Women and marginal farmers in Odisha improved their productivity after adopting climate-resilient technologies, as part of the five-year project to build resilience of poor, small, and marginal farmers. The project was implemented by the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), with support from the Odisha Department of Agriculture and Farmers' Empowerment (DA&FE).
IRRI representatives presented the results of the project titled "Increasing Productivity of Rice-based Cropping Systems and Farmers' Income in Odisha'' in the workshop organized at Krushi Bhavan, Bhubaneswar on 26 April 2022. The event saw participation of senior officials from DA&FE, including Shri Sanjeev Chadha, IFS Special Secretary, DA&FE.
Smallholder farmers account for nearly 93 percent of the total farm population while women account for nearly half of the agricultural labor force in Odisha. This coastal state in the eastern part of India has historically been highly prone to climate-induced natural disasters, such as droughts and floods, rendering the small and marginal farmers, and women highly vulnerable.
Through the project, researchers and extension workers introduced innovative methods that helped increase farmers’ awareness of climate-resilient rice varieties that have better tolerance to drought, floods, and common pests and diseases than popularly grown varieties. They also provided the farmers access to good quality seeds, and capacity-building opportunities in quality seed production. Climate-smart management practices that helped farmers improve their crop productivity were also introduced.
In turn, increased awareness shot up the demand for climate-resilient rice varieties, such as Sahbhagi dhan, Swarna Shreya, Bina dhan 11, and Swarna sub 1. The inclusion of these varieties in the seed chain allowed farmers to adopt new rice varieties and replace old seeds. Close to 60,000 farmers benefited from access to new varieties and seeds during 2016-2020. More than a quarter of these farmers are women.
Twenty stress-tolerant rice varieties (STRVs) were introduced and tested for potential yield advantage over their local check, with seeds of seven new varieties currently being multiplied and distributed across the state.
In the project, researchers demonstrated the yield gain through head to head trials of recently released, early-duration, high-yielding, and disease-resistant varieties of green gram and black gram cultivated in lands left fallow after the Kharif rice.
Nature-friendly management practices to support sustainable agriculture was a central part of the project. For example, seed treatment with Trichoderma atroviride (under Integrated Pest Management) helped farmers protect their crops from pests and diseases, minimizing the need for pesticides.
At the same time, IRRI developed several ICT-based tools to support farmers. One of these is a web platform for rice-based cropping systems called Rice Knowledge Bank (RKB) Odisha that enhances the knowledge and skills of extension agencies, students, researchers and farmers. They also developed the Rice Crop Manager (RCM) for field-specific crop and nutrient management, seed demand estimation mobile application called Seed Cast, pest and disease diagnostics tool named Rice Doctor, and a geo-referenced information analysis app called Rice Pulse Monitoring System.
About 1,800 women farmers in Kalahandi benefited from the rural women-producer enterprise incubation program conducted in collaboration with Access Livelihoods Consulting India to help women farmers hone their entrepreneurship skills and double incomes through a diversified product and service portfolio, including inputs and grocery supply, and seed production and marketing.
“Globally, we can see small and marginal farmers, women, and youth bearing the brunt of the spiraling climate crisis. The situation calls for an urgent food systems transformation to safeguard those most at risk against increasing food prices, declining household incomes and malnutrition. This project gave IRRI the opportunity to engage thousands of women, marginal farmers, and other stakeholders in efforts to build resilience, secure livelihoods, and enhance incomes by taking advantage of climate-smart technologies and enabling the participants to actively drive their own empowerment journey,” said Dr. Ranjitha Puskur, IRRI Country Representative for India and Research Leader - Gender & Livelihoods.
A technical session focused on “Innovations, Outcomes and Key Messages” was chaired by Dr. M. Muthu Kumar, IAS, Director, Directorate of Agriculture and Food Production, DA&FE, and was followed by a panel discussion between officials from National Agricultural Research System (NARS), the Odisha government, members of NGOs, private sector representatives and farmers to deliberate on key learnings from the project, with a view to chart a solution oriented way forward.