Farmers in the drylands of Andhra Pradesh, who previously struggled to sustain their groundnut and pigeonpea crops during long dry spells, are now witnessing an increase in food grain production by 30 to 40% and fodder production by 10% to 30%. They are also raising mango plantations and growing vegetables. This has been possible through low-cost agricultural interventions such as building farm ponds and replenishing degraded soils with micro and secondary nutrients and sharing of farm resources such as machinery and pasture lands.
These learnings were shared at field days that had Innovation Platform experts interacting with about 300 farmers (100 were women) from the Dryland Systems (DS) sites in Anantapur and Kurnool that receive only about 540 mm of annual ra infall. The topics discussed included water conservation, soil health, gender mainstreaming, fodder promotion, small-scale vegetable cultivation, managing common lands and mechanization.
Mr Govindraj, a farmer, shared how he spends a little amount on micro and secondary nutrients and saves cost on extra use of nitrogen and phosphatic fertilizers and is able t
o get higher yields. Also by recycling
farm waste, farmers are not only cutting on the cost of chemical fertilizers but are also improving soil health and crop yield.
It is critical to address soil needs for building a strong foundation for dryland systems because with passage of time and mismanagement of soil resources, the number of deficient nutrients increases (see table).
Farmers Ms Hemlatha and Mr Ramanjeyulu shared how a micro-catchment scale low-cost cement-lined farm pond in a fellow farmer’s field has empowered them to effectively cope with the long dry spells while enhancing risk-taking abilities to intensify and diversify the production system.
The farm pond demonstrations during 2014 and 2015 facilitated 10 participating farmers in DS sites to diversify into raising mango plantations and vegetable gardens, and protect crops like groundnut and pigeonpea during long dry spells. Dr Girish Chander, Senior scientist – Natural Resource Management, ICRISAT, said that the construction of a small farm pond (10 m × 10 m × 2.5 m) with about one-centimeter thick concrete lining costs only $300 and is an effective scalable technology for storing water even in red soil with a high percolation rate.
Water conservation in individual farm ponds can change the face of dryland production systems and smallholder livelihoods, said Dr Y Reddy of AF Ecology Centre (AFEC).
Shared resources and gender mainstreaming
Farmers visit a low-cost individual farm pond in Mallapuram, Andhra Pradesh. photo: Y Swamy Reddy
Gender mainstreaming initiatives are an important component in DS sites. Livestock-related activities, which are mainly in the domain of women, are being strengthened by addressing fodder scarcity and promoting high-yielding nutritious varieties of annual sorghum and horse gram and perennial (Napier) grasses on individual farmer’s fields and also on common property lands in villages.
Promotion of kitchen gardens is also facilitating women to enhance income while improving family nutrition. All women participating in the field days expressed their willingness to undertake demos during the postrainy season.
To reduce drudgery, machine hiring centers are being promoted at the village level on sharing basis, said
Dr S Reddy of Acharya NG Ranga Agricultural University (ANGRAU). Farmers participating in the trials vouch that mechanization is enabling timely sowing for harnessing proper moisture and resulting in less cost, less labor, uniform distance between plants and better pods in groundnut.
The field days were held on 14 and 15 October. Innovation Platform experts from Acharya NG Ranga Agricultural University (ANGRAU); AF Ecology Centre (AFEC); Rural Studies Development Society (RSDS); Community Organising for Rural Upliftment Society (CORUS) and ICRISAT interacted with farmers. The learnings from on-farm research for development at DS action sites and farmers experience clearly showed that system-context scalable technologies are needed to develop productive and resilient dryland systems.
Project: Integrated Agricultural Production Systems for Improved Food Security and Livelihoods in Dry Areas
CGIAR Research Program: Dryland Systems
Investor: CGIAR Research Program on Dryland Systems
Partners: ICRISAT, Acharya NG Ranga Agricultural University (ANGRAU); AF Ecology Centre (AFEC); Rural Studies Development Society (RSDS); Community Organising for Rural Upliftment Society (CORUS)