Managing soil and water

Equipping nurturers

An Indian farmer shares her story
Trained women farmers add to their income by adopting eco-friendly ways – enriching the soil by recycling farm waste through vermicomposting, raising Gliricidia nurseries for organic fertilizer and managing water resources.

Ms Sheela Sikandur adopted the integrated farming approach and diversified multiple cropping system to convert her barren field into a profitable business model. Today, her net income from the land is ₹120,000 ($1,888) per year.

Restoring barren land

Managing water resources and improving soil

Ms Sheela from Raichur, Karnataka, India, owned a 1.3 ha barren plot of land. To rejuvenate the land and make it productive she adopted an integrated farming approach.

In 2010, to save water on her farm, she installed a drip irrigation system and constructed a farm pond with a capacity of 600,000 liters. In 2012, she took part in the participatory soil sampling conducted in her area and played an active role in encouraging fellow farmers to participate in the initiative.

The soil test in her field revealed severe deficiencies in organic carbon and phosphorus and high potash. The soil was also severely deficient in secondary and micronutrients – sulfur, boron and zinc – resulting in low crop yields.

She consulted fellow lead farmers and constructed a vermicompost unit. She learned how to prepare compost and use it as fertilizer.

Learning from the Bhoochetana program, she started using balanced nutrient management practices, focusing more on the use of organic manure and replenishing deficient secondary and micronutrients. She planted Gliricidia on the farm bunds, allowing its root system to nourish the soil, and used the leaves for making compost.

Reaping benefits

Ms Sheela’s once barren land is now a cultivable farm. She grows horticultural and plantation crops Recycling-farm-wastealong with agricultural crops such as cotton and paddy and provides year-round employment to three women.

After observing the benefits of improved management practices, fellow farmers are eager to learn from her. She shares with them her experiences on different aspects of soil health, organic farming, vermicomposting, and balanced nutrient management. 

Ms Sheela follows a diversified multiple cropping system, and supplies vegetables for sale in the village to earn a daily income. In addition, she runs a dairy farm, a fish farm and a flour mill.

She supports her husband who works for an NGO in promoting organic farming and is an active member of the village Self-Help Group.

An award winner

Ms Sheela is a respected lead farmer in her village who is looked up to for advice. She received the Progressive Farmer award from the University of Agricultural Sciences, Dharwad during 2012-13. She was recognized for her work at the Women Farmers Day event held on 12 September 2014 at ICRISAT headquarters.

The Bhoochetana Plus project

Ms Sheela Sikandur played an active participatory role in this project in 2014. She conducted pigeonpea and groundnut varietal evaluations in her field.

Bhoochetana Plus is a multidisciplinary, multi-departmental approach that utilizes the expertise of different international CGIAR organizations.

The interventions in Raichur, Karnataka for 2013-14 include
  • Crop diversification with high-value vegetables – AVRDC (The World Vegetable Center)/ICRISAT
  • Direct seeded rice for minimizing water use – International Rice Research Institute (IRRI)
  • Popularizing water impact calculator for scheduling need-based irrigation – International Water
  • Management Institute (IWMI)/ICRISAT
  • Pilot experimentation for demonstrating minimum tillage benefits for sustainability –
    International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT)/ICRISAT
  • Crop diversification using groundnut and other high-value pulses – ICRISAT
  • Efficient use of phosphorus through improved nutrient and crop management interventions – ICRISAT/IRRI/CIMMYT


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