etc. Farmers in the region are now better equipped to adopt organic way of farming, which is more remunerative and less dependent on external inputs.

S Vallal Kannan
KVK Karur
Pulutheri village, R T Malai Post,
Kulithalai Taluk, Karur District
Tamil Nadu
E-mail: vallalkannan@yahoo.com