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Agriculture

> Agriculture

Agricultural development is one of the most reliable and potent forces for poverty reduction and broad-based social and economic development.

Problem statement

Agriculture in semi-arid regions has been severely affected by climate change in recent years. Agriculture has been hit both by change in duration as well as intensity of rains. High runoff to sea due to high intensity rainfall leads to limited recharge of aquifers, resulting in water scarcity for irrigation after monsoon. In addition, the excessive use of chemical fertilizers has led to degraded soil health leading to poor water retention rates, which inhibits aquifer recharge. In the coastal regions of our operational geographies, seawater ingress affects both water quality as well as soil health. Lack of access to improved practices, inputs and market linkages aggravate the sufferings of farming communities.

Agriculture

The farming communities living in coastal Gujarat operate in an uncertain and vulnerable environment. Our operational areas lie under arid and dry ecological zone and are also bereft of any large perennial water bodies.
The length of growing season is at best between 90 to 120 days. (the number of days when the moisture level is half the required level), a direct consequence of high evapotranspiration losses and less rainfall.
The coastal region of Gujarat has historically been a water stressed region and the people had to rely upon groundwater resources to meet irrigation needs. The introduction of water pumps led to overexploitation of water resources, rendering the water and consequently land resources saline.

Irrigation of cultivable land is of prime concern to the agrarian economy, more so in the saline affected areas of Gujarat. The problem of poor water quality is aggravated due to shallow soil depth. The poor water holding capacity of the soil eventually increases the number of irrigation systems required for any crop and adds up to the costs, time and above all, increased soil salinity.

Groundnut and Cotton are the two most important crops being grown in Saurashtra & Kutch in Monsoon season with area under cotton increasing exponentially since the introduction of Bt cotton in the early years of this century. Onion and wheat are the important crops of Rabi season. However, productivity challenges haunt farmers in the form of water scarcity, lack of technical knowhow, limited credit access, excessive use of chemical fertilizers and increasing salinity of groundwater. Climate change is further threatening agriculture-based livelihood in an already difficult agro-ecological zone. Coastal regions are highly vulnerable to events such as cyclones, rising sea levels, increasing precipitation rates, etc.

The key components of the Agriculture programme of CSPC are:

Productivity Enhancement

In order to enhance income from agriculture, it is crucial to improve productivity. CSPC has adopted a sustainable approach to enhance productivity by promoting integrated crop management. .To diversify incomes from agriculture, intercropping of vegetable, fodder and pulses with the main crop is increasingly being promoted. We have also introduced a number of saline resistant varieties of Green Gram, Wheat, fodder and Sugar beet.

Figure 1: Intercropping in cotton to enhance productivity and farmer income

Water Efficiency

Water management is undertaken on the basis of crop life cycle stage rather than area-based approach. This enables water savings as water usage is customised based on individual crop requirement.  Micro Irrigation Systems such as drip, sprinkler and laser irrigation technologies are promoted to reduce the quantum of water required for irrigation.

Figure 2: Laser irrigation to increase production and water saving

Soil Health Management

A key aspect of the organisation’s work is Soil Health Management. Soil testing is undertaken on a large scale to understand the condition of the soil. Soil maps are then developed and painted at common places in villages to disseminate the information gathered. This helps in effective implementation of soil rejuvenation measures. Depending upon soil conditions, optimum fertilizer usage is recommended.

Figure 3: Composting using earthworms helps in regeneration of soil.

Disease and Pest Management

CSPC builds capacities of farmers on disease and pest management through regular trainings. Integrated pest management is undertaken with focus on reduction of chemical based pesticides. As per the internal assessment of the organization, farmers using integrated pest management techniques were able to save 20% cost on inputs.

Figure 4: Use of yellow sticky traps can help farmers in early detection and management of pests in cotton.

Building Agriculture Value Chains

The profitability of small and marginal farmers is affected to a huge extent due to their buying inputs in retail and selling output in bulk which leads to minimal profit. Farmers’ collectives enable collectivization of farmers providing bargaining power at both supply and demand side, which leads to reduction of input cost and maximization of selling price thus improving profit margin. The FPOs have developed linkages of farmers with Fair trade buyers offering at least Minimum Support Price (MSP) and premium on quality produce.

Figure 5: On farm grading and sorting can help farmer realize better price

Promoting Climate Resilient Agriculture

Coastal regions are highly vulnerable to climate change shocks and potential of irrigation is limited due to the changing rainfall patterns. The region also faces dryness due to suboptimal moisture content in the soil. Various trainings and meetings are conducted to build climate resilience capacity of farmers.

Green mulching, manuring, and intercropping are promoted to improve soil cover, and promotion of FYM is undertaken to improve soil organic content. CSPC also promotes cultivation of drought and salinity resilient crops and varieties.

Figure 6: Green mulching as an effective way to conserve moisture in dry spells, along with enhancing soil carbon