Sakhi with the support of IWMI, ICAR and local farmers are implementing innovative dry season agriculture pilot farms in two blocks of Madhubani district namely Andhrathari and Babubarhi. During the first Rabi season (2015-16), the team is working with 45 farmers directly. A total of 5 farmer groups have been formed and cultivation was initiated in November. Two farmer groups will be operating as pure collectives, with the sharing of land, labour and capital. The other three groups will retain their individual plots or rented holdings, and will share inputs and cooperate in marketing.
Initial bye laws of the group have been formed, but this is a dynamic process, and rules are being changed regularly as per the requirements and experiences of the group in their monthly meeting. The project is supporting farmers with seed, weedicides, multi-nutrients, irrigation and technical support.
Following recent initiation of the field activity and ongoing capacity development with farmers, a meeting with broader stakeholder groups was initiated by ICAR and hosted by Sakhi with support from IWMI.
The participants included 3 leaders from each farmer group, a landlord who is leasing land to the group and agricultural extension officers from three gram panchayats as well as the PRI representative from the Panchayat, a vegetable trader and media person.
Participants were welcomed by Mrs. Suman Singh secretary of Sakhi, followed by the lighting of lamp by representatives of each group. A brief presentation on the project was given by Mr. Anoj Kumar of IWMI who outlined progress and future plans.
The purpose of the stakeholders meeting was briefly outlined by Ritesh Kumar from Sakhi, who outlined the many players including farmers, government officers, scientists, suppliers and social mobilizes who have the common goal of improving the production and living standard of the farmers. He highlighted the need to plan together in order to set examples which could be replicated elsewhere. Farmers were given the opportunity to voice their views.
From a technical perspective, Dr Santosh Mali from ICAR briefly outlined the different irrigation interventions being planned for implementation in the field like including drip and sprinkler systems, solar pumping, mulching for water conservation and drum kit irrigation. Dr Ajay Kumar briefly gave orientation on water harvesting structures and how they could be used to preserve pond water for dry season irrigation and fish production.
In the open forum discussion Mrs. Vina Devi told the members that during this season all their group members cultivated three crops (lentil, wheat and potato) and they plan to grow more vegetable crops during summer season. Initiating vegetable cultivation will be a significant achievement. Akashwati Devi told the members that they are learning new skills this season and they will plant other crops next season.
Kisan Salahkar told the members that there were several government schemes that could be utilised by the marginal and tenant farmers like diesel subsidy, Vermicompost pit subsidy, seed support, etc. He also informed the participants of the process for getting this support. The meeting agreed it is important for officials to continue to attend future meetings to support farmers in benefiting from these initiatives.
A landlord of Bhagwatipur Mr. Lal highlighted the high cost of seed and the meeting discussed opportunities for local production.
The meeting proved an excellent exercise for raising awareness and linking farmers with broader stakeholder representatives to broaden benefits to community groups in the rural agricultural economy.
Anoj Kumar inspecting a farmers field
Dr Santosh Mali presenting on irrigation technology
Participants sharing their views in the meeting