Bhubaneswar: Although around 65% of the rural population in India depends on agriculture for their livelihood, the sector contributes only 16 percent to the Gross State Domestic Product (GSDP). Given the rapid growth in non-agricultural sectors, profitability in agriculture has taken a beating, leading to migration of people from rural to urban areas.
Utkal Alumina International Limited (UAIL), an Aditya Birla Group Company, has undertaken a series of interventions to promote agriculture in the Kashipur block of Rayagada district.
Vegetable production in Odisha is yet to be taken up in a commercial manner and is still very sporadic and rudimentary. Kashipur block is one of the most backward and remote blocks in the State where theprimary occupation of the people is agriculture. The percentage of vegetable production in agriculture is very less in comparison to other district.
Though farmers know that vegetable cultivation can be an important source of family income, but due to lack of irrigation infrastructure, non-availability of timely finance and technical know-how, many farmers do not venture into commercial vegetable production. Earlier farmers were cultivating paddy, maize, ragi, pulses etc. Under vegetables, limited varieties like potato, tomato, chilli, brinjal etc. were in practice only in kharif season. In the rabi season,two years ago, 9.39 acres was under vegetable cultivation by 57 farmers.
Although most people, in this predominantly tribal block, depend on agriculture, issues like poor irrigation, storage, processing and marketing facilities pose serious problems to small and marginal farmers.
But here in its own way, Utkal Alumina is trying to help out farmers. So far 25 farmers’ clubs involving around 500 members from 25 peripheral villages have benefitted immensely from the company’s efforts. These clubs enable collective marketing, provide facilities and services under different government schemes, and enrich knowledge through exchange of ideas and information.
In addition to this, Utkal Alumina has also promoted a ProducerCompany – ‘Tikiri Agro-craft Producer Company’ to leverage economies of scale.Along with backward linkage, the Producer Company also extends forward linkage services like Farm Fresh (weekly vegetable market) in two company townships and has recently started collective marketing of vegetables. At present, farmers under the Company project Samriddhi, are cultivating varieties of vegetables round the year. These include a variety of greens, coriander, brinjal, chilli, cabbage, cauliflower, radish, carrot, beet, bottle gourd, bitter gourd, ridge gourd, okra, pumpkin, broccoli etc.
“Support in commercial vegetable farming, including off season vegetables, helped supplement farmers’ income, leading to a better standard of living”, says BaniMajhi of Sanamatikana village. His family comprises of three children,one of whom is differently abled, his mother and his wife.
He uses 1 acre out of 6 acres of medium, upland for vegetable cultivation. Vegetables like peas, chilli, brinjal, potato, onion etc. are cultivated by him. During the current year, he cultivated okra, cauliflower and peas etc. and earned around Rs. 65,000/-. With this he could manage to buy a pump set for irrigating the land. Apart from this he also cultivates paddy, ragi, arhar etc. Needless to mention, he has been supported regularly by the company with vegetable seeds and trained on improved package of practice of vegetables. The company has also facilitated irrigation facility through deep bore well in consultation with OLIC (Odisha Lift Irrigation Corporation).
While appreciating Utkal Alumina, Ananta Majhi of Bilamala village says that “the support like irrigation, seed, technical knowhow and market in townships, extended by the company, has enabled him to grow vegetables round the year and supplement the family income”. Earlier he used to take traditional crops like upland paddy, ragi and minor millets in kharif season. He sometimes grows mustard and vegetables depending on the availability of residual moisture in the field. After the intervention of Utkal Alumina and development of irrigation facility, he has diverted 0.25-acre land to vegetable cultivation and cultivated various vegetables round the year. During the kharif season this year, he earned Rs. 20,000/- from cauliflower grown in a 0.10-acreplot.
Nowadays, vegetable cultivation stands as his main source of income to manage day-to-day expenses including education of children, domestic expenses along with micro saving for future sustenance. Recently, he has paid back the outstanding loan of Rs. 14,000/- towards purchase of a pair of bullocks and also purchased a pump set for irrigation.
The producer farmers have now gained access to quality primary and secondary education for their wards as enrolment of children in institutions inside and outside districts has increased. Also there is improvement in quality of life and social status. Many of them have TV sets, refrigerator, motorcycles and other goods purchased out of farm income.
Remarks N. Nagesh, President and Unit Head of Utkal Alumina, “Tips on crop protection and training to increase crop yield are given to farmers. Support is provided by arranging vegetable fairs where ample opportunities are available to market the crops, thus making farmers self-reliant.”
Rakesh Mishra, AVP (Land, Admin & CSR), UAIL, reaffirms that farmers have benefitted because of construction and renovation work done on irrigation channels and check dams. Apart from past years endeavour in creating water resource development, in the present year up to Dec’2018, four check dams, six Irrigation Channels, renovation of a Water Harvesting Structure, Diversion Based Irrigation System (DBI) at Bariaguda has been done. A market platform for farmers at Nuapada chowk have been constructed, he added.
Additionally, 23(including two solar based) deep bore-wells dug in Sanamatikana village and 8 micro river lift irrigation systems laid in Makapadar and Kampar villages under ‘Biju Krushak Vikash Yojana’ are helping farmers in increasing confidence among themselves in vegetable cultivation day-by-day.
Under ‘Project Samriddhi’, a shift from subsistence agriculture to profitable commercial agriculture has been introduced in the area. During the financial year, 200 farmers from 20 villages for kharif season and 294 farmers from 23 villages for rabi season have been supplied with improved and high yielding varieties of vegetable seeds.
Utkal Alumina’s endeavours in improving agriculture and providing sustainable livelihood to people has gone a long way in transforming lives in the Kashipur block of Rayagada district, a remote corner of Odisha.It has been striving hard to create and improve healthy environment to enrich the quality of life of the community, particularly the underprivileged in the vicinity by sustainable initiatives. The company facilitates development in 57 villages/ hamlets of Kashipur and T Rampur blocks of Rayagada and Kalahandi districts of Odisha under CSR. The company has taken multipronged steps in building Education standard of the students in the area in providing access to good quality education, various Health Care initiatives, Sustainable Livelihood activity initiatives, Village Infrastructure Development works and Social Interventions. Aditya Birla Public School, Utkal Hospital, Livelihood projects like Project Saksham, Kaushalya and Wadi, apart from a gamut of projects on village infrastructure are noteworthy interventions of the company.