Monday, February 13, 2012

Tripura Agriculture Plan Bears Fruit

sole winner of Krishi Karman Award
Success Story                                                      Subhasis K. Chanda*
All photographs Courtesy: Agriculture Department of Tripura
Kumud Behari, a Tripuri hill man, is a traditional jhuming farmer.  He is happy this year as he yielded double crop. A similar record was set by Mohammed Abdul Gafar who adopted the System of Rice Intensification (SRI) and increased the yield to 3.3 tons per hectare from 2.3 tons per hectare produced earlier by traditional methods. These inspiring instances, in contrast to the prevailing scenario in agriculture sector across the country, are outcome of a comprehensive plan initiated by Tripura Agriculture Department, which has emerged as the sole winner of Krishi Karman Award in the category of States with a high overall foodgrain production. Giving away this award the Union Agriculture Ministry recognized the States’ contribution towards increasing the foodgrain production in the country. 

It sounds a miracle, yet, the answer seems hidden into the present agricultural dynamics steered by the State’s ten year term perspective plan, reinforced by two centrally sponsored programme, namely, Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana (RKVY) and Agricultural Training and Management Agency (ATMA) projects .       

State Agricultural Setting
The land mass of Tripura is mixed in character in six hill ranges – plain land is lesser in area than hilly land. According to an estimate, amid different land forms available for uses, high hilly area accounts for 4000 sq. km, tilla land or hillocks account for 2300 sq. km, whereas valley land accounts for 2249 sq. km and plain area at 2042 sq. km only. Most of the farmers are small and marginal, approximately 96 per cent of the community occupy 0.5-1.25 hectares of land. Their investment for crop and the yield are very less. The net sown area is about 24 per cent of the State’s total geographical area accounting 10,49,169 hectares as against the all India figure of 43 per cent.

Prevailing cropping pattern of the State is characterized mainly by two systems, settled cultivation in the plains and the shifting cultivation in the hills. The majority farmers practicing either of these systems have hitherto shown conservativeness in adopting modern technology, which resulted in a very low cropping intensity. Amidst the orthodox agricultural pattern of the farmers, availability of cultivable land is shrinking. Added to this, erection of barbed wire fencing along the Indo-Bangla international borders has also slashed 27,000 acre land from cultivation. Gradual loss of soil from hilly land, which is considerably larger in size compared to plain land, has been posing a real threat. An official estimate recorded that about 30 lakh tons of top soil from the steep land goes as run-off in rain every year.    

Reinforcing Conventional Program
Given this backdrop, it appeared a great challenge initially before the State Agriculture Department to think of attaining self sufficiency in foodgrain production. Having embarked on the ongoing agricultural programmes, the State Agriculture Department, designed a ten year term perspective plan giving impetus on expansion of irrigation coverage to 1,16,867 hectare as against 51,000 hectare in 1999-2000. Similarly, in order to enhance cropping intensity to 283 per cent from 169 per cent, various approaches have been initiated. Improved method of shifting cultivation has also been introduced so as to enhance the productivity to 1000 Kg rice from 600 kg rice per hectare till 1999-2000. These apart, the propagation of uses of HYV rice varieties, growing rice varieties having potentials of at least 3500 Kg per hectare, integrated pest management, enhancing consumption of plant nutrients and incorporation of bio fertilizers in conjunction with inorganic fertilizers have been accorded top most priority.

Perspective Plan & Innovative Approaches
Despite all sorts of oddities and rigours, agriculture, however, appears to be the only option left open before its people for economic sustenance. For, the State is pitted into the vortex of sylvan valley and terrain and affected vigorously with communication bottlenecks and natural vacuum of industrialization. 

To cope up with the inherent challenges, the State Agriculture Department has introduced added strategies on propagation of extension services, technology campaign and exposure visits of farmers, conducting farmer training schools, use of high yielding varieties of rice, bio-fertilizers, organic manure and agro-based implements and lastly increasing flow of credit to farmers through Kisan Credit Card Scheme. Hopefully, when 27,000 acre land has remained cut off from cultivation because of border fencing, the State has, however, witnessed an increase of production of foodgrains by two lakh tones in 2011, lending credit to the ongoing agricultural efforts.

In fact, the 10 year term perspective plan formulated in 2000 has achieved remarkable success with the foodgrain production reaching 7.12 lakh tons in 2010-11 as against the production of 5.13 lakh tons in 1999-2000.  However, compared to the projected requirement of 8.22 lakh tonnes in 2010-11, the shortfall was 1.10 lakh tonnes. Meantime, irrigational coverage has been extended upto 1,16,867 hectare. The cropping intensity standing at 172 per cent in 1999-2000 has gone up to 184 per cent in 10 years. Most interestingly, hill cultivators who yielded only 600 kg per hectare from jhum land having the crop cycle of seven years, presently can produce double crops every season by using bio-fertilizers and organic manure and have been able to bring down the crop cycle to every season.  

RKVY, ATMA & Participatory Communication
With the inception of Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana (RKVY) in 2007-08 the State’s agriculture and allied fields found an avenue to increase public investment in the sector. The State, considering the RKVY as a boon towards attainment of self sufficiency in food production, has taken up 41 projects under stream -1 of the program primarily aimed at increasing production and productivity. Under the program, it has undertaken some major projects such as cultivation of paddy following SRI techniques, cent per cent seed treatment, hybrid paddy cultivation, hybrid maize cultivation, reclamation of acidic soils, minor irrigation, farm mechanization, production of certified vegetable seeds, promotion of True Potato Seed (TPS) – tuberlet technology for production of table potato etc. So far, through all such projects, RKVY has drawn to the State an investment of Rs. 177 crore.

In order to motivate farmers to adopt HYV cropping, help them protect crop from loss and diseases, increase soil energy and also to propagate traditional and innovative knowledge to farmers centrally sponsored Agricultural Training and Management Agency (ATMA) has been accorded impetus so as to play a big role through its branches in all districts. With a comprehensive design and route compared to the extension service, ATMA has taken up an effective two-way participatory communication model accommodating experts from agriculture, animal husbandry, fisheries and forestry and on the other end the farmers and through training programme, demonstration and group meetings-on-field. Cohesive to this model, State Agriculture Department launched in the current financial year another programme, called Technology Extension Campaign – a one day programme in every agri sub-division - with the inclusion of plant clinic, demonstration of organic and bio-fertilizers, soil testing laboratory and workshop under one umbrella. Preceded to this campaign in November-December last year, the Department conducted exposure visits of the farmers across the State. Each exposure visit worth Rs. 5 lakh was sponsored by the Union Agriculture Ministry - that seemed to be a complete educational and motivational exercise amalgamating several kinds of communication tools. 
One Harendra Nath, participant in the exposure visit looked cheerful. He says the visit benefited him manifold. It has helped him recognizing useful insects. He also came to know the uses of new implements such as thrashing machines.  These programs should continue at least for two seasons, said a shifting cultivator, named Anada Debabrma attending such a technology campaign held at Chhailengta in Dhalai district recently. The officials of the State Agriculture Department told that the programs like exposure visits of the farmers and the technology campaign would continue in coming years, so as to motivate farmers adopt modern technology and knowledge. This would ensure increase in productivity and earning of farmers and help change their stereotype mindset so as to take up agriculture as a business deal. (PIB Feature) 09-February-2012 18:07 IST  ****

*Media & Communication Officer, PIB, Agartala.

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