Monday, August 19, 2019

Making inroads for food security through cutting-edge farming technology

“We could never imagine before today a farming equipment and technology exhibition being held in our village”, said Jadav Basumatary, a progressive farmer from Barkachari Gaon, block Kathiatoli, district Nagaon in Assam; a scenic state, south of the eastern Himalayas along the Brahmaputra and Barak River valleys in India.

It is so encouraging to see so many new machines that could reinvigorate farming in our villages, making it profitable and maybe even generate more employment” he adds, looking over at the latest farm machinery lined up at the farm mechanization and technology exhibition organized in June by IRRI and partners under project ‘Assam Agribusiness and Rural Transformation’ (APART).

The World Bank funded project, in which IRRI is a technical partner, is a collaborative intervention supported by Assam Government and is being implemented along with partners since 2018. To add value and improve resilience of agriculture value chains in the state, the project is focused on smallholder farmers and agro-entrepreneurs in 16 districts. By increasing access to updated knowledge and technologies, the project is trying to empower farmers for better decision-making, such that yield gaps are reduced, leading to an increase in farmer incomes and improved sustainability of rice-based agrifood systems. A key activity under APART aims to organize training of trainers, field training, and demonstrations that will help farmers understand the critical interventions needed for better pre- and postharvest management practices and encourage them to adopt these. 

Technology exhibitions play a critical role here, in trying to increase awareness of key stakeholders especially farmers and government personnel from agri and allied departments to promote farm mechanization and post-harvest technologies, while encouraging entrepreneurship in farming communities, especially women’s groups. Typically comprising of live demonstrations on farm machinery for displaying operational ease and benefits of increased productivity, profitability and improving quality of farm produce, such exhibitions bring to the foreground the latest farm technologies. Battery-operated sprayer, mechanical transplanter, drum-seeder, axial flow thresher, portable rice mill, crop harvester, power weeder and solar bubble dryer are some of the latest machinery on display to help optimise labour and other key inputs while yielding higher benefits. Farmer-scientist interactions that take place by way of these exhibitions are also important to ensure faster dissemination of farm technologies among farmers and adoption thereof.

The recent exhibition in Nagaon saw nine frontline farm and postharvest technologies like mechanized transplanting, direct seeding of rice by drum seeder, harvesting, drying and milling operations being demonstrated using BINA Dhan 11. This variety, having been recently introduced in Assam is becoming increasingly popular among farmers and stakeholders for its tolerance to submergence, grain quality, yield advantage, milling quality (71% head recovery) and taste.

In the presence of senior government officials Shri  Jadav Saikia, Deputy Commissioner of Nagaon district and Dr. P.K. Pathak, Director of Extension Education, Assam Agricultural University, over 200 farmers from Nagaon, Sonitpur, Kamrup and Morigaon districts participated in the event. Shri  Jadav Saikia, Deputy Commissioner of Nagaon district, Dr. P.K. Pathak, Director of Extension Education, Assam Agricultural University (AAU) and other distinguished guests and officials from ARIAS Society, Department of Agriculture, ICAR-Agricultural Technology Application Research Institute and IRRI also graced the event.

We must recognize the immense contribution of farmers and learn from their vast experience to design a roadmap for attracting youth in agriculture sector. It would be possible if the best technologies can reach farmers in the shortest possible time” said Shri Jadav Saikia. He expressed his gratitude to implementing partners AAU and Department of Agriculture for popularizing BINA Dhan 11 during summer and Sali seasons in Assam. 

Post-harvest management is a key component of the value chain of rice that helps in enhancing product quality, marketability and assures profitability. Moreover, motivating youth to purchase machines and opening up of localized Custom Hiring Centres can help speed up dissemination of technologies to farmers.” said Mr. Harin Baishya, Agriculture Coordinator, ARIAS Society.

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