Thursday, February 7, 2013

Best practices in Community Managed Sustainable Agriculture

SERP initiated Community Managed Sustainable Agriculture (CMSA) in 2004 as part of its mandate to eradicate poverty and to improve livelihoods of the rural poor. CMSA was meant to support the poor farmers to adopt sustainable agriculture practices, to reduce the costs of cultivation and increase net incomes. This initiative aims to address the major causes of agriculture distress - extensive use of chemical inputs, high costs of agriculture, displacement of local knowledge, unsustainable agricultural practices like monocropping, imperfect markets etc

CMSA is a paradigm shift in moving from input centric model to knowledge and skill based model.  It involves making best use of locally available natural resources and takes best advantage of the natural processes. The main objective of CMSA is to bring sustainability to agricultural based livelihoods, with special focus on small and marginal farmers, tenants, agriculture labour and women. Its major objective is to making small farming viable.

The AP model of sustainable agriculture refers to low external input agriculture called Community Managed Sustainable Agriculture (CMSA) is now scaled up to 11,000 villages from 10 villages in 2004 and from one Mandal to 653 mandals in 22 districts of Andhra Pradesh. CMSA is now practiced by 1.5 million farmers from 250 farmers and 400 Acres in 2004 to 3 million acres. Following graph shows the scaling up pattern:


Graph-1: Scaling up pattern of CMSA

Source: Internal MIS


The most important reason as to why the CMSA programme has scaled up so fast is on account of the substantial financial benefits that the participating farmers have realized. The cost of cultivation on account of chemical fertilizers and pesticides has drastically reduced. The range of savings varied from crop to crop. It ranges from Rs.4,124/ha in case of Paddy to Rs.14500/ha in Cotton and Rs.40750/ha for Chillies.

Further certain best practices created enabling environment for the massive scaling up. Using the existing SHG plot farm, local resource based technology, decentralized extension system etc are the some of the best practices enabled us for massive scaling up.


Usage of existing Institutional plot farm:


SERP has organized 1.0 crore women into 8, 50,000 Self help groups, covering all the villages in the state. The SHG network covers almost 68% rural households in A.P and covers more than 90% rural poor households. The uniqueness of the A.P model is the federated structure of the SHGs. The SHGs are federated into 35,000 village level federations, covering 15 – 25 SHGs (called Village organizations) and further into 1098 mandal federations ( called Mandal samakhyas, covering 8,000 – 12,000 households) and 22 district federations, called Zilla samakhyas. It is this federated structure which has enabled the scaling up of a variety of interventions across the state, including the CMSA.


The SHGs and their federations provide a plot farm to discuss the issues in agriculture and technologies available to address these issues. The program management is in the hands of the women organizations.  Separate sub committees with C.M.S.A practicing SHG women, farmers, at village, Mandal (Sub district) and district level are formed to monitor the day to day activities. The programme management is in the capable hands of 11,000 village level sub committees, 653 Sub district level (Mandal) sub committees and 22 district level sub committees were formed in 22 districts. All these sub committees meet once in a month to review the program. Budget is provided for sub committee’s field visits and review meetings.


Sub committees will review the performance of Village activist (VA), cluster activist (CA) and District Project Manager on a monthly basis. Their performance is reviewed by Samakhyas. The Samakhyas attend FFS meetings, make field inspections, pay salaries of VA/CA. Communities are involved in decision making process. The final word in programme management lies with the VOs and MMSs. 


Separate budgets were provided for the subcommittee meetings and their visits. This budget provision enabled the subcommittees to meet on specified date in a month and making 10 field visits in a month. Further subcommittee members are using data uploaded through mobile application for reviewing the performance of functionaries.


Best Practices in technology:  


Methods promoted under CMSA are blend of scientifically proven technology, local wisdom, and, farmers’ innovations. Over a period of time these methods are building good ecology where there is a balance between friendly insects and crop pests, and this is leading to reducing the costs on pest management to ‘zero’. Further, the focus is on building life into the soil by adopting various recommended practices, such as monocot - dicot crop combinations, multilayered poly crop system to harvest maximum sun light, mulching, creating enabling environment for local deep borrowing earth worms, efficient composting techniques and by using dung based inoculants paving way to reduce and eventually eliminate chemical fertilizers.


Non pesticide Management (NPM):


CMSA adopted Non pesticide management (NPM) approach for plant protection. NPM is the first step in CMSA. The ultimate step is natural and ecological farming, without any external chemical inputs. The main principle underlying NPM is that pests can be managed by understanding their behavior and lifecycle. The emphasis is on prevention rather than control.


A comprehensive strategy is evolved for pest management. These include: deep summer ploughing, community bonfires, seed treatment, bird perches, border crops, trap crops, yellow and white plates, intercrops, light traps, pheromone traps, delta traps in Ground nut, Alleys in Paddy, Cutting of the tips in Paddy at the time of transplantation. The above practices are called as ‘non-negotiables’ and are mandatory for all NPM farmers. The application of botanical extracts is only as a last resort.


Nadep composting:


Nadep composting is an efficient aerobic composting method developed by a farmer from Maharstra called Narayan Deotao Pandharipande. Compost can be prepared from a wide range of organic materials viz dead plant material such as crop residues, weeds, forest litter and Kitchen waste etc which are biodegradable. Compost making is an efficient way of converting all kinds of biomass into high value fertilizers that serve as a good alternative to farm yard manure, especially for crop growing households with little live stock.  For every 4 Kg of dung 40 Kg of compost can be prepared. This method of composting solved many problems in meeting fertilizer requirements.


Multistoried cropping system:  


Multi storied cropping system for house hold Nutritional security Model (36*36 models) have been promoted by CMSA as a tool to achieve nutritional security at the households level. This model is unique as it promotes nutritional security and round the year income to the family, in the smallest land extent possible.


This model is developed based on the following principles:


1.      Different plants require different Photo candle light 

2.      Monocot – Dicot crop combination to maintain equilibrium for soil fertility

3.      Companion crops 

4.      Multi storied structure to harvest maximum sun light

5.      Crop diversity to manage pests


The crops are arranged in seven tiers based on the canopy and photo candle requirements.  As the crops diversity ranges from tuber crops to fruit crops, from vegetables to pulses, all the nutritional requirements for a family are met.

First tier: Root or tuber crops such as carrot, beetroot, zinger etc comes under this category. These plants require minimal sunlight.


Second tier: Creepers, which cover the soil such as bottle gourd, cucumber etc. Creepers will act as live mulch.


Third tier: Leafy vegetables such as surrel leaves, spinach, coriander, amaranthus etc.


Fourth tier: Vegetables such as Brinjal, Tomato, chillies etc


Fifth tier: Perennial Castor and Perennial Red gram etc


Sixth tier: papaya, drumstick, clustered apple, guava etc


Seventh tier: Fruit crops such as Mango, cashew etc . These plants require maximum sunlight.    


Rain fed Sustainable Agriculture (RFSA):


Radical soil and moisture conservation works which include Conservation furrows for every four mts, trenches all around the field, farm pond, trees on conservation furrows etc. The main objective is to harvest rain water in-situ. Mounting cropping pattern in these fields with 5:1 and 7:1 ratio, including perennial Red gram, Castor, leafy vegetables, fruit plants and trees on conservation furrows. In convergence with NREGS, RFSA is implemented in 21 districts. So far works executed for Rs.185.18 crores Improved cropping pattern to increase production is adopted in 61,247 Acres in RFSA fields. Farmer wise Income assessment from poly crops is under progress. The data received so far is very encouraging. Increase in incremental incomes per acre range from Rs.8,000 /- to 18,000/-. Most of these lands kept fallow or subsistence farming under Jowar etc. 


 System of Rice Intensification (SRI):  


System of Rice Intensification is a cost effective and resource efficient method of cultivation of Paddy.  This has been promoted by CMSA extensively. SRI enabled the farmers in reducing ground water exploitation. Further SRI has potential for increasing yields. Following are the main principles of SRI:


A. Early, quick and healthy plant establishment


B. Reduced plant density


C. Improved soil condition through enrichment with organic matter

D. Reduced and controlled water application


Organic certification through Participatory Guarantee System:  


Participatory Guarantee System (PGS) is a process in which people in similar situations assess, inspect, and verify the production practices of each other and collectively declare the entire holding of the group as organic.

PGS introduced in India in 2005 by Organic Farmers India Association (OFAI). PGS is managed by PGS council of India. PGS council formed by a OFAI, IIRD, DDS,Key stone foundation and Timbaktu collectives. National Center for Organic Farming, Ghaziabhad supported PGS council.

Guiding principles:

  1. Participation
  2. Shared vision
  3. Transparency
  4. Trust
  5. Horizontality

Advantages of PGS:

The procedures are simple; documents are basic and use the local language understandable to farmers

Farm inspectors are among the group and live in the same village, therefore have better access to surveillance

Peer appraisal instead of third party inspections reduces cost

Random residue testing at regular intervals ensures the integrity and increase the trust


Poorest of the Poor strategy:


The PoP Strategy in CMSA is to facilitate the land lease to the landless laborers and promote CMSA in these lands.  0.5 acre land will be leased in to these PoP, and they shall do SRI Paddy cultivation in 0.25 acre and 36*36 model or poly crops in the remaining 0.25 acres. The main objective of this strategy is to convert “Net wage seekers” to “Food producers  

It was thus designed to achieve two objectives. One is that the PoP family should earn a net income of Rs.50,000 in a year and second one is by growing all crops ,i.e.  paddy, vegetables  and pulses , the PoP family shall have food security. Apart from selling the produce, they can save something for their own consumption.


POP identification process:


VO NPM subcommittee members will identify POP beneficiaries by participating in SHG meetings. After identification of POP beneficiaries, Subcommittee will approach MMS for funds required by POP beneficiaries. Lease amounts (Rs.10-15,000/- per acre) and working capital (Rs2-3000/-) are required by POP beneficiaries. The amounts are met from POP revolving fund available with VO. Entire amount is in the form of loan only.   


Decentralised extension system for Transfer of Technology:  


The transfer of technology in Decentralised extension system is through community based local best practicing farmers. The key benefits of the decentralized extension system, led by practicing farmers and women SHGs, are that the adoption rates of sustainable agriculture practices are very high (above 90%) resulting in drastic reduction in pesticide and fertilizer consumption leading to Low External Input Sustainable Agriculture and Eco-agriculture.  

The key investment in CMSA is not subsidising external inputs but to build the knowledge base of the farmers. The key is in moving from the mainstream external input based model to a model based on local resources and knowledge. The knowledge investment refers to knowledge and understanding of local natural resources and how they can be used for seed treatment, pest management, soil fertility management practices, etc. Knowledge also refers to understanding sustainable agronomical practices, revisiting or rediscovering traditional wisdom, etc.

In this paradigm, the farmers are encouraged to experiment, innovate and their innovations are shared among other farmers. Respect is accorded to farmers own initiatives. This approach is different from the mainstream attitude where the farmer is a passive recipient of ‘knowledge’ produced in formal agriculture research stations or universities. It is a very liberating approach and the momentum in our programme is fuelled by countless innovations of farmers and the pride they take in their ‘research’ efforts. Since the entire effort is based on local, natural and renewable resources, a key by product is that the farmers are performing valuable environmental services. These are as of now ‘unpaid’ services. In the context of Climate change they have the potential of mitigating climate change and also enabling them to adapt to climate change.

A. Best Practitioners as change agents:  


Best practicing farmer in the village is identified as village activist and best practicing farmer is identified for five villages as a cluster activist. These farmers are actively working with other farmers for spreading messages. Capacity building is the key component in CMSA and the subsidy is for capacity building only not for external inputs. They were trained intensively on various components of CMSA. Capacity building components includes  pest life cycle, enabling conditions for disease spread, Non pesticide management, sustainable usage of resources, maximizing output from a unit land, conservation of natural resources, rain water harvesting and organizing farmer field schools.

B. Community Resource Persons (CRP):  


CRPs are farmers who practice (best practitioners) CMSA and demonstrate that it is profitable and practicable to other farmers.  They provide capacity building support to other farmers and act as consultants to other farmers on implementing sustainable agriculture practices. Today the program nurtured more than 200 CRPs. CRPs are positioned in the villages where we are taking up special projects like POP strategy, SRI, PGS etc.


C. Farmer field schools:  


The transfer of technology is through community based local best practicing farmers.  Farmers field school (FFS) is the key activity for transfer of technology and sharing of best practices.   Farmers upgrade knowledge by sharing, observations and experiments. 20-25 farm families formed into a group known as “Sasyamithra Sanghas” and these sanghas are assisted by a Village activist (a practicing farmer) and a Cluster activist (for a group of five villages, he is also a practicing farmer) who facilitate the knowledge sharing processes. They are paid by the S.H.G federations, the V.Os and the M.Ss to work as para extension workers, and, they are completely accountable to them.

D. Community Video films as tool for transfer technology:


SHG members are trained in video film making and dissemination of video films. Video films are using for amplifying the effectiveness of extension efforts. This system combines technology and social organization to improve the cost effectiveness and broaden the community participation of existing agriculture extension system. The unique components include:


A. Participatory process for local video production

B. Human mediated instruction model for video dissemination and training

C. An iterative model to progressively better address the needs and interests of the community with analytical tools and interactive phone-based feedback channels


This system combines technology and social organization to maximize the potential of building the capacity of farmers on improved, sustainable agriculture and allied livelihood interventions. The videos that are produced by farmers, of farmers, and for farmers across our field locations are periodically synchronized with our global library of videos on public domain.


Data associated with the videos, including their reach, the feedback of viewers, and the ultimate take up of the featured practices or techniques, is also aggregated and analyzed in near real-time on our analytics dashboards. These analytics dashboards are built upon an data management framework, called COCO, which allows even remote areas with limited Internet and electrical connectivity to exchange data with the world.


The model has decreased the cost of field level expenses on training of the farmers through live demonstrations and field level trainings. Since all the practices are captured through videos and shown on regularly intervals. The cost of training has reduced drastically and at the same time there is an increase of reach out to the farmers as well. As the PICO projector used for the dissemination is mobile and can be used at the convenient time of farmers.


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