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Increasing awareness of integrated nutrient management among Odisha women farmers

Girija Prasad Patnaik, Ajay Kumar Mishra, Preeti Bharti, Kshitikanta Rout, Mukund Variar, Sheetal Sharma

08 March 2024 (Mayurbhanj, Odisha, India) – Some 30 local women farmers took part in an awareness campaign and event hosted by the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) focused on emerging Integrated Nutrient Management (INM) practices.

As part of IRRI’s International Women’s Day celebrations, the campaign focused on sharing the importance of soil health and nutrient management and its impact on crop productivity, environmental sustainability, and resilience. Women farmers were encouraged to collaborate with researchers to participate in demonstrations of new technologies to monitor and evaluate the practices, and emphasis was given to the role of women in sustaining agricultural systems for future generations. These efforts  aim to enhance women farmers’ knowledge and skills in managing soil health and nutrients, contributing to sustainable agriculture and food security.

Integrated nutrient management (INM) is crucial in enhancing soil health and contributing to food security. By optimizing organic and inorganic fertilizers, cover crops, and crop residues, INM helps maintain soil fertility, structure, and microbial activity. Healthy soils support better nutrient uptake by plants, improving crop yields and nutritional quality. Women farmers are instrumental in increasing soil health through their active involvement in various agricultural activities such as composting, crop diversification, and organic farming. Their knowledge of local farming practices and close connection to the land also enables them to implement sustainable soil management techniques effectively. As women farmers adopt INM practices, they not only improve soil health on their farms but also contribute to increased food production, resilience to climate change, and overall food security in their communities and beyond. Integrating nutrient management with soil health is essential for empowering women farmers and achieving sustainable food systems.

This awareness campaign contributes to the Climate Smart Rice-based Systems for Prosperity and Resilience in Odisha (ClimatePRO) Project, a three year collaborative effort between the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and the Government of Odisha. The project’s intervention package 3 aims to optimize nutrient management in tank command areas through an integrated plant nutrient supply system.  Under this intervention, ‘Bio-input centers’  will engage women farmers in the production of bio-inputs. During the awareness campaign, women farmers were made aware of the importance of bio-inputs in integrated nutrient management in rice and other crops.

“Unbalanced fertilizer use in crops leads to health-related issues. It is required to use a balanced dose of fertilizer,’ said Mamita Ranasia, one of the women farmer participants.

Bhabatush Kumar Mohanta, a level worker from the Department of Agriculture, discussed the benefits of soil test-based fertilizer recommendations and emphasized the importance of  balanced fertilizer use. He also highlighted increasing soil acidity problems and advised the farmers to adopt integrated nutrient management practices.

ClimatePRO Project - INM Lead Dr. Sheetal Sharma hopes the campaign will heighten awareness and propel significant action among the women farmers in the community towards climate resilience. “Women in agriculture are not just working the land, they are nurturing families, preserving traditions, and shaping the future of farming. The insights we've gathered are invaluable and will serve as a cornerstone for the next phase of our mission. ClimatePRO Intervention 3 is poised to benefit immensely from these learnings, as we tailor our strategies to be more impactful, inclusive, and sustainable," Dr. Sharma said.

ClimatePRO targets the intensification and diversification of agricultural production in Ganjam, Mayurbhanj, and Bolangir to support smallholder farmers in building their resilience and capacity to adapt to climate change stresses affecting agricultural production. Climate-resilient and high-yielding rice varieties followed by pulses, oilseeds, and other high-value crops coupled with climate-smart agricultural practices will be promoted to improve incomes and contribute to the sustainable intensification of farming systems in the state.