Farmers in Visakhapatnam district are being encouraged to rediscover and adopt age-old agricultural practices, give up use of chemical fertilisers and pesticides, and grow organic crops, according to Mr P. Ramana, district manager of Community Managed Sustainable Agriculture project.
He said in an interview that the project, being implemented by the District Rural Development Agency (DRDA), is meant to support poor farmers to adopt sustainable agricultural practices to reduce the cost of cultivation and increase net return. It will also boost soil fertility and enable them to produce pesticide-free food products.
The project is being implemented in 626 villages in 30 mandals of the district, benefiting 45,371 farmers. The extent of coverage is 78,690 acres, of which 17,873 acres are in the agency (tribal) areas in the eastern ghats.
Mr Ramana said the farmers were realising the importance of organic farming and the increasing demand for such products on health grounds. “They are re-learning old agricultural practices. We are gradually persuading them to give up on chemical fertilisers and pesticides,” he said.
To realise the objective, the farmer field schools are being established. A group of 20-25 resourceful farmers, already well-versed with the agricultural practices are being engaged in promoting awareness about eco-friendly farm practices. Under the poverty alleviation scheme, the landless labourers are being given land on lease for promoting organic cultivation.
The SRI (systemic rice intensification) system in paddy cultivation is also being promoted under the project to boost paddy production. In traditional paddy cultivation, 30 bags are produced in an acre and under SRI 40-50 bags. The crop is totally organic.
The department of Tribal Welfare and the ITDA are also striving to keep tribal farmers away from chemical fertilisers and pesticides. It is intended to bring the entire area in the tribal belt under organic farming in a phased manner in the district.