Farm ponds, revived soils and improved crop varieties lead to a more productive rural Odisha
Kalahandi district in Odisha, India, has suffered from repeated droughts and famines for several decades, causing great hardships to the local farmers. A holistic intervention is helping 8,500 farmers in 10 villages boost farm yields by increasing water availability, enhancing soil fertility and providing improved crop varieties. A total of 32 farm ponds have alleviated water scarcity in the area. A yield increase of up to 50% was seen due to these collaborative efforts with the Power Grid Corporation Limited in this region.
The Power Grid Corporation of India Limited has collaborated with ICRISAT to develop a scalable ‘site of learning’ to improve livelihoods of smallholders in a 2,500-ha area comprising 10 villages in Jaipatna block, Kalahandi district, Odisha, which is home to 8,500 people.
The watershed program, started in late October 2019, included planning and implementation of rainwater management interventions, soil health rejuvenation, improved crops/systems, nutri-gardens and livestock activities for women and fruit plantations for enhancing system productivity.
In an effort to bridge the yield gap between farmers of this region and those at the national level, efforts were first focused on efficient rainwater management and soil rejuvenation, along with improved cropping management (http://dx.doi.org/10.1079/9781786394514.0021 ; https://youtu.be/PJoFMQxf7Jc).
On-farm rainwater storage solutions are an important component towards drought-proofing, crop production intensification and diversification (http://drylandsystems.cgiar.org/outcome-stories/small-ponds-make-big-progress-among-farmers-india). So far, in 2020, 32 farm-ponds have been constructed in 7 of the 10 villages. In the present COVID-19 outbreak situation, these ponds will give farmers easy access to water so that they can continue agricultural activities without any constraints.
Ensuring soil health
Soil health mapping of the watershed villages showed widespread soil degradation and low soil organic carbon levels. Around 37% of the farmers’ fields were low in soil organic carbon, indicating nitrogen deficiency as well. Upon further investigation, deficiencies in phosphorus (49% of fields), sulphur (86%), zinc (53%) and boron (90%) were revealed. Based on the results, demonstrations were conducted during post-rainy season of 2019-20 in 226 farmers’ fields with micro/secondary nutrient fertilizers and improved varieties of crops. The data collected from farmers’ green gram fields showed yield gains of around 30% with improved varieties and up to 50% with improved varieties and micronutrient application.
About 180 women farmers were provided vegetable seeds to set up small nutri-gardens for improving household nutrition. During the current 2020 rainy season, along with establishment of fruit plants in fallow/marginal lands to improve the overall system productivity, the focus is also towards improving livestock productivity through improved feed/fodder schedules (https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-29918-7_9).
To see how such low-cost strategies have helped farmers in Southern India in another project supported by Power Grid Corporation, click here: https://www.icrisat.org/low-cost-drought-proofing-strategies-help-farmers-in-southern-india/.