Friday, September 07, 2007

A silent revolution in agriculture

THE FOLLOWING ARTICLE IS OWNED BY "The Hindu" - © Copyright 2000 - 2006 The Hindu

B.S. Satish Kumar

Bio-resources project shows positive results in the villages of Doddaballapur taluk

END OF TRYING TIMES: With farmers taking to innovative methods of farming, agriculture produce is fetching good price.

DODDABALLAPUR (Bangalore Rural District): Ambareesh, a young dry-land farmer from Bachahalli village of Doddaballapur taluk, was fed up with agriculture three years ago as it had become a non-profitable exercise for him. Frustrated by recurring plant diseases that frequently hit his arecanut plantation, he cut the trees down. He tried getting a job in Bangalore and as he had studied only till SSLC, he was ready to accept even a salary of Rs. 2,000.

But Ambareesh’s fortunes have now changed due to a silent revolution that is taking place in the rural area of Doddaballaur taluk. Now, he earns an annual income of Rs. 2.20 lakh from his farm itself. No, he did not take to hi-tech farming. All that he did was to practice sustainable agricultural methods, including organic farming, and diversifying his income generating activities.

To increase the fertility of soil he makes vermi compost. This valuable manure has pushed up his vegetable yields, which he augments by selling earthworms bred through vermi compost. He also practices apiculture, and earns extra money by selling drumstick and “honge” plants in his nursery. These diverse farm activities, though done in a small way, add up to a substantial sum.

Well, it is not just Ambareesh whose income has risen. Many farming families in 51 villages of Tubagere hobli in Doddaballpur taluk have been benefited by the Bio-Resources Complex Project that has been launched on a pilot basis in Tubagere hobli by the National Bio-Resources Development Board of the Union Government. The aim of the project is to increase the income of farmers by four times in five years starting from April 1, 2005, through reduction of the cost of cultivation and crop diversification. They hope it will put an end to the trend of farmers’ suicides and also the mass desertion of agriculture by farmers.

The highlight of the project that is being implemented by the University of Agricultural Sciences-Bangalore is that it is taken up only in five States in the country and in the southern region, Karnataka is the only one to try this initiative.

Project Coordinator K. Narayana Gowda told The Hindu that under the project, a bio-resources centre had been set up in Tubagere hobli to serve as a source of information on requirements of farmers. The project aimed at developing a cafeteria of technological packages, information and resource-based enterprises suitable for specific target groups. The intention is to instil confidence among farmers that it was possible to make a decent living through farming.

Dr. Narayana Gowda said that the Union Government, which recently reviewed the project, had declared that the implementation of the project was the best in Karnataka compared with other four States. He expressed the confidence that it would be possible to increase farmers’ income by five times by 2010.

A study by the project has shown that farmers in Doddaballpur taluk spend about Rs. 6 crore on transportation of their vegetables to Bangalore. Dr. Narayana Gowda said the project was trying to reduce this cost by setting up farmers’ associations for mass transportation and also entering into an agreement with buyers for on-the-spot procurement.

The project also trains farmers on bio-fuel, fish farming and rose cultivation in addition to training 3,000 women of self-help groups on the preparation of ragi malt during their free time to earn additional income.

As many as eight groups have been formed. These include groups of bio-fuel farmers, vegetable growers, ragi malt producers, fish farmers, jack fruit growers and organic farmers.

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