Kakada is a 55-year-old rice farmer on the east coast of India, mere kilometres from the Bay of Bengal. It is an area prone to cyclones that bring much-needed rain, but also destructive winds. “Nature is tough to manage, but somehow we survive,” says Kakada. He and his wife Marata have worked all of their life in the fields to provide for their two sons who are now grown and have children of their own.
Rice farming is family business. When children and grandchildren are not in school, they help out in the fields. Mothers and daughter-in-laws and other family at home pitch in when needed. The irony is that even though they grow food for the world, most of these families lack nutritious food and struggle with poverty and poor health.
Kakada’s family rely on what they grow over two seasons on five acres of land (three of which they lease) so trying anything new is very risky business. Failure means hunger for the family. But through community meetings by project staff and training sessions, Kakada was finally convinced to try a method called System of Rice Intensification (SRI).
“SRI is a system with multiple benefits,” explains Palla Yesu, another farmer using the new method. “The yields are improved and we use less seeds and less chemical fertilizers. Instead of 35 kg of seeds per acre, SRI only requires 2 kg of seeds. This is our biggest saving.”
This training in SRI is part of a food security project supported by CBM and the Canadian Foodgrains Bank among 1,080 farmers in 36 villages. Each village also receives 10 markers and 10 weeders to share among the farmers – tools that help them to carefully space the young seedlings and effectively weed around them. At monthly meetings, farmers share their challenges and progress with project staff.
A violent cyclone struck the first season that Kakada tried SRI on some of his land. “It is not easy to manage during a cyclone. There is lots of wind and dust. Many fields fell to the ground, but mine withstood because of the stronger plant.” Kakada’s SRI fields not only survived, but thrived, giving him up to six extra bags of rice. He now plans to plant even more of his land next season using SRI and his success has convinced several more farmers to join. The next phase of the project looks at nutrition security, encouraging farming families to grow their own fruit and vegetables for a healthier diet. Laxmi, one of Kakada’s daughter-in-laws, is participating and looks forward to starting a vegetable garden for the whole family. “By God’s grace, we will all be healthy,” says Kakada with a big smile.
This article is printed in the Winter 2016 issue of CBM’s mosaic magazine, read it here.