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Monthly Archives: February 2012

Community threshing yards find no takers

Bangalore: Absence of proper threshing facilities in the villages force many farmers to use inefficient and unscientific methods of threshing.

Come harvest time, in many parts of the village, travellers do their bit by running their car, lorries and motorcycles on the harvest spread out on roads, to be threshed. This method is supposed to cause loss not only to food production and decrease the quality of produce but also posed a risk of vehicle accidents.

The Department of Agriculture claims that there would be loss of production up to 15-20 percent and hence are advising the farmers to setup threshing units in each village collectively.“Though the government has taken steps to create ‘Community Threshing Yards’ by giving subsidies, not many are coming forward to use the benefit. Instead they prefer to thresh the harvest on roads or give preference to individual threshing machines which is a more feasible option,” said Dharam Raj, additional director, Department of Agriculture.

The government gives a subsidy up to Rs 50, 000 for ‘community threshing yard’ per community, whereas, it gives a subsidy up to Rs 5 lakh on individual machinery. “Unless the government promotes the scheme and unless the help comes from the panchayat level to setup the community threshing yards, farmers will not come forward,” said Srinivas Gowda, president of farmers association in Chintamani taluk. He added that community threshing yards pose the question of in whose land the yard will be set up.

“Threshing on road is risky  for travellers but does not involve as much cost, labour and power required for the community threshing yards. So the farmers will prefer the former option,” Gowda said.

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(This article was published in TNIE city edition dated Feb 27, 2012)
 
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Posted by on February 29, 2012 in News and Views

 

Dry land farming to be next big thing

Bangalore: Dry land farming is likely to become a core area of research, investment and cultivation in the coming days.

According to an estimate, out of the total 143 million hectares of dry land in India, nearly 12 million hectares are in Karnataka because of which all impetus is now being given to utilise this area to increase the food production.

Technocrats and bureaucrats are seeking more investment in agriculture and allied sectors to increase food production by investing in dryland farming.

“Bhoo Chetana” a project envisage by Karnataka government in 2009 is focusing on improving productivity in dryland agriculture across Karnataka with the help of scientific technologies and the sustainable use of natural resources. This programme is implemented in collaboration with the International Crops Research Institute for Semi Arid Tropics (ICRISAT).

The state government has made budget provision of Rs 110 crore for watershed and soil enrichment ‘Bhoo Chetana’ project, for the year 2012-13, as against Rs. 40 crore allocated in 2011-12.

At the national level, a committee of Governors, constituted by President Pratibha Patil, will finalise a report on revamping the agriculture sector before the forthcoming Budget.

What experts say?

Meanwhile, the declining profit margin for farmers producing food grains, increased land holdings and division and fragmentation of land worries the scientists and agriculturists across.

“It is necessary to encourage development of new technologies for dryland agriculture through R&D.  Stopping further deterioration of the natural resource and associated loss of soil productivity is the key to improve the sustainability of dry land farming,” said Dr K Narayana Gowda, Vice-chancellor of University of Agricultural Sciences (UAS), GKVK, Bangalore.  .

Sixty per cent of India’s cultivated area are covered under rain fed and dryland farming contributing to 44 per cent of food production in the country. Karnataka has the second largest area under rain-fed agriculture after Rajasthan in the country with over 120 lakh hectares of cultivable under rain-fed farming.

Gowda said that increased importance should be placed on animal husbandry, sericulture and fisheries in dryland farming programme.

“Though no systematic study has been done, it is seen as a phenomenon that the third generation of farming communities are losing interest in farming due to exposure of rapid urbanisation and changing lifestyle. They need to be tackled urgently,” Gowda explained.

Placing importance of policy support for dryland farming, William D. Dar, director of ICRISAT said dryland (rain-fed) agriculture is practiced on 80% of the world’s farm area, and generates almost 40% of the world’s staple foods.

“Despite the risks and poor policy support, drylands contribute a major part of food production. Hence dryland agriculture is crucial in attaining global food security under a climate change regime.”

Concerns of farmers

In Karnataka, Kolar, Chitradurga, Tumkur, Dharwad, Bidar, Bijapur and part of Haveri, Gadad , Mandya and Ramanagaram districts fall under dry land area.

Reducing water level and changing climatic conditions in many places have forced many farmers to shift from traditional crop cultivation to horticulture.

Srinivas Gowda, a farmer from Seekal Village in Chintamani taluk participated in a workshop on ‘Policy Initiatives for Promoting Partnership between Stakeholders in Agriculture with particular reference to Rainfed/Dryland Farming’ hosted by the President of India, last week.

“Water table is our region has reached beyond 1200 feet with less than 5 per cent success rate. Therefore we have slowly shifted from Intensive agriculture to Dry land horticulture like Mango, Tamarind, Jack fruit and Cashew,” said Srinivas Gowda.

Srinivas Gowda who also is the president of the Chintamani Taluk Raitha Kutas, echoes the need for mechanized support for Canopy management in pruning, spraying, harvesting, grading, packing, storage and transportation to reduce cost of labour and inputs.

“Farming community is in very much need of technical consultation, market promotions, market intelligence and market information for domestic and export market,” he added.

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(A different version of this article was published in TNIE city edition dated Feb 21, 2012)
 
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Posted by on February 26, 2012 in News and Views

 

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Organic produce bear no plum benefits to farmers

Bangalore: Bangaloreans were seen actively participating in the ‘Savayava Santhe’, the organic bazaar, a special awareness programme held on Feb 11, organised by Jaivika Krishi Society (JKS) run by the Government of Karnataka for development and promotion of organic farming.

Though there is sufficient demand and supply for organic produce, as observed, at the grass-roots level, farmers were not reaping the benefit of higher sale price.

Problems faced by farmers

Narasihma Reddy, a farmer from Gauribidanur , who is into organic farming for the last two decades said that the government has not made enough efforts to build a marketing platform for organic produce.

“Though we do not spend on pesticides unlike in conventional farming which increases the cost, we spend a lot on transporting the goods which almost doubles our input cost per unit, which reduces our profit margins,” Reddy said.

Reddy travels thrice in a week to Bangalore to deliver his produce to retailers and individual customers as he does not find enough market at his place for the produce.

Also, majority of the farmers who had come from different parts of Karnataka to participate in the organic bazaar said, the subsidies do not reach the farmers on time and fully.

Pricing mechanism

Lakshminarayan S, a software professional who is into sustainable agriculture and rural development projects feels that it is the middlemen in the supply chain who create artificial demand and try to sell the products at higher price.

“There needs to be a proper pricing mechanism and it needs to be controlled and regulated. Though the input cost should be lesser for organic produce, in the retail market, sometimes the prices are double and triple,” said Lakshminarayan.

Such practice discourages the farmers to switch to organic farming. Farmers fear that, in the retail market if the prices of organic food is much higher, then the customers might not buy the organic produce irrespective of its quality.

Subhash Palekar, a farmer from Udukunte village in Magadi taluk said, Rose apples were sold by him at Rs 60-70 per kilogram, however, in the retail outlets, the same was being sold for more than Rs 200.

Facilitators views

In contrast, the marketing agents tend to argue that since the demand for organic food is not that large, the cost of processing, packaging and transportation increases the product cost.

Interestingly, the Additional Director and President of Jaivika Krishi Society Dr K Ramakrishnappa said the government can only facilitate, but cannot market the products. There has to be a cooperation or intervention from private parties, he observed.

“Only 43 per cent of the market price reaches the farmer. There are no organised channels here or market linkages like the Horticultural Producers Co-operative Marketing and Processing Society,”  Ramakrishnappa said.

Adding that the dampening population of cattle and reducing soil fertility is adding to the woes of the farmers, Ramakrishnappa said, the government would help in setting up of pack-house if a cluster of farmers come together.

“There are not many big retailers who are ready to invest in this segment. They only look for short-term gain,” said Bharath B, marketing manager at Phalada Agro Research Foundations Pvt Ltd.

The way out

The Jaivika Krishi Society plans to organise ‘organic fairs’ at district headquarters once in three months to create more awareness among the prospective customers. It also plans to open an ‘organic mall’ in Bangalore to attract customers.

“The only way out for organic farmers is, when there are enough collection centres set up, like in milk cooperative societies and are fully supported and run by farmers with ‘Participatory Guarantee Systems’, locally focused quality assurance systems,” said Ramakrishnappa.

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(A different version of this article was published in TNIE city edition dated Feb 13, 2012)
 
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Posted by on February 13, 2012 in News and Views

 

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Wine parks remain only on paper

Bangalore: In 2007, In a bid to bring more area under grape cultivation and promote wine market, the government had decided to establish two wine parks in the State. Five years on, the state government is yet to make good on implementing its promise.

“Land acquisition is a major problem. We have just acquired 141 acres of land for the park to be set up in Bijapur and we are not sure by when it would start operating,” said K.G. Suresh Chandran, Managing Director of Karnataka Wine Board.

With Karnataka being the second largest of wines in India, the main objective of developing wine parks was to provide the smallest farmer an opportunity to set up his own winery.

Vinod Guraddi, Managing Director of elite vintage winery pvt ltd said, “it requires huge capital investment if one has to set up a winery at one’s farm. But, the same winery requires much less investment if it is set up at the wine park,” he added.

The wine park set up in Maharashtra, provides tax exemption to the industries. A similar initiative, to establish two parks on public-private partnership model by the Karnataka government has failed to attract investors.

“We depend on the neighbouring state of Maharashtra for the manpower and facilities. So, If the government establishes the park soon in Bijapur, it will help us,” Garuddi said.

The State produces three major varieties of grapes- Thomson seedless, Anab-E-Shahi Dilkush and Bangalore Blue. About 12,000 hectares is under Thomson seedless variety. The area under cultivation are, Bangalore Rural, Bangalore Urban and Kolar districts as known as “Nandi Valley” while Bijapur, Bagalkot, Belgaum districts as “Krishna Valley.”

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(A different version of this article was published in TNIE student edition dated Feb 09, 2012)
 
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Posted by on February 9, 2012 in News and Views

 

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No Waves In The Air

Community radio is yet to make a mark in India, despite much being said about how it can accelerate a sociological impact.

Regardless of numerous success stories on community radios across the country, setting up and running an effective community radio with required permission is still a challenge.

Of the 913 application received between 2003 and 2011 by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting(MIB), for grant of license, only 149 stations have been granted permissions as of August 2011. Out of these, hardly 113 are functional.

“It is difficult to create strong community participation and it requires a lot of money to set up the required infrastructure for community radios. So, the government has to facilitate for a movement to be created in this arena,” said Esther Shankunta Kar, joint secretary, National commission for minorities, Government of India. Kar has done extensive research on the community radio in India and has served as director with MIB.

It was only after the cabinet approved the community radio policy allowing the non-governmental organisations and community-based groups to set up Community Radio Stations (CRS), that people got enthusiastic about using this medium to spread social awareness and bring a socio-economic change.

In Karnataka, there are around 12 community radios functioning, including in districts like Kolar, Dharwad and Bangalore. ‘Samudaya Banuli Kendra’, a community radio station was setup in 2006 by the University of Agriculture and Science to help farmers in Dharwad airing best farming practices and news related to farming. And, recently, Viveka School of Excellence in Sargur in H.D.Kote taluk set up ‘Jana Dhwani’, a community radio channel, to catalyze contextually relevant socio-economic development of rural-tribal communities.

“Essentially, Community radio needs to be run by the people. The policy allows that at least 50% of content must be generated with participation of local community and the programmes produced must be in the local language. This calls for the need to educate the masses, create awareness and cater to the needs of the people at the grass-root level,” Kar added.

She also said that the government has to facilitate and create a platform for creativity and innovation by enhancing the financial viability of community radios.

Community radio programme can help in raising awareness on issues such as birth control, nutrition as well as environmental and agricultural issues like organic farming and harmful effects of pesticides. But, with the delay in getting permissions and a general lack of awareness, community radio still has a long way to go.

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(A different version of this article was published in TNIE student edition dated Feb 06, 2012)
 
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Posted by on February 6, 2012 in News and Views

 
 
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