Building Resilient Farming Systems – Role of Champion farmers in strengthening Horizontal Knowledge Transfer

Today, farmers, particularly smallholders, face many constraints and challenges in their farming issues. Climate change is one of the main drivers that is adversely affecting the crop production especially in Climate Hotspots.. To overcome the main challenges of climate change, enhancing the capacity of the smallholders to adopt Climate-smart technologies are crucial. The “Resilience” project is taking efforts to build the adaptive capacity of the men and women farmers through continuous capacity building to adapt to the changing climatic conditions coupled with market and other drivers. Under the Resilience project, 200 champion farmers have been promoted to take a lead in adopting climate smart technologies and serve as a role model to other farmers. In this process, the knowledge and experience sharing of the champion farmers with other farmers play an important role in co-producing the contextualising the technologies to the local conditions.

Mr.Biswanath Behera is a 65 years old farmer in Chikarda village, Rangeilunda block of Ganjam district in the state of Odisha. He is landless but he has leased-in 1.2 acres. Mr Biswanatha was selected as one of the champion farmers under the Resilience project. He has been continuously involved with Village Knowledge Centres(VKC) activities and acquired new knowledge and learnt innovative technologies from VKC and Krishi Vigyan Kendra(KVK). During the year 2020, he has came across the advantages of in-situ cultivation of Daincha, a green manure crop and also the line planting of paddy seedlings. He accessed the seeds of daincha and paddy from KVK through VKC in his village and planted as per the recommended seed rate. He has initially sown the green manure crop and ploughed in-situ, 45 days after sowing. He has sincerely followed the technologies as learnt from VKC /KVK team members. During the Kharif 2021, Mr Biswanth has planned to cultivate paddy crop with the new promising flood resistant variety MTU- 1061 as per the sugestions of VKC. Realising the added advantages of green manure crop Daincha in maintaining the soil health with the addition of organic matter as well as providing nitrogen and other essential nutrients for healthy crop growth. This year he has been adopting a bundle of agronomic and climate-smart technologies like optimum seed rate, seed treatment with fungicides, scientific nursery management, line transplanting, integrated nutrient, pest, disease and weed management measures, application of AMBRUTA, Handi khata with the guidance and as advised by the Plant doctors of KVK. He also harvested the crop at the physiological maturity stage and followed good post-harvest management technologies.

Besides, he received additional agro-advisories from VKC such as installing pheromone traps, use of neem coated urea, constant monitoring for beneficial insects, spraying of botanicals and bio fungicides and estimation of economic threshold level for the major pests. He is one of the farmer regularly participated in the plant clinic sessions and accessed plant health information for the whole crop cycle from nursery sowing to harvest and post harvest processing of grains. By this he has harvested 2550 kg per acre which is 18 percent higher than the regular practices he had followed in the past. By this way he saved Rs 3800 per acre on external inputs. The scientific management helped him to harvest an additional yield of 330 kg per acre. The average yield of other paddy farmers in the Chikarda village is only 1875 kg per acre. This is inspite of crop’s damage from the late rains during the grain maturation.

Mr Biswanath says, “The technologies and advisories of VKC and KVKs through various modes helped me to overcome the challenges posed by climatic and biophyiscal factors. The ICT mode of dissemination of advisories from plant doctors and crop experts of VKC helped me to minimize the travel cost and time, and saved the input cost as well. Before the intervention of the VKC, I along with my neighbour farmers have followed only the traditional practices such as the sowing of more quantity of seeds, resorting to the advice of local input dealers, indiscriminate usage of fertilizers and pesticides which escalated our cultivation expenses. As a champion farmer, after realizing the importance of climate-smart technologies, I have disseminated the learnt fruitful technologies to the fellow farmers in my village. I also invited them to my field and explained the practices adapted by me. I have also showcased the advisories on my mobile and also forwarded them to the interested farmers. They assure me to follow the mentioned technologies especially with the new variety MTU 1061, sowing of green manure seeds. This year, I have transferred the knowledge and technologies to around 200 farmers and disseminated /trained nearly 10 new climate-smart technologies to them. Being a champion farmer, I have felt proud to learn CSA’s through the Village Knowledge centre.