Food sufficiency through diversified farming A case of a small farmer

Anita Singh

Small land holders can be self sustainable. This was proved by Shri. Santu, a small farmer in Gorakhpur, who started making a decent living from farming by increasing the diversity on the farms and integrating one into another.

Sadhukuti is a small hamlet in Ramchaura village in Campiergunj block of Gorakhpur district. This village is situated at national highway of Gorakhpur- Sonauli. Farmers in this village have been primarily depending on agriculture for their livelihoods. There are total eight households in his hamlets and all they belong to sahani caste. The total village area covers ten acres of land which includes both agricultural land and orchard having majority of mango trees. Monocropping has been the system of cultivation for years. While paddy is grown in the kharif season, wheat with mustard is the rabi crop.

The ill effects of extensive use of inputs were reflecting in terms of high production cost, lesser incomes and natural resource degradation. These were in turn having impact on the well being of landless, small and marginal farmers. In 1989-90, GEAG, a NGO, started to address the issue of sustainable farming by promoting alternative options. It strongly believed that low input farming or sustainable agriculture is the only and lasting option for sustainable livelihood of these poor section and environment conservation. With this belief, it motivated several farmers in the Campiergunj and Sardar Nagar blocks of Gorakhpur district to demonstrate holistic approach of sustainable agricultural.  Under this approach, focus was on utilizing their own local resources for development of low cost sustainable agricultural practices. In this approach, small and marginal farmers had to develop as model farmers and demonstrate their agriculture and livelihood sustainability. In December 2004, GEAG started promoting integrated farming systems through its biofarm project in Campiergunj region.

Sri Santu is one of the farmers who benefited from GEAG’s interventions. For last three generations, his family has been living in Sadhukuti hamlet. There are ten members in his family. The family primarily depends on agriculture for their livelihoods. He has two acres of land with adequate irrigation facility. The nature of land is sandy- loam. He has been cultivating wheat and mustard crops in rabi season and paddy crop in kharif season. Being wilt sensitive, plantation of sisso tree and cultivation of pulse crops are not taken up in the area. This also reflected on the nutrition status of the family. Due to low on-farm employability, Santu sometimes employs himself for transporting people using his bullock cart.

Integrating practices and reaping benefits

Santu along with other farmers in his village actively participated in GEAG’s programme.  He had curiosity, which motivated him to participate in participatory planning. He also started building up his understanding on various conceptual and technical aspects of farming. This renewed understanding helped him to take informed decisions. For eg., having understood soil physiology he started getting his soils tested  in every season. He gradually incorporated and integrated various sustainable practices like crop rotation and mixed cropping, integration of leguminous crops, bund plantation, kitchen gardens etc. He also started producing eco friendly inputs for his land like vermi compost, nadep compost and biopesticides using locally available resources.

Today, diversified agriculture is reflected throughout the year in following ways. Now, he cultivates crops of wheat, paddy, oil crop, vegetables along with legumes. Adopting wilt resistant legumes varieties have made possible the availability of pulses for consumption, which was earlier a mere dream. Also planted multipurpose trees like Teak, Sahjan, Neem etc which yield both fruits and timber wood. Plantation are one side, contributing in land water retaining capacity while other side they will check on soil erosion in coming days in-turn increase of soil fertility. Other activities include bund plantation and seed production.

Under animal husbandry, along with bullock, he has also started rearing of buffalo, cow, goats, poultry and fishery.  Utilization of organic manure and change of cropping pattern have resulted remarkable improvement in soil fertility. Consumption of synthetic fertilizer and pesticides has considerably reduced.

Changed cropping cycles and diversification has enabled productive employment to all the family members. Family members are continuously engaged in various activities throughout the year – for eg., irrigation, manuring and pest management, harves0ting, selling produces in local market etc.

The adoption of these practices / interventions has not only ensured food security of his family members throughout the year but also made nutritious and adequate food available to them. His domestic requirement of cereals and vegetables is fulfilled through his own farm production. There is also additional income from selling surplus food in local markets.

The other farmers of village are very much impressed and motivated looking at remarkable changes made by Santu and they are making efforts in terms of adoption of agricultural practices. The motivated linked farmers say that adoption of his carrying on agriculture practices have comparatively enabled them to reduce input with more profitable income along with promoting eco-friendly activities.

Santu has also developed himself as a micro entrepreneur and is involved in activities like selling of vegetable produces in market and development of vegetable nursery in low tunnel system and their selling in surrounding villages and markets. He is also promoting poultry and fishery activities as additional income generating activities. Honey bee keeping also gives its contribution. The proposed intervention includes value addition of farm’s produces having vast potential linkages.

Presently, his efforts has enabled him to get recognition from the farmers of surrounding area as well as other district and state level farmers including agencies and organizations. Farmers who are visiting and getting motivated are making efforts to adopt his ways of success. Thus, Sri Santu proved that small land holders can be self sustainable by adopting integrated sustainable agriculture practices using own local resources.

Dr. Anita Singh,

Gorakhpur Environmental Action Group,

Post Box #60, Gorakhpur- 273001(UP)India


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