In villages, 90%, water goes for irrigation. In the CAPART watershed project the challenge was enhanced availability of water in the command area. The problem was its excessive use and chemical contamination by farmers. So the focus was shifted from water to Natural Farming- an improved farming and irrigation practice that focuses on soil health; combats water waste and contamination. It focuses on increasing soil humus by scientific introduction of cow dung, cow urine, and biomass. The organic inputs, Indigenous seeds, bio-diversity and multilayer cropping help earthworms, bees, and birds to contribute in controlling pests, enhancing pollination and improving soil health.
If properly adopted, Natural Farming technology reduces water requirement by 20 to 30%. The Natural Farmer can make his own seeds, pesticides, and manure minimizing the cost of farm input. The uniqueness of this innovation is its acceptability and adaptability by a large number of farmers.
Natural Farming – It is a farming practice that uses less water, low cost organic agriculture that protects environment, earth, water, bio-diversity, livelihood, and promises sustainability.
To prevent farmers from polluting and misusing water MSS introduced Natural Farming to 2000 farmers in 20 villages. MSS also wanted to free the farmers from the clutches of money-lenders and banks from whom they had taken heavy debts to purchase hybrid seeds, chemical fertilizers and pesticides.
Unable to cope with constantly rising cost of farm inputs and decreasing crop yield, farmers are unable to pay back their debts and are compelled to commit suicide. In the state of Maharashtra from year 1995, 35,000 farmers have committed suicide. This year 712 farmers of Vidarbha region have committed suicide. Knowing that degree of dependence equals degree of exploitation, Natural Farming frees farmer from dependence on exploitative market and commercial interests. Hence, MSS volunteers initiated an awareness campaign regarding the same.
In last two years, 60 % to 80 % farmers adopted Natural Farming. Now these farmers are a proud self-reliant community, free from debt, dependence, domination, and disease.
The 2000 farmers, who shifted from chemical farming to natural farming, did without buying 2.5 Crore rupees worth of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Instead of filling the coffers of corporate sector, this money was recycled back into the village economy. The farm productivity increased and none borrowed money from bank or moneylender. As never before, farmers not only used the water optimally but also prevented it from pollution.
Organic Farmers covered under the project – 2000
Villages – 20
Total Area under Cultivation – 4678.83 acres
Total Area under Natural Farming – 700 acres
Crops sown in organic fields – Cotton, Tur, Soyabean, Linseed and Gram
BENEFITS OF NATURAL FARMING
In these villages, 60 to 80 % farmers shifted from chemical farming to Natural Farming.
Presently, 700 hectare of land is under Natural Farming.
These farmers use no chemicals and optimally utilize water.
In the first year, the productivity remained constant whereas in he second year, the production per acre increased by two to seven quintals.
The soil quality in all the 2000 farms has shown considerable improvement.
For the first time 50% farmers planted vegetable.
Initially by the month of January, the water sources use to dry up, which affected the winter crop, whereas now with ample availability of water 92% farmers had bumper crop.
Instead of one or two crops, 30 % farmers cultivated 10 to 15 varieties of crops.
All the farmers prepared farm inputs in their own farms, kept away from buying chemical farm inputs from the market, and saved Rupees 25 million.
None of the Natural Farmers borrowed money from Bank or moneylender.
BULLOCK – OPERATED WATER PUMP
Along with gaining self –sufficiency in farm inputs it was equally important for organic farmers to be self –reliant in terms of energy usage. There fore , to overcome the crisis of long and frequent power cuts, MSS installed a Bullock Water Pump. This bullock –operated pump (with three horse power capcity per hour ) draws 12,000 liters of water from a depth of 30 feet . Elight water sprinklers can operate with this bullock pump. Apart from lifting water, the prime of the pump can also be used for running other machines like a grinder, chaff cutter or generator. This pump is a combined effort of Mr. P. L. Sharma, Sultan Asalam and Mr. Vivek Chaturvedi of Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh .