After tasting success in the form of improving farm productivity (in the range of 20-60 per cent) and enhancing the livelihoods of 4.57 million dry-land small farmers in its state through Bhoochetana, the Karnataka government has decided to extend the four-year-old partnership with the Hyderabad-based International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (Icrisat). This was announced by agriculture minister Krishna Byre Gowda and Icrisat director-general William D Dar at an event to celebrate 41 years of service of Icrisat, in Hyderabad on Monday. Under the extended Bhoochetana partnership programme, Karnataka and Icrisat would roll out Bhoochetana Plus programme, a pilot on rain-fed integrated farming, in four districts of Karnataka — Bijapur, Chikmagalur, Raichur, Tumkur — covering 80,000 hectare (ha) of farm land. Post the examination of the results here, it plans to take it to others districts in the state. The minister said dry-land farmers in the state had accrued economic benefits of $230 million in the last four years under Bhoochetana. Interestingly, the benefit-to-cost ratio roughly worked out to be 6:1.
Understanding this, even Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra are also contemplating adopting this programme. The programme plans to target soil health management, incorporating forestry, dairy farming, fodder development and post harvest methods in these districts for enhanced productivity and sustained economic benefits for small and marginal land holding farmers. The basic components of it include soil test-based nutrient recommendation and introduction of new crop varieties which farmers like to try out. However, farmers have to bear 50 per cent of the cost of nutrients. The average cost involved is Rs 1,400 per hectare. On the cultivation of crops under the pilot, Byre Gowda said: “We have not fixed any particular crop or practice to be employed, but the idea is to package practices like horticulture, dairy farming and forestry in a most suitable manner for the farmers.” In Andhra Pradesh, the programme did not take off as expected due to lack of basic soil health mapping across the state and the frequent statehood agitations, said Suhas Wani, research program director (resilient dryland systems), Icrisat. As against the planned one million ha in Andhra Pradesh last year, Icrisat was able to cover only 60 per cent of it. In this rabi, it plans to take up the left over work in the state, he said.