Organic farming is essential for sustainable water management of
this area. The aquifers are getting depleted at alarming rates primarily
caused by heavy over-irrigation practices with the main aquifer having
an extraction rate 20 times its' recharge rate! Moreover, the heavy
use of pesticides is creating a rampant risk to the population and
the water. The decrease in soil fertility and in beneficial biodiversity
caused by these chemical inputs jeopardizes the prospects of further
agriculture development. As well, Salinization, caused by this heavy
over-extraction, is occurring in some areas negatively affecting
drinking water and the production of crops.
Social factors aggravate the trend: a free electricity policy discouraging water and energy conservation; high interest rates of moneylenders and water-lenders; and dependence on input suppliers (chemicals, water, seeds, etc). In the absence of training and extension, the pesticides salesmen are the main source of technical advice often misleading farmers to irrationally over-apply the pesticides and over-irrigate their crops.
The market channels with its numerous intermediaries and wastes along the food chain absorb most of the marginal profits of agriculture, and do not guarantee a healthy end product on the consumer's plate. This brings small farmers to the edge of economic survival.
Promotion of Organic Farming Activities
Harvest Eco-Farms was an ecological farming program that included an 8-acre outreach research farm around the Naidu House office and several demonstration plots within farms of interested progressive farmers in the area. A network of farmers interested in ecological farming was formed and the agricultural team, as well as visiting experienced farmers, provided them with training, technical advice, organic inputs, inspections and a guaranteed market for their produce.
The research farm was composed of a variety of local crops and systems: rain fed and irrigated field crops, a coconut grove, sugarcane, vegetables and fruits. The research activities of the farm included:
The technical information collected on organic cultivation (from farm results and farm visits) is compiled per crop, adjusted to our local agro-climatic conditions, and published in a series of crop cultivation handbooks.
Unfortunately, due to several consecutive poor monsoons and lack of funding the Harvest Farms had to shut down.However, the gained experience is presently materializing by bringing an organic farming promoting program in the area. This program will include trainings, research and several demonstration plots on interested farmer's land. We will work with the existing network of farmers interested in ecological farming and try to encourage more members. Due to the high lease it will not include the research farm around the Naidu House.
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