Fishery, Duckery, Veg & Fruit Cultivation – Integrated Farming Transforming Lives of Small Farmers in Jharkhand

Twenty-five small and marginal farmers in East Singhbhum district of Jharkhand are part of the watershed project, Kuiani, under the aegis of National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD), where, since June 2019, they are practising integrated farming with considerable success.

Manoj ChoudharyManoj Choudhary   1 Feb 2023 12:46 PM GMT

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Fishery, Duckery, Veg & Fruit Cultivation – Integrated Farming Transforming Lives of Small Farmers in Jharkhand

From getting a meagre income from their small farm holdings, the Adivasi farmers of 11 villages of Boram block, Jharkhand are reaping benefits from a project that focuses on pond-based livelihoods. All photos by arrangement. 

Boram (East Singhbhum), Jharkhand

From getting a meagre income from their small farm holdings, these Adivasi farmers are now reaping huge benefits. The project, which runs in 11 villages of Boram block, covering 1,419 hectares, focuses on pond-based livelihoods such as fishery, duckery, and vegetable and fruits cultivation on the bunds around the water body. The villages involved are Baghra, Boram, Chunidih, Rechadih, Dangdung, Dhabani, Jilingdungri, Jundu, Paharpur, Kuiani and Muchidih.

NABARD has given each of the 25 farmers Rs 75,000 (Rs 56,250 as a grant and Rs 18,750 as shramdan).

By optimising the resources available to them and adopting practices that increased their income, improved their soil and made their cultivation environment friendly and sustainable, these farmers who were once stuck in the rut of single-cultivation that barely gave them enough to survive, are now flourishing.

Integrated farming

Integrated farming is based on the interdependence of jal-jungle-jamin (water-forest-land). Monsoon water from the hilly forest areas collects in the ponds of farmers enabling fish culture. And, animals, too, benefit from the water, and their manure in turn is used by farmers as fertilisers in their fields and giving them a better yield and cutting their costs.

Integrated farming is not only giving farmers multiple sources of income, but also helping preserve the natural resources on their land like water and improved soil productivity.

“The benefits of integrated farming are multifold,” Satish Panigrahi, agriculturist at NABARD, Boram, explained. It uses non-chemical resources such as recycled agricultural waste and vermicomposting; it improves the groundwater levels, and encourages natural farming. “The system is intended to preserve the soil productivity and eliminate the wastage of water and agricultural waste. Integrated farming provides adequate water to the land through water harvesting,” Panigrahi said.

Since this NABARD project is pond-based farming, rain water and water from hilly areas is preserved in ponds during the monsoon months. Irrigation methods ensure minimum use of water from drip irrigation, sprinkling irrigation, etc.

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“NABARD is against use of deep boring water as it reduces groundwater level. Pond based irrigation on the other hand, ensures water harvesting and increases groundwater level,” agriculturist at NABARD office in Boram, Panigrahi continued.

Tata Steel Rural Development Society (TSRDS is the implementing agency) in association with NABARD provides capacity building and technical support to the farmers. It works along with government schemes directly at the grassroots for the farmers, the official added.

Integrated farming brings prosperity to farmers

Kshetramohan Kaibarta, a 68-year-old government teacher from Boram village, bought five bighas of land (a little more than three acres) in 2014 with his retirement funds. With the support of NABARD, he has taken to integrated farming and reaping profits.

Like the other farmers in the project, Kaibarta too received a grant of Rs 75,000 from NABARD to help him start integrated farming on his five bigha of land. In June 2019, under Birsa Munda Aam Bagwani Yojna of the state government, Kaibarta planted 300 mango saplings (provided by NABARD) in about an acre of his land.

In the space between the saplings, he planted vegetables such as tomato, papaya, green chilli, cauliflower, bitter melon, pumpkin, radish, lady finger, etc. This way, as he watered his fruit trees, his vegetables are also taken care of.

Kaibarta irrigates his land through a drip and sprinkler system that saves on water. The system that uses water from his pond was set up in 2019 with the support of the Union government at a cost of Rs 200,000 of which he paid 10 per cent and the government paid the rest 90 per cent.

Kshetramohan said he spends about Rs 10,000 a season cultivating the vegetables and earns at least Rs 30,000 in returns. He grows vegetables twice a year. "The mango trees should start yielding fruits by 2023 and I expect to earn anything between fifteen to twenty thousand rupees a year from it,” he said.

The 68-year-old farmer now plans to start growing flowers such as rose, marigold, hibiscus, rajnigandha and other seasonal flowers.

Earnings through duckery and fisheries

Apart from growing vegetables and catering to a mango orchard, Kshetramohan cultivates fish in his pond, rears ducks and has a few heads of cattle too. All this is a part of integrated farming that he practises. He said his fortunes began to turn when in 2019, he cleaned up a 60/60 feet pond, bought (for Rs 400) and released 50,000 small fish into it. He spent Rs 1,000 initially in feeding the fish. He also planted banana, guava, lemon and other fruit trees around the bund.

Two years later, in 2021, Kshetramohan had full grown fish in his pond that he sold and earned Rs 5,000 from it (only 30 per cent of his fish survived). He will replenish the fish every two years, he said.

The farmers, in addition to practising fishery and duckery, have planted trees like banana, guava, lemon and other fruit trees around the bund of the pond.

Along with the fish, in 2019, Kshetramohan also purchased 22 ducks that cost him anything between Rs 20 and Rs 40 per duck. The ducks share the pond with the fish and they are proving to be profitable as in a year, each of the ducks give him about 270 eggs. According to the farmer, within the first six months of him purchasing the ducks, he could earn off them as he sold the eggs at Rs 10 each in the local market.

From single crop to multiple earning sources

Till 2014, Kshetramohan used to cultivate only one paddy crop in a year in one bigha of land. From it, he used to get about 2.5 quintals of rice that was enough to last him and his family for four months after which he had to purchase rice from the market, besides spending money on vegetables.

Now, thanks to the fruits and vegetables he cultivates, and the fish in his pond, he said, he is earning over Rs 80,000 to Rs 100,000 annually from integrated farming.

“I no longer have to buy rice from the market. My family eats better with the vegetables that we grow. What is more, I am actually able to save money ever since I started on this progressive path in 2019," the 68-year-old farmer said, pleased.

Healthy soil; savings on chemicals

Integrated farming is not only giving farmers multiple sources of income, but also helping preserve the natural resources on their land like water and improved soil productivity. There is a reduced cost of fertilisers as farmers reuse and recycle agricultural waste.

Farmers like Kshetramohan who practise integrated farming use bio-pesticides from what is available to them from their animals and other produce. This saves them a lot of money as otherwise they have to spend about Rs 8,000 an acre on conventional chemical fertilisers.

Farmers involved in integrated farming use bio-pesticides from what is available to them from their animals and other produce, which improves the soil health and saves their input cost.

Now, the pesticide made with vegetable waste and cow urine costs the farmer nothing, as everything comes from their farm. Once in 15 days, natural pesticides can be made with 30 litres of cow urine and 10 kgs of waste vegetable and rotting leaves from the trees. The cow dung is used as fertiliser. In addition, the manure from the ducks provides feed to the fishes and the ducks roam free foraging food from in and around the pond.

Earnings from cattle rearing

Integrated farming allows the farmers to tend to their resources. Kshetramohan has two cows and each cow gives 10 litres of milk a day. He sells the milk at Rs 30 a litre in his village. His expenditure on feeding the cows is Rs 120 a day.

He also owns two goats that he bought at Rs 1,500 and Rs 3,500 respectively. The farmer said if he needed he could sell his goats, which do not require too much of looking after, in the market for as much as Rs 10,000. His cows and goats take care of crop residue after the vegetables are harvested.

There are some farmers who have also taken to poultry farming as part of the integrated farming project. Balak Singh Sardar of Kuiani village said that as long as the fishes and livestock did not die due to disease, integrated farming was a profitable venture.

Also Read: Dairy Farming Gets a Fillip in Shopian, Kashmir

According to Sardar, a cockerel purchased at Rs 400 can be sold after a few months for Rs 1,500. Similarly, after investing just Rs 3,500 on fish farming, the farmer earned nearly Rs 75,000 after two years. The money spent by the farmers is only on the purchase of the fingerlings. Over two years those fish grow to as much as one kilo and can be sold at a good price in the market.

Break-up of earnings from integrated farming

From daily wage labourer to a successful farmer

Before NABARD’s Kuiani project, most of the farmers grew only one crop annually and that was paddy. There was not enough irrigation facility to grow anything more.

Prashant Banerjee, another farmer from Boram village, cultivated only paddy in a small portion of his 50 bighas of family land as there was not enough water or money to cultivate the rest of it. He almost gave up farming because it had become such a struggle. He had to support a family of four brothers with only 50 to 60 quintals of paddy a year that his land yielded. He decided to quit in 2003, and became a daily wage labourer wherever he could find work.

However, things changed when in 2018, with the help of MLA local area development fund in Jharkhand, that provided Rs 600,000, he restored two of the four ponds on the 50 bighas of family land, that had laid unrepaired and in disuse.

The following year when the NABARD pilot project began, Banerjee took to integrated farming and planted cucumber, peas, cauliflower, radish, green chilly, onion, brinjal, pumpkin, bottle gourd, tomato, papaya, ladyfinger, etc.

A challenge cited by the farmers was lack of irrigation facilities which makes cultivation an option only in the monsoon months.

Banerjee has also planted mango, jackfruit, mahogany and neem trees around the ponds. He got the tree saplings free of cost under the Union government’s free plantation project. He estimates that fruit trees will begin to earn him money once they are fully grown by 2024, while together, the trees will begin to earn him Rs 5-10 lakhs after 2030. The trees would benefit from the water body close to them, and hold firm the soil and prevent erosion.

“Receiving technical know-how and learning about scientific methods of farming was a tremendous boost to us,” Banerjee said.

Also Read: A farmer grows water chestnut on land stripped of soil; earns profit, repays loans

Last year, in 2021, Banerjee released 30,000 fishes into his ponds, each weighing no more than 100 grams. Only 30 per cent of them survived. The surviving fish will grow to weigh a kilo each and Banerjee hopes to earn about Rs 300,000 after two years of fishing. He invested Rs 8,000 on his fish.

The lockdown posed some serious challenges to Banerjee. He had invested Rs 45,000 in agriculture but could barely get any returns as a large portion of the vegetables rotted as there was a dip in demand. But, Tata Steel Rural Development Society (TSRDS) did help the farmers with transportation and online marketing opportunities.

Challenges listed by the farmers

Farmers often face problems of waterlogging in the monsoon. The runoff of rainwater from the Dalma hills collects downhill and renders pathways waterlogged and unusable. The government’s sanctioned road is yet to be constructed and labourers and transporters hesitate to use the slushy roads. The cost of transportation of goods and produce goes up manifold and many farmers watch helplessly as their produce decay on the land.

Farmers also sometimes struggle to pay for electricity and diesel and hope solar energy will come to their villages. This would also be healthier for the environment, they say.

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Pradeep Kumar Singhdeo, a farmer from Kuiani had over 10 goats but recently seven died. In the absence of a veterinarian in his village he had to call one from Mudidih village in West Bengal. Singhdeo had purchased each goat at Rs 350 and had hoped to sell them at Rs 4,000 after a couple of years. He had also spent money on the animals' treatment including regular vaccinations for them. Availability of a vet near the village will help farmers.

Integrated farming is based on the interdependence of jal-jungle-jamin (water-forest-land). Monsoon water from the hilly forest areas collects in the ponds of farmers enabling fish culture; benefit the cattle.

Many other farmers in the area complained of lack of irrigation facilities. Cultivation is an option only in the monsoon months, said Raj Kishor Singh of Kuiani village. Sometimes lack of water ruins their entire crop and farmers are unable to even recover their investment on their land.

For instance, Nipen Pramanik spent Rs 15,000 for gram cultivation last year but lost his money as the yield was abysmal due to poor irrigation. According to him small farmers spend up to Rs 5,000 for one-time vegetable farming expecting profits of Rs 25,000. But often end up with nothing. Pramanik hoped that local administration would be proactive in getting irrigation facilities up and running.

This story has been done as part of a partnership with NABARD.

agricuture Farmer IntegratedFarming 

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