I recently had the opportunity to visit two villages close by the ICRISAT headquarters in India which have begun to stem the tide of people leaving the farm, by developing a wider diversity of livelihood options on the farm.
The villagers of Nandyalagudem and Boringthanda in the state of Telangana have been supported by the National Initiative on Climate Resilient Agriculture (NICRA) to (1) better manage rainfall variability and (2) become commercially viable through changing their farming techniques and introducing new enterprises for both women and men.
It was fascinating to see how farmers are engaged in the research for development process. This was eloquently demonstrated through the introduction of new strains of silk worm and drip irrigation of mulberry (above left). Other women were getting involved in backyard poultry enterprises (above right). These initiatives dramatically increased the income of farmers and created economic opportunities to attract youth to return to their villages.
The Indian Government’s NICRA project has been operating in 100 climatically vulnerable districts doing contingency planning and working with communities demonstrating and testing techniques to preserve soil moisture such as drip irrigation, conservation agriculture and mulching, building of farm ponds and water storage (below left).
In Nandyalagudem and Boringthanda I was impressed with their community water shed management and use of check dams to support vegetable and fodder production year-round (above right) for both tribal and non-tribal communities. Other initiatives included de-silting dams, renovating percolation tanks, and using conservation furrows in ground like groundnut and cotton to preserve soil moisture. The farmers have also tested vermi-compost on their crops, growing drought tolerant varieties, e.g. of pigeon pea, and sowing with drum seeders to save labour.
In these villages the NICRA project has also provided benefits to rural communities through the input of financial resources, such as government schemes, and through partnerships e.g. the Sri Aurobindo Institute of Rural Development.
It was great to meet with the farmers who were very passionate about the progress that they had made, and were excited to share this with me.
I look forward to mapping out ways we can strengthen ICRISAT’s collaboration with the Central Research Institute for Dryland Agriculture (CRIDA) which is the lead institute and national nodal point for the NICRA program.