Building resilience organically

With a little support and guidance, farmers can transform their lives and become resilient to changes in weather and markets. The case of Pitar Sabar shows how a tribal farmer with the support from WOTR, changed the way he farmed and enhanced the income levels, besides becoming a resource person in his area.

Pitar Sabar is a farmer residing in Targising village of Gunupur in Rayagada district of Odisha.  He is a small farmer, dependent on agriculture and allied agricultural activities for his livelihood. He lives with his wife Sanjanita Sabar. He owns 7 acres of land, out of which, one acre is cultivated during Kharif under rainfed conditions. The rest six acres is pasture land where he has planted forest breed cashew, which yields low.

Collecting biometric data for SRI Paddy

He grows only one crop a year, leaving the land fallow during the winter season. Paddy is cultivated during Kharif and the grain is used for household consumption. Other household expenses are borne by the amount gained by selling cashew and local labour work.

Along with many others in the village, Pitar migrates for about four to six months to States like Arunachal Pradesh,  Tamil Nadu and Pune in search of labour work.

The initiative

In August 2018, WOTR started implementing a project in 11 villages in the Gunupur block with the goal of improving and expanding livelihood possibilities for the tribal communities. Building adaptive capacities and resilience to climate change was the major objective of the project, supported by  Bread for the World.

Climate Resilient Agriculture is one of the components implemented in the project. This component aims to promote adaptive, sustainable agriculture practices such as System of Crop Intensification (SCI) and improved agriculture practices. Promotion of organic formulations, encouraging farmers to cultivate vegetables, and reduce agricultural input costs were the key activities of this initiative.

Pitar participated in four agricultural trainings organised by WOTR, which covered improved agriculture techniques from seed selection to harvesting the crop. Pitar says, “in the first training, we were shown how to select seeds, seed treatment and the preparation of seedbeds. In the second training, we were told about SCI and how to transplant using line method to ensure optimum sunlight and other nutrients for the crop for the maximum crop yield. In the third training, a demonstration was given on nutrition management and how to prepare organic formulations such as dashparni ark, jeevamrut, neemastra etc. Fourth training covered topics like harvesting and post-harvest management”.

Building resilience

Some of the activities taught in this training are pursued enthusiastically by Pitar, which proved to be beneficial. Wasundhara Sevak and WOTR staff played an important role in organizing these training programmes and hand-holding each farmer throughout the cropping season.

WOTR supported farmers to have a demo plot in which all the recommended methods are applied. This is compared with the control plot on which traditional farming methods are applied. The difference between the two plots is self-evident. WOTR has helped in maintaining detailed records of plant growth, maturation, pinnacle formation etc. and showed how to calculate the yield. Pitar says, “Keeping a detailed record allows us to learn what goes into every stage of the crop. Analysing  the data of the demo plot with the control plot helps us realise quantitative benefits of the methods we use over the traditional methods.” 

With the guidance received, Pitar grew tomatoes for the first time in 2019. He used the stacking method for his tomato crops in which individual plants are tied to sticks just tight enough to stay up. Staking helps plants grow vertically without a direct contact with soil, reducing loss from fruit rot. He earned Rs. 8,000 by selling tomatoes. These organically grown tomatoes, with the use of dashparni ark, neemastra and amritpani are chemical free and taste delicious.

In the year 2020, when the entire district was hit by the pandemic situation of COVID-19, Pitar was busy selling his products such as tomatoes and onions from his field.

Pitar also practiced System of Rice Intensification (SRI) in the Kharif season of 2020-21. In the Rabi season, Pitar was supported with a set of sprinklers as it was observed that the irrigation available is not sufficient. Pitar contributed a sum of Rs. 2000 towards cash contribution for the sprinkler set. He was also trained on how to use it. The end result was quite remarkable as in his control patch, the yield was 1700 kg per acre and in the command or demo patch, the yield was 2000 kg per acre, recording a 18% increase in yield over control plot. He then started cultivating onions and tomatoes and earned a profit of Rs.8530. Thus, a farmer, who has never grown any crop in Rabi is now earning on an average Rs. 8000 in Rabi season.

Pitar is looking forward to growing a second crop such as sunflower, sweet corn and vegetables such as chilli, cauliflower, brinjal, bitter gourd, bottle gourd, onion etc. Pitar says, “Now, I no longer migrate to other cities in search of livelihood. I grow tomatoes, onions and other vegetables. I work in my paddy field, collect mahua seeds and cashews. I also sell surplus organic formulations to other farmers.”

Pitar believes in sharing what he has learnt. He conducts demonstrations for those willing to learn. He taught the technique of preparing organic formulations to his acquaintances and relatives in nearby villages. Having a great demand in the nearby villages to train others on organic formulations, WOTR has supported in promoting Pitar as a trainer in other tribal villages. It is indeed a great achievement for Pitar to transform from being a migrant to becoming a trainer.

Harshal Khade

Harshal Khade

Communications Officer

Watershed Organisation Trust (WOTR)

The Forum, 2nd Floor,

Pune – Satara Road, Padmavati Corner,

above Ranka Jewellers,

Pune – 411009, Maharashtra

M: +91 95820 41352


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