Visakhapatnam: At a time when unscientific farming methods and lack of proper marketing facilities are aggravating agrarian crisis, a Nabard-funded tribal development project has ensured livelihood security to around 3,000 tribal farmers in 3,000 acres of land in Visakhapatnam district.
Multiple inter-cropping, protecting the plants from grazing animals, scientific cultivation, raising livestock, direct marketing are some of the measures that have helped diversify income sources and make best uses of land, which earlier was fallow.
With the help of Vikasa, implementing organisation, the ‘Maathota’ (My Farm) tribal development project was taken up in Araku and Dumbriguda agency areas of the district. The funding from Nabard (National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development) began in 2008 for 1,000 acres with an allotment of Rs 45,000 per year per farmer per acre for seven years in the first phase.
The funding was repeated for 1,000 acres each for a seven-year term in 2011 (second phase) and 2012 (third phase). Now, around 3,000 acres of farmland are reaping the benefits of the project. “Maathota is aimed at providing multi-layered livelihood security to tribal farmers and providing alternative models of farming to address agrarian crisis and challenges of the farming community. Each acre of Maathota has around 77-100 fruit plants and 150-200 fence plants to protect the crops from open grazing,” explained Kiran Sakkhari, executive director of Vikasa.
The produce include mango, chikoo, amla and lemon as orchard crops, turmeric, vegetables or coffee as inter crops for income sustainability, custard apple, teak, red sandalwood as boundary crops, and agave as fence crop. Banana plantations and broom grass cultivation are also included. Livestock rearing, backyard poultry and fish ponds are also incorporated for diversifying income sources and provide livelihood security to farmers.
The farm products are directly sold at village shandies or local markets without the involvement of middlemen. Two farmer producer companies have been set up with paid-up capital of Rs 20 lakh for collective marketing as well. On an average, the Maathota farmers are earning between Rs 45,000 to Rs 60,000 per acre annually by selling various farm products.