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Agricultural Technology for Small and Marginal Tribal farmers

Agriculture remains the prime livelihood activity for a majority of people in rural India and as such is crucial for food security. While, it had remained a traditional activity in many part of the country except in few states, its contribution to GDP is declining and is now at 14%. Also, the number of farmers is declining with 90 lakhs lesser than they were in 2001. 

The cultivable unit land has not been spared either and given the pressure to feed large population productivity has remained lower compared to product of unit land in western countries. Indian agriculture had always remained a risky business due to high dependency upon low and erratic monsoon, extreme climates, low productivity, poor infrastructure and market linkage, high pressure of human and bovine population, and lesser know-how about modern farming techniques to manage the risk and ensure higher productivity. Farmers have adopted fewer advance techniques particularly for the purposes of tillage, seeding and harvesting while many technological inventions have remained in lab only and never reached the farm and particularly the small and marginal farmers for whom they were designed.

The Saviour that is Agricultural Mechanization

Agricultural mechanization has proven success in farm operations with greater efficiency at every level of farm production. It has helped in increasing production, productivity and profitability in agriculture by achieving timeliness in farm operations, precision in metering and placement of inputs, reducing available input losses, increasing utilization efficiency of costly inputs (seed, chemical, fertilizer, irrigation, water etc.), reducing unit cost of produce, enhancing profitability and competitiveness in the cost of operation. It also helps in the conservation of the produce and by-products from qualitative and quantitative damages; enables value addition and establishment of agro processing enterprises for additional income and employment generation from farm produce. It is one of the important inputs to usher in all round development in the rural India.

With a view to enhance the pace of agricultural mechanization, the Government of India has laid emphasis to provide financial assistance to the farmers and other target groups for purchase of different kinds of farm equipment, demonstration of new equipment among farmers for spread of new technology, human resource development in operation, maintenance/ repairs and management of agricultural machinery and the quality improvement through testing and evaluation besides institutional credit & fiscal measures.  With a view to developing human resources in agricultural mechanization and quality up-gradation of the farm equipment, four Farm Machinery Training and Testing Institutes (FMTTIs) were set up by the government of India. These are located as CFMTTI at Budni in Madhya Pradesh, NRFMTTI, Hissar in Haryana, SRFMTTI, Garladinne, Anantpur in Andhra Pradesh and NERFMTTI, Biswanath Chariali in Assam. 

Madhya Pradesh has been taken as reference state in India to undertake the action research study and the study area is at Tala near Bandavgarh National Park – Tiger reserve which is about 30 km from district head-quarter Umaria. The place is famous for dense forest and animals with natural beauty and is native of Gond tribal community. Indian Grameen Services (IGS) – BASIX is working in the area for the past few years with farmers. IGS has been able to collectivize rural women SHG, SHG federation and also Farmer Producer Company. Two villages where IGS is working have been selected for the Action research – Bhadari and Damna in Manpur block. A group of farmers have been identified in each village who will be our target group for this action research. More farmers having land in same continuous patch are likely to be added in the action research.

All the households in the village Bhadari and Damna follow Hindu religion with around 68 percent of the households living below the poverty level. People residing in the village consist of Tribes - Gond, Baiga, Agaria, Brahmin, Rajput and other castes. Everyone in the village have their own house with a couple of rooms and mud flooring. Well was found to be the major drinking water source in the village with nearly 60 percent households dependent on well for their drinking water. Cultivation, wage labor, agri-labor, private services, mahua collection and tendu patta collection were found to the major activities of the households living in Damna.

Umariya, Madhya Pradesh, India

Farming pattern: The traditional farming pattern in the area is wheat and paddy. Farmers grow it for their own consumption and the surplus is being sold to the local merchant. Farmers also grow gram, pulses, and vegetables for their own consumption. They are also depending on NTFP like Mahua and Tendu patta collection which supplements their income besides agriculture. IGS has introduced medicinal plants farming in the small portion of field as commercial cropping to improve income level of farmers.

Agri-technology usage: The farming is still being practiced in traditional manner. About 10% of the farmers are using tractor for tillage operation. The cost of tilling by tractor is Rs 500/hour which can cover one round of acre field in an hour. Usually field requires 3-4 round tilling by tractor to complete seed bed preparation. 90% of framers are still using draught animals for field preparation and seeding. Inter-cultural operations like weeding is been performed by hand or traditional tools. 

In this Action Research, ILRT promoted small farm tools for small and marginal farmers. The tools are: High carbon steel sickle, hand hoe, maize-sheller, cone-weeder, wheel marker, drum-seeder, seed-drill, micro-irrigation – drip and sprinkler and also vermi-composting.

The farmers purchased the tools by themselves and through subsidy from agricultural department. None of the equipment were given to the farmers by ILRT for this Action research.  A group of farmers (eight in numbers) from villages – Bhandari, Damna and Gaghod of Bandavgarh area of district Umaria along-with three team members of Indian Grameen Services (IGS) visited Central Institute of Agricultural Engineering (CIAE) Bhopal on 22nd November 2014 for exposure visit. There the farmers were able to see first time small agricultural equipments that can be useful for cultivation and inter-cultural operations. 3-4 farmers of each village Damna and Bhadari are using CIAE sickle (High carbon steel sickle). 10 farmers from Damna and 1 from Bhadari are using Drip irrigation while 10 farmers from Damna and 3 from Bhadari are using sprinkler irrigation.

Traditional and High carbon steel sickle

Awareness about technology – With constant efforts to meet the farmers and also have discussion about agri-technology in regular Farmer Interest Group meeting, there is awareness about the benefits of agricultural technologies. About 20 farmers have harvested through wheat-reaper. There is one wheat-reaper presently in the area and is charging at Rs 700/hr. There is awareness about timeliness of harvesting as sickle harvesting takes much time and untimely rain may spoil the harvest.

The Action Research is presently going on and the there is much awareness among farmers about the usefulness about small agricultural implements that can reduce their farm drudgery and increase work efficiency.In remote forested area tribal farmers are now getting information and access to small agricultural tools and are ready to adopt technology - Bee keeping, Vermi-composting, SRI Rice cultivation to improve their livelihood.