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Farmers in Odisha replenish soil fertility – the natural way

“With ten people in the family to feed, use of chemical fertilizers was the only option for me to produce more in less time,”said B. Reddy, a 55-year-old farmer from Odisha. Reddy, like many farmers of his village, started using chemical fertilizers about a year ago to increase food productivity. For the initial period, this method seemed to have brought good returns. However, as time passed, he, like most other farmers realized that with repeated use of chemical fertilizers, the quality of soil was not the same as it was a few seasons ago. Using chemical fertilizers had not only reduced their agricultural yields, but also damaged the quality of soil.

VIEWS, a non-governmental organization based in Odisha, has been active in the field of upholding the food security of marginalized farmers. In Aladipur village of Chikiti block, where most farmers including Reddy grew vegetables solely using chemical fertilizers, the damaging effect of this practice was threatening the sustainability of their livelihood.

Ascertaining the need of the farmer community, VIEWS organized a comprehensive training program between January and June, 2014, on preparation of organic manure and its benefits for the inhabitants of Aladipur village. Along with Reddy, 24 other farmers attended this program. Apart from Aladipur, the training program also reached out to farmers in 20 other villages of Ganjam district.

This program was a part of the ICCo Foundation’s supported project on “Sustainable Livelihood Initiative in Odisha” in three blocks of Ganjam district. Under this project, VIEWS trained villagers on practicing bio-fertilizer cultivation to grow vegetables for self-consumption initially. After the training, many households were provided with vegetable seeds such as tomato, ladyfinger and bittergourd.  Reddy, along with the other farmers, started cultivating vegetables using organic manure.

The results were encouraging.  All the farmers were happy to see their vegetables grow well even without the use of chemical fertilizers.  Gradually, from self-consumption mode, they started producing vegetables for sale in the local market. The response on part of the consumers reinforced their belief in the advantages of using organic manure. Consumers felt that these vegetables tasted much better than the chemically grown ones available in the market.

Soon, there was a growing demand in the market for their organic produce. While other sellers received Rs 25 for 1 kg of ladyfinger, these farmers were able to sell their organic produce at Rs 35 for the same quantity. Besides the immediate and positive effects organic farming had on the environment and quality of food, it also greatly helped Reddy and his farmer friends become self-sufficient and reduce their agricultural costs.