India – Model Farmers in Jashpur District Pioneer Climate-Smart Agricultural Practices

Farmers in adivasi (tribal) commu-nities in Jashpur District cheap mlb jerseys
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struggle with low levels of productivity and face increasing variability in the annual monsoon rains on which most of their food and income depend. In response, CARE India is implementing the Where the Rain Falls project, the goal of which is to increase the resilience of adivasi women and their households to climate variability and change. Community-based climate change adaptation in the 40 villages in which the project works requires both building on traditional knowledge and introducing new water management and agricultural techniques. Progressive or model farmers, like Sumitra Barwa, play a critical role as early adopters of new technologies, taking the risk to test new approaches on their own fields, which then serve as demonstration sites for more skeptical, risk-averse neighbors.

Among the new approaches being pioneered in Jashpur District by the Where the Rain Falls project are simple on-farm water storage technologies, which build on and complement the traditional village water bodies found in much of rural India. Many of these technologies involve digging pits or small ponds to retain water to increase soil moisture retention on and near farmer fields. Although average annual rainfall in the area is more than 1,200mm, almost all that rainfall is concentrated during a four-five month annual monsoon season. And the monsoon is reported by local farmers to be more unpredictable than in the past, arriving later and often characterized by longer dry spells during the monsoon season. The concentrated nature and unpredictability of rainfall makes the more efficient management of available water more critical than ever, both for ensuring a successful rice harvest during the monsoon (kharif) season, and also to permit expanded cultivation of pulses and other crops in the second, post-monsoon (rabi) season. Both, in turn, are critical to increasing household food security and lifting adivasi households out of poverty.

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Two specific approaches being promoted by the project are percolation tanks, which are dug near farmer fields in micro-watershed areas to increase groundwater recharge. A second approach is the “5% Model”, which Sumitra Barwa and several neighboring farmers agreed to test in 2014.  This model involves digging pits roughly equivalent to 5% of the surface area of each field, and situating them in such a way to catch not only rainfall but also surface run-off.  The upcoming monsoon season will be a test of whether these pits, pictured below in Figure 2, serve their intended purpose by both reducing the risk of a failed kharif rice crop and increasing the possibility of a second crop during the rabi season. Sumitra is further increasing her prospects of success by also adopting the System of Rice Intensification (SRI), described below, in some of her rice fields.

The System of Rice Intensification (SRI) is one approach to climate-smart agriculture being promoted by CARE India under the Where the Rain Falls project. The SRI methodology, first developed in Madagascar in the 1980s, is a low water, labor intensive, organic method that uses younger seedlings singly spaced and typically hand weeded with special tools. During the 2014 kharif season, Jaganath Singh and a number of other progressive farmers in Pattalgaon Block, agreed to test this new method of rice cultivation in some of their fields. At a meeting in his village of Patrapani, he and several other farmers explained this new method to their fellow villagers and reported on the results. During a poor monsoon year, SRI farmers reported better harvests than those using conventional practices. They also reported lower costs by virtue of needing to use only 2.5kg/acre of seed versus the 40kg/acre required using conventional sowing practices. Some of the specific SRI practices used in project villages included: seed treatment (with cow urine and then a salt solution) to separate good seeds from those unlikely to germinate; fewer days in nursery before transplantation (although longer than normally called for under SRI due to delayed onset of monsoon rains); line sowing with transplantation of only 1-2 seedlings per hole; and use of a simple, hand-held cono weeder. This approach was found to yield a high number of tillers per plant, thus increasing rice yields. Local farmers showed a high level of interest in the experience of Jaganath and the several other farmers who adopted SRI in 2014, and many expressed interest in receiving training to adopt these practices on their own fields in 2015.

Given the initial, very encouraging results from the piloting of the SRI method, and the very positive response from local farmers, the Where the Rain Falls project plans to scale up this approach during the upcoming kharif season. Similarly, before the onset of the monsoon rains, work will also be undertaken on select village water bodies, and improved on-farm water storage will be promoting by scaling up the use of both percolation tanks and the 5% model. By the end of 2015, CARE India should be able to report on the results of these intervention and determine which approaches should be further expanded in the project’s 40 villages in 2016.

Kevin Henry

Project Coordinator, Where the Rain Falls

January 2015

Sumitra Barwa, Model Farmer in Jamjuwani Village

Jaganath Singh Explains the System of Rice Intensification to Fellow Farmers