IMPACT ANALYSIS OF AN ORGANIC FARMING PROJECT IN TAMIL NADU, INDIA
Authors: Subramanian, K., Parimala, K., Balasubramanian, A.V. & Vijayalakshmi, K
Key words: Impact analysis, organic farming
Centre for Indian Knowledge Systems (CIKS) is involved in promoting organic farming for the past twelve years in Tamil Nadu state of India, focusing on capacity building of farmers in organic farming, production of educational and training material, research in organic farming and the building up of organic farmers' institutions An impact analysis was carried out in the project area where organic farming project has been implemented between the years 2007-2009. This study was conducted in seven villages. The assessment utilized Sustainable Livelihood Framework (SLF) as a tool for impact assessment. The analysis revealed that organic farmers had improved levels of social assets, knowledge assets and physical assets. From the study, it was evident that empowerment, improvement in confidence and improvement in status vis-à-vis conventional farmers were also noted. A project to promote organic farming in an area not only brings farm lands under organic production methods but also generates useful assets and empowers organic farmers.
Centre for Indian Knowledge Systems (CIKS) is a civil society organization promoting organic farming and agro-biodiversity in India. It assists farmer groups in adoption of organic farming in 2400 ha in five districts of the state of Tamil Nadu, India. During the project period between 2007-2009 selected farmers in three districts were trained in organic farming practices, organic certification, provided assistance in marketing and aided in building farmers institutions like self-help groups. In order to assess the impact of organic farming project, a study was commissioned in seven villages where organic farming was promoted.
Objectives of the study
The major objective of the study was to assess the impact of organic farming among organic farmers in terms of human assets, capital assets, financial assets, natural assets and physical assets generated and identify changes in level of empowerment through participation in the organic farming project.
Seven villages in three districts of Dindigul, Thiruvannamalai, and Nagapattinam districts in Tamil Nadu state of India were selected. Field visits and meetings with organic farmer groups were conducted.
The major tool that was used in the study was Sustainable Livelihood Framework (SLF). The Sustainable Livelihood Framework provides a framework that is more appropriate to the perspectives and realities of poor people (Chambers, 1995). Livelihood refers broadly to a means of making a living, and includes the assets, access to institutions and processes, and strategies that a person utilizes to achieve livelihood outcomes (Ashley and Carney, 1999). There are a number of SL frameworks that have been developed and adapted by donor agencies, NGOs, and research organizations (Arun et al , 2004). During the process of assessment, emphasis was laid upon certain key questions which helped in focusing the direction of assessment. This was to ensure that the focus was not lost during the process of assessment of such a project with a set of diverse activities and anticipated outputs. Central to empowerment is the building up of individual and collective assets because assets are something which the farmers own, without which farmers do not have much choice. These assets themselves are influenced by the organization and institutional context which govern the use of these assets. Therefore after a thorough consideration as to what tool to be used, finally it was decided to use the Sustainable Livelihood Framework (SLF) tool to for the purpose of assessing the impact of the project.
The study revealed that the project has been successful in many aspects especially in increasing the various assets of farmers. Emphasis on various local technologies and organizing the farmers into groups and provision of revolving fund, establishing village level physical infrastructures like biofertilizer production units, oil expellers, neem seed crushing units etc. have increased the overall dynamism within the project.
All the farmers of the project were aware of the various technologies at different levels being recommended by CIKS as a part of the project. Major technologies included, green manuring, vermicompost application, botanical pesticides which include five leaf extract, neem cake application, panchagavya , biofertilizers application and other biological pest control measures like use of parasites and predators. Farmers expressed that the technologies were comparatively easy for them to adopt than conventional farming. Farmers were aware of the changes organic manures had brought in their soil. They expressed that organic manures had improved their soil fertility by making the soil more friable. Therefore they had converted only part of their lands into organic. Farmers also expressed the fear that changing over to completely organic will reduce their yield and that is one of the reasons why they are changing over partly. T he cost of cultivation has come down because of organic farming by around 30 – 40 %. Farmers expressed that introduction organic farming technologies had actually increased their peace of mind and made them free from the vicious cycle of continuous use of pesticides.
Figure 1: Overall status of Community Vermicompost Units in Sustainability Livelihood Framework
The above figure depicts the vermicompost units in terms of livelihood assets, vulnerability context and livelihood outcomes. The green arrows indicate positive factors while the red arrows indicate negative factors for vermicompost production at the group level. The status of assets accessed by organic farmers is explained as follows.
Social assets: Social asset status of organic farmers had by and large increased in the project area. The contact with agricultural department had increased. Involvement of women groups in agriculture had increased due to the introduction of organic farming project. This involvement is in the form of members of women groups in preparation of vermicompost and other organic inputs especially botanical pesticides.
Financial assets: Organic farming project had definitely increased the savings habit of the farmers and the members in the group. This has also enhanced the credibility of the members of the group with banks such that these banks are ready to provide loans to the groups based on their performance within the group. Establishment of neem seed crushing unit in a project village had increased the potential of organic farmers in enhancing their income by neem seed collection and depositing the same at CIKS collection centres.
Physical assets: Among the physical assets made available through the project, provision of agricultural implements had played a major role. CIKS had also helped in establishing a neem seed crushing unit thereby enhancing the availability of organic manure for farmers. This has enhanced the physical asset position of the organic farmers by establishing physical infrastructure. Setting up of a seed bank had also increased the physical assets of organic farmers as now they can store their organic seeds exclusively in seed banks.
Human assets: The knowledge, skills and attitudes of organic farmers had been enhanced through the project on various aspects like health, information sharing on agriculture, livestock rearing knowledge, certain legal aspects, leadership ability etc. Farmers had enhanced knowledge about organic agricultural practices and this had been possible because of the farmers being organized as groups.
Natural Assets: Natural assets which include water, land, biodiversity and local environment, had not increased but minimally. The increase in natural resources – as per farmers' perception is in the form of land fertility and increase in biodiversity, which included enhanced noticeable number of earthworms in their soil and increase in natural enemy population in their fields.
Empowerment of farmers: According to farmers, before being a part of the organic farming project, they were practicing chemical farming and they hardly had any choice. But after becoming organic farmers they had a choice. When there is a perceived pest problem, then the farmers knew what to do, since they have their solution to pest problem within their own households in the form of botanical pesticides which was costing less. Moreover a number of trainings, exposure visits, capacity building etc. on various aspects had helped the farmers in gaining knowledge, skills etc. in various aspects of organic farming.
Farmers' have been impacted by the organic farming project implemented by Centre for Indian Knowledge Systems, by many positive ways. Organic farmers' had improved their knowledge on a new set of farming practice (organic farming technologies), drastically reduced their dependency on external inputs and are able to produce inputs like neem cake and liquid organic nutrients. Their respect in the community had improved after becoming organic farmers and now they had better access to financial and natural assets, although they wanted improvement on these. The analysis also revealed that their level of confidence and empowerment had increased after participation in the project. It was evident that a project to promote organic farming in an area not only brought farm lands under organic production but also generated useful assets and empowered organic farmers.
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