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REVITALISATION OF RAINFED AGRICULTURE IN JAWADHU HILLS OF THIRUVANNAMALAI DISTRICT

The Centre for Indian Knowledge Systems (CIKS) is one of the partners in Revitalisation of Rainfed Agriculture (RRA) Network of India and it anchors the thematic node on seeds. CIKS is also implementing one of the RRA's Comprehensive Pilot Programmes for Revitalising Rainfed Agriculture, which is for a period of one year from June 2012 to May 2013. The project is being implemented in partnership with Vrutti, a NGO specialising in livelihoods. The current pilot phase of the project focuses on understanding the existing situations of the project location and to develop comprehensive models that could address the systematic gaps with reference to productive systems around agriculture and its allied activities. The second phase of the project would focus on scaling up of the proposed models to cover the entire block.

The project is being implemented in 11 villages of Kovilur Gram Panchayat, Jawadhu Hills Block/Panchayat Union, Kalasapaakam Taluk, Tiruvannamalai District, Tamil Nadu. The Jawadhu Hills is part of the Southern Eastern Ghats with a mean elevation of 762 m MSL. The project area is located in an area which is an extensive undulating plateau with large valleys ranging from 500800 m. The project area is surrounded by reserve forests consisting of dry mixed deciduous to thorny shrubs with occasional patches of dry ever green growth. The maximum temperature rises to 44.4 o Celsius in May and minimum temperature falls at 11.7 o Celsius in January. The mean annual rainfall is 1,100 mm of which about 480 mm is received in the southwest monsoon period (June September) and 429 mm in the northeast monsoon period (October December). About half of the soil of the land is red loam clay and sandy soil.

Majority of the inhabitants in the project villages are Malayalis , a tribal community engaged in agriculture as its major occupation. Most of who undertake agricultural operations in less than 5 acres of dry land, mostly following traditional cultivation practices, which results in low productivity. During Kharif , millets constitute 80% of the cultivated crops and of these as much as 66% is little millet. The remaining 14% consists of jowar, bajra, ragi and maize. During Rabi , the major crops cultivated are niger and horsegram comprises of 18% of the cultivated area. Almost all other crops do exist to a negligible extent with paddy constituting about 2% of the area and are cultivated under irrigated condition. Farmers having assured irrigation sources are also engaged in contract farming for cotton seed production, jerkins and coleus and some farmers have taken up mulberry cultivation integrated with silk worm rearing with the supported of Sericulture Department. 2/3 rd population are illiterate and many are unaware of the various schemes available to them.

Earlier, at Jawadhu Hills, CIKS had been focusing in building the capacity of the farmers to undertake organic farming and brining them together as Organic Farmers' Clubs, necessary for scale of production and marketing certified organic products. However, since June 2012, the focus has been strengthened to have a complete understanding of the various systems in operation, to get a holist view and to address these issues in a comprehensive manner. Programmes are now being planned and implemented in an integrated manner in consultations with team members from other RRA thematic nodes (water, fisheries, research, soil and livestock). Based on their field visit and discussion with CIKS project staff, scope and model for integrating cropping systems with soil, water, livestock and other common resources to the existing local cultural practices have been identified. The proposed interventions are in various stages of implementation.

During the last 9 months, the major achievements in the project were,

272 organic millet cultivating farmers have been formally linked with the NABARD Farmers' Club programme through 9 groups. Three of these groups and 3 individual farmers under Kissan Credit Card have also been linked to banks for availing credit facility totalling Rs. 4.5 lakhs.

Varieties of seven millet crops, both traditional (10) and those released from government research farms (21) have been collected. Seed multiplication, comparative varietal performance trials/demonstrations have been carried out during the Kharif season 2012. The number of farmers involved in the seed production and demo field experiments is 23 and 6 respectively. The total area under seed production is 7.556 acres and 1.554 acres is under demo field. Along with this seed multiplication for these varieties have been undertaken in the farm Codello Institute of the Don Bosco Tribal Development Society, Jamnunamarathur . More than 3 tonnes of millet seed materials have been procured for distribution through the Seed Bank at the project site, which would argument the efforts of making the diversified millet crops and varieties available for the farming community in time and with standard quality.

Improved little millets CO4 varieties were also provided to farmers during Kharif 2012 cultivation through linkages with government programmes, such as All India Coordinated Small Milllet Promotion programme (246 farmers; 246 acres) and Initiative for Nutrition Security through Intensive Millet Promotion Programme (51 farmers; 51 acres).

The seed bank construction is under progress in Seramarathur village, adjacent to the millet dehusking mill that was established in April 2012. This small scale dehusking unit, with an output capacity of 25 kg/h, helps the local community in getting their grains dehusked mechanically, thereby reducing the drudgery associated with the existing method. It is expected that this would facilitate bringing back the practice of millet consumption in this region as was the practice earlier.

The dehusking unit and Seed Bank complex would by further strengthened once the Agriculture Service Facilitation Centre also gets established here. The water node is also setting up an automated weather station in this village. It is also proposed to establish a similar Centre in another cluster of villages.

The capacity building of the farmers in scientific cultivation of millets were also carried out along with TNAU by way of Front Line Demonstration in 13 farmers field covering 7.6 acres. The project has also been demonstrating SRI using both traditional paddy varieties and popular released varieties in the farmers field.

To ensure household nutrition security, seed kits were distributed to 320 households for taking up kitchen/backyard garden activities. Traditional vegetable seed varieties (9) are also being conserved through kitchen garden activities in 80 households. With the support of Horticultural Department Curry leaf saplings were also provided to 100 households. Through the forest department 2,000 tree saplings (Teak and silver oak) were distributed to 400 households.