Vedanta helps Orissa from food scarcity

Vedanta was able to demonstrate the technique to the farmers in Gudigaon, Banjari and Kurebaga, within the Jharsuguda district.

Online PR News – 02-March-2010 – – Rama Reddy stares bleakly at the sky and an unforgiving sun. This farmer from Andhra Pradesh has been unable to sow his regular crop of paddy due to deficient rainfall in his district. Rama has already seen 40 other farmers in his state commit suicide, weighed down by un-payable farm debts. As large parts of the country face a 'drought' like condition, farmers everywhere face a grim future. Many parts of the country caught this predicament are looking to states like Orissa, which have received normal rainfall to bridge the massive shortfall in production, especially of the paddy crop. To help the farmers of Orissa to achieve these expectations, Vedanta Aluminium Limited (Vedanta) has helped them pioneer an innovative technique called 'Systems for Rice Intensification (SRI)' to boost paddy production in the Jharsuguda district.

'Systems for Rice Intensification' is a tried and tested method for robust increase in the output of Paddy and is practised in many rice-growing countries such as China,Philippines, Indonesia, and Nepal. Even within India, this scheme has been popularised in Tamil Nadu and large parts of Uttar Pradesh and courtesy Vedanta, it has now arrived in Orissa, the hub of Rice cultivation in India.

Vedanta has identified a total of 60 farmers (7 Farmer's Group) for practising SRI. The group comprises of small and marginal farmers having less than 1 acre of land. The farmers are basically from the peripheral villages of Kurebaga, Banjari and Gudigoan. Vedanta has partnered with the NGO 'Sect oral Reformation for Upliftment of Tribal Isthmus (SRUTI)' for the implementation of this scheme.

Under this SRI scheme, the rice fields are kept moist rather than continuously saturated, rice plants are spaced optimally widely to permit more growth of roots and canopy and to keep all leaves photosynthetically active. Rice seedlings are transplanted when young, less than 15 days old with just two leaves, quickly, shallow and carefully, to avoid trauma to roots and to minimize transplant shock.

Typical yield per acre is expected to rise from 2,400 kg/acre to 2,818 kg/acre through the implementation of SRI. This increased yield through this scheme is achieved with 80-90% reductions in seed requirements (lower plant population) and 25-50% less irrigation water, resulting in a direct cost benefit. In fact, the benefit/cost ratio rises to 2.5 for SRI techniques as compared to 1.78 for normal techniques.

Agricultural Experts are also in favour of this scheme. Mr. Sanjib Purohit, an SRI specialist from SRUTI adds, "Systems for Rice intensification is a unique and interesting method for cultivation. The major benefit would be less labour input, high returns and increase in the fertility of the soil. "

Vedanta was able to demonstrate the technique to the farmers in Gudigaon, Banjari and Kurebaga, within the Jharsuguda district. The farmers were very enthusiastic to take up the technique after the demonstration. Sanjib Purohit points out that the farmers have shown a keen interest in SRI "The farmers' of the area are quite enthusiastic about the concept. This is the first ever demonstration project aimed at highlighting the benefits and increasing the acceptability of SRI in all the pockets of the district." Also, Vedanta has been successful in implementing this scheme as a Private-Public partnership with assistance from the Govt. Agricultural Lab. "SRI component has been added in the National Food Security Mission, we are glad to partner Vedanta in this journey of achieving food sufficiency in times to come," says Mr. Purohit.

The farmers are hopeful that this scheme will help increase output and are encouraged with the early signs. "I could not believe how the small saplings of paddy would sustain themselves. But now I am more than convinced by seeing the greenery in my field. Presently each plant has about 15 panicles sprouting out. I believe that this method is a sure way to yield more with less investment," says Kartik Kalo, a farmer from Jharsuguda. Another farmer from Gudigaon, Bhadra Kisan agrees on the benefits. "By practising this method of cultivation I had to invest less. The total numbers of labourers engaged were less. I could not think that with so less number of seedlings an acre of land could be cultivated. The weeding of the field is also less pain taking. "

Vedanta has plans to increase the area under coverage from this scheme subsequently, depending upon the success of the scheme in this year. Vedanta has been at the forefront of agricultural development in Orissa and has implemented various other schemes which have also seen a large increase in livelihoods of farmers. Strawberry cultivation undertaken by 7 farmers last year resulted in a Rs. 35,000/- increase in the farmer's income. Recently, 2 farmer groups in Gudigaon were trained in Vegetable cultivation, which resulted in a two-fold increase in their income.

I've never understood this about Indians. We call dogs our best friends, but then abuse someone by calling him a dog. We descend from monkeys, but calling someone a monkey is racist. We worship cows, but suddenly saying 'cattle class' is derogatory. I think humans need to get a life and stop being so arrogant about other species on this planet. No wonder that we are doing our best to exterminate most of them anyway!