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Technological Interventions for Food Security and Local Community Development

(Initiatives aligned with Unnat Bharat Abhiyan program at IIT Kharagpur)

India currently produces about 230 million tonnes of cereals to meet the needs of 1.2 billion people. India’s population is likely to reach 1.5 billion by 2030 and 1.8 billion by 2050. To meet the needs of the growing population, the cereal production has to be doubled by the year 2050. Increasing food grain production has become a challenge because of diminishing per capita arable land and availability of irrigation water resources and expanding abiotic and biotic stresses under climate change/variability. At the same time, huge yield gap (>50%) between attainable and actual farmers yield in many parts of the country including eastern India offers the scope for meeting the challenge. This can be possible through implementation of scientific production technologies in farmers’ field.

In this regard, Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Kharagpur has taken an initiative to demonstrate and increase awareness about existing technologies on food grain production and post-harvest processing at farmers field. With the support from Ministry of Human Resource Development, IIT Kharagpur has adopted 14 acres of land from 14 farmers in Kenthia village (Kharagpur Block–II, Paschim Medinipur), located within 10 km from the Institute campus. The land was barren for last 5-7 years without any crop cultivation even in rainy season. The project team including Principal Investigator Prof. P.B.S. Bhadoria and Co-principal Investigators from all disciplines of food production and processing had several meeting with the farmers and Gram Pradhan for successful implementation of the project.

The Institute organized a Field Day was organized on 25 March 2015 to develop awareness among the farmers of some neighborhood villages on scientific food grain production. Dean, SRIC (Prof. S. Dasgupta), Dean, Planning and Coordination (Prof. B. Mahanty), Project Coordinator (Prof. M.K. Tiwari), Principal Investigator  (Prof. P.B.S Bhadoria) and Co-Principal Investigators of the project from IIT, Agricultural officers of West Bengal Govt., and Panchayat level officials participated in the Field Day. Farmers had a very good opportunity to interact with scientists, officers and gain knowledge on the scientific production technologies. Agricultural officers and farmers from neighboring village requested the IIT Kharagpur team to extend the project in other locations.

As rice is the major crop in the region, farmers had no interest to grow crops other than rice. But, rice cultivation during summer season cause depletion of ground water level as this is a high water demanding crop. Therefore, to have sustainable production, water saving rice production technology i.e. System of Rice Intensification (SRI) was introduced, that generally saves 80-90% seed and 40-50% irrigation water requirement. Also Organic Farming technology was practiced in both SRI and conventional system for quality improvement in soil health and the food grain. To promote crop diversification, cash crop like sweet corn, peanut and soybean were introduced in addition to rice. This was to increase the farmers’ income as well as improve soil health and minimize the irrigation water requirement. Furthermore, vermicomposting technology was demonstrated among the farmers to encourage them to take up organic farming. Treatment of farmer’s pond by applying bentonite clay was implemented as a component of Integrated Farming System to store more water throughout the year. Farmers can grow fish in pond and use the water for irrigation purpose that will improve their economy.

A smaller scale but equally important initiative has been taken by Sponsored Research and Industrial Consultancy (SRIC), IIT Kharagpur to promote organic farming and farm level vermicompost production at another village, named Pariapara (Block: Kharagpur1, Dist: West Medinipur). In this programme, some selected farmers were trained in production of vermicompost by utilizing the farm and houshold wastes and each was alloted a vermicompost unit. Each unit consisting of three vermibeds (size 10 ft × 3 ft × 1.5 ft with a production capacity of  35 kg/bed/cycle ) and they were supplied with 3 kg of specialized earthworms species (Eisenia foetida) for production of vermicompost. Each unit can harvest 8 times in a year providing a net profit of Rs. 25000 from the three beds.  These vermicompost units are regulatly monitored by undergraduate students of the IIT Kharagpur as a part of their extra academic activity under National Service Scheme (NSS) programme through constant supervision of the programme officer Dr. Dillip Kumar Swain, Associate Professor, Department of Agricultural and Food Enginnering, Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur. In this village too, cultivation of alternative crop has been promoted and swet corn and peanut have been grown by progressive farmers.

A field day was arranged by NSS team in the village to develop greater awareness among villagers. This included field visit and demonstration. Besides farmers and local community leaders, Prof Dillip Kumar Swain, Principal Investigator of the project, Prof. Debasis Roy, Program Coordinator NSS, IIT Kharagpur, NSS Student leders were among the speakers. At the end of the program, many other farmers came forward to adopt the technologies.

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