Friday, August 19, 2022

Himachal 'Krishi Sakhis' now advocate natural farming

IANS | December 26, 2021 12:33 PM

SHIMLA: Started three years ago, Prakritik Kheti Khushhal Kisan Yojana, a state government-funded programme that supports natural farming, has now roped in 502 'Krishi Sakhis or farm women friends, for training to enable them to boost agricultural production with lower costs through natural ways. They will simultaneously spread the message to other members of the fair sex too.

Until recently the farmers, largely small and marginal, did not fully reap the benefits of their productive land even with escalating costs. The reason: the deterioration of soil owing to the overuse of pesticides and fertilizers.

Agriculture experts told IANS that the potential of women to drive rural development is enormous, despite many challenges and obstacles.

The 'Krishi Sakhis' are now being trained to find ways to adapt to non-chemical, low-cost and climate-resilient farming.

"Since the women are the main work force in agriculture across the country, it is always effective if they are trained and the message is spread through them," Suneel Chandel, Consultant (Training) at the State Project Implementing Unit with the Prakritik Kheti Khushhal Kisan Yojana, told IANS.

Designated so by the state Rural Development and Panchayati Raj Department under the National Rural Livelihoods Mission (NRLM), the 'Krishi Sakhis' have already been trained in agriculture-related activities.

The additional hands-on training in natural farming by the Agriculture Technology Management Agency (ATMA), working under the supervision of the Prakritik Kheti Khushhal Kisan Yojana, is now empowering them with knowledge and preparing them to change their mindsets, with sustainable agriculture, income, environment and nutrition in focus.

In all, 1.53 lakh farmer families in the state have adopted natural farming practices partially and fully on 9,192 hectares, comprising a mix of agriculture and horticulture.

"Natural farming is a very good concept. It will help us in reducing costs and improving nutrition and every farmer wants that. Anyone is apprehensive to adopt a new thing when it is about livelihood. We have to break that psyche and create awareness among farmers to take to non-chemical farming for best results in all times to come," an upbeat Chiter Rekha, 44, village head in Tundal panchayat in Kandaghat block in Solan district, said.

Rekha, a graduate, is a 'Krishi Sakhi' for the past one year and is committed to spread natural farming among the self-help groups and other village level organisations of women.

She's more confident about the concept because she shifted to the natural farming technique on one bigha of land (out of total two bighas) after training.

"After seeing my success story, many women have started doing it, at least in kitchen gardens. Now they have linked natural farming with 'Krishi Sakhis' and this will help them reach out to more women in the village," she added.

Officials associated with Prakritik Kheti Khushhal Kisan Yojana say 23 training sessions have been conducted for 'Krishi Sakhis' in natural farming in all 12 districts. Their exposure visits to the farms are also being conducted.

Another farmer Kanta Devi, 58, from Kwara village in Mashobra block in Shimla, said, "I was designated as Krishi Sakhi a few months ago. After getting the formal training in natural farming last month, I have trained seven self-help groups in my area."

"It is a good thing that as a Krishi Sakhi we are getting wages for giving training along with exposure," she added.

Implemented in Himachal Pradesh in 2018, the Prakritik Kheti Khushhal Kisan Yojana is focusing on empowering women farmers, who work hard in the fields silently, with information and capacity building.

After training, the women farmers are gaining confidence to take the concept to their fields through discussion, or by testing on a small patch or even kitchen gardens to convince their family members.


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