Transforming Rural India through Agricultural Transformation
With a majority of its population living in villages, rural poverty is a major problem in India. The disparity between the urban and rural incomes is also on the rise. This leads to migration to urban areas resulting in urban blight as well. Therefore addressing the problem of rural poverty assumes urgency. On my last trip to India, I witnessed an innovation experiment, National Agro Foundation (NAF), that addresses this wicked problem.
Since its inception in 2000, NAF has been involved in a range of interventions—infusion of technology, soil enrichment, efficient farm and water management, improved cattle development, functional literacy, rural sanitation and public health, human resource development, establishment of self-help groups particularly among women, self-employment opportunities and facilitating institutional credit—to address the problem of farm productivity in India. Founded by Mr. C Subramaniam on his 90th birthday as a parting gift to his country, the NAF focuses on the poor and marginal farmers, women, unemployed youth, and depressed communities. (Mr. Subramaniam is widely acclaimed as the Father of the Green Revolution in India, because in the mid-1960s, as the Minister for Food and Agriculture, he successfully handled a major food crisis).
NAF works in about 250 villages in Tamilnadu and has reached 30,000 rural families. A large part of NAF’s effort with farmers is to help break their initial emotional barriers to new technologies. This has provided the platform to launch into other initiatives. The success of these measures has had a demonstrative impact on the farmers’ willingness to adopt and internalize new technologies. This may be considered an attitudinal breakthrough.
Another initiative, the Center for rural development (CFRD), a training cum village knowledge center, has been established in Illedu Village of Kancheepuram district with classrooms, computer lab with internet facilities, input and product handling center, farm machinery workshop, model experimental farm, residential complex for trainees and an open air theatre to cater to the needs of various sections of rural community. NAF has also established a Research and Development Center in Chennai housing a comprehensive soil testing laboratory, food safety and standards laboratory and a plant tissue culture lab to provide agriculture support services.
Here are some highlights of the outcomes as a result of these NAF interventions:
Agriculture productivity improvements through resource conserving “Lean Farming”: Paddy (55%), Groundnut (113%), Vegetables (116%), Sugarcane (40%), and Corn (150%). Through successful lead farmers, technology transfer has been effected over an area of 10,000 acres with a “Lead Farmer—Lead Village” concept. Addressing the agriculture value chain—soil testing, facilitation of inputs and credit, market linkage, and field advisory services—is part and parcel of agriculture development initiatives. Promotion of climate resilient agriculture, resource conserving technologies and promotion of use of Information Communication Technology (ICT) in agriculture are being attempted too.
Watershed and natural resource management initiatives have resulted in increase in water table ranging from 3.5 meters to 5 meters in the project area of over 6,000 hectares. Cropping intensity has been doubled (two crop cultivation in a year instead of one crop) and about 20% additional area which had been left fallow has also been brought under cultivation. Soil erosion, nutrient loss, damage due to flooding during rainy seasons have reduced significantly.
Over 6,500 high yielding cross bred cattle with a milk yield improvement to the extent of 300% has also been achieved through NAF’s animal husbandry initiatives.
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ICT will help improve quality of agri produce: NABARD Chief
There is an urgent need to bridge the gap between agriculture research and farmers, stressed Dr. G. R. Chintala, Chairman, NABARD. While speaking on an occasion organized by National Agro foundation (NAF) at Chennai, he suggested that Information and Communication Technology (ICT) such as blockchain technologies could be effectively used not only to improve the quality of agri produce but also to promote export. He emphasized that agencies like NAF with a nationalistic outlook should play key roles in bridging the research – extension gap and see to that the farmer gets benefitted with adequate information, linkages and support as a package. In order to ensure sustainable food security, focus must be on development of environmentally sensitive cultivars and management practices, and market driven production systems, he added.
A presentation on KANCHI (Kisan Advancement through CasHless Innovation), an innovative digital platform for Farmer Producer Organizations (FPOs) developed by NAF was made to him. He also advised that innovations like KANCHI needs to be scaled up while visiting the Comprehensive Soil Health Diagnostic Center and Food Safety and Quality lab of NAF at Taramani.
Mr. S. Selvaraj, Chief General Manager, NABARD, Chennai said NABARD has been working closely with agencies like NAF on watershed and FPOs for the past years and said that this not only needs to be continued but also to be expanded to newer geographies. Mr. S. S. Rajsekar, Managing Trustee, NAF recalled the evolution of Green Revolution in India spearheaded by NAF founder Shri. C. Subramaniam and added that NAF will continue to serve the farming community for addressing emerging challenges faced by the farmers. Courtesy: Deccan Chronicle
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COVID-19 relief work with CSR support of BNY Mellon
Here is a glimpse of relief activities carried out by National Agro Foundation with support of our partner BNY Mellon contributing the frontline workers and serving the sects of society impacted by COVID19.
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Augmentation of Water Resources
Augmentation of Water Resources in Enhancing the Productivity and Profitability of Farming Systems in Thiruvallur District of Tamil Nadu
This is a pilot project carried out as a part of the proposal to rejuvenate 3 common property water bodies in 2 villages in Gummidipoondi Block of Thiruvallur district of Tamil Nadu. The project was funded and supported by Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited’s (HPCL) Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) management. A MoU was signed on 30th August 2019 by Mr. Natarajan, General Manager, HPCL and Mr. Rajasekar, Managing trustee, National Agro Foundation (NAF).
The objective of this project is to rejuvenate water bodies which come under the ambit of the Farmer Producer Company (FPC) promoted villages facilitated by NAF with shareholder membership of more than 1000 small and marginal resource poor farmers (predominantly women farmers). The rejuvenation process is linked directly to doubling farmers income through innovative LEAN FARMING practices promoted by NAF based on value chain analysis. The FPC will also motivate its members to monitor and maintain the assets created. The village Panchayat will ensure that there is equitable sharing of water within the village for various utilities. Thus, this project is the connect between WATER – SUSTAINABLE.
Appavaram Village Pond:
Appavaram was one of the villages were the project was implemented. A major village pond was rejuvenated under the project. After acquiring the NOC from Government Authority, the work commenced on 9 th September, 2019 and was completed on 15 th November, 2019. The rejuvenation work included clearing the bushes, de-silting of water body, deepening, strengthening, trimming and sectioning of the same. Total area of the pond is 13,262 sq.mt. The entire water body has been de- silted and deepened to 1-meter depth.
Water holding capacity of the pond increased 5.5 times from 24 lakh litres to 132 lakh litres.
Farming area supported by the pond increased about 2.5 times from 189 acres to 473 acres.
Second crop farming area increased about 3.5 times from 17 acres to 59 acres.
There was a raise of 33 ft. in the groundwater table level.
The increased availability of water benefitted cattle rearing in the area.
22 bore wells benefitted from the project as opposed to 4 bore wells benefitting before the project.
The accessibility and availability of water for drinking also increased.
On February 24 th , 2020, Mr. Jothi Prem Kumar, Plant Head, HPCL-Gummidipoondi and Dr. S.V. Murugan, Director, NAF received the award of appreciation from the District Collector of Thiruvallur Tmt. Mageswari Ravikumar I.A.S., for the commendable job demonstrated at the Appavaram village. It was a moment of joy and pride for both NAF and HPCL CSR Management to continue to strive to serve the community with dedication and integrity.