Community Managed Sustainable Agriculture becoming popular in India

Feb 23, 2011 12:00 AM

Based on natural farming, it covers 8,225 villages
Paddy growing farmers have been able to save Rs. 4,124 per hectare
Cotton growers save Rs. 14,500 per hectare and chilli farmers Rs. 40,750
$ 1.00 = 45.00 Rs to date.

Community Managed Sustainable Agriculture (CMSA), which is based on natural farming, is fast catching up with small and marginal farmers in Andhra Pradesh. CMSA, which was first introduced in 450 villages in 10 districts on a pilot basis in 2005-06 by the Andhra Pradesh Government covering 25,000 acres of land owned by 15,000 farmers, has now been extended in 22 districts covering 8,225 villages benefiting 25,77,877 acres of land owned by 10,47,093 farmers.
Sources said that the objective of CMSA was to work on agriculture-based livelihoods, supporting farmers to adopt sustainable agricultural practices to reduce the cost of cultivation and increase net income. CMSA also aims at bringing down excessive dependence on chemical inputs in agriculture and help farmers revert to natural farming. CMSA had also introduced a paradigm shift in agriculture practices moving from input-centric agriculture model to knowledge and skill-based model, making the best use of locally available natural resources and taking advantage of natural processes. It was pointed out that the methods promoted under CMSA were a blend of scientifically proven technology and local wisdom. It is said that non-pesticide management (NPM) was the stepping stone under CMSA. The main principle underlying NPM was that pests can be managed by understanding their behaviour and life cycle and adopting preventive methods rather than controlling methods for checking pest attacks.

Another important component of CMSA is to build soil health by considering soil as a living organism and a bank for crop nutrients. The focus was given to build soil microbial activity. CMSA adopted three-pronged strategy to enhance earthworm activity in soil which included elimination of chemical fertilizer, adopting mulching and application of dung-based inoculation. Maintaining soil fertility in addition to reducing pest and disease load reduces the risk of crop failure and ensures food security. These practices also increased yield frequency and provided regular income to farmers. Under CMSA, some crop or the other was ready for harvest any time of the year ensuring continuous supply to the kitchen. Crop diversity provided a range of crops to ensure nutritional security to families.

The cost of cultivation in villages covered under CMSA had come down drastically. While paddy growing farmers saved Rs. 4,124 per hectare, cotton growers saved Rs. 14,500 per hectare and chilli growing farmers Rs. 40,750 per hectare. Economic prosperity of farmers due to zero cost cultivation had enabled them reclaim their mortgaged land and had also enabled them to take additional land on lease. CMSA had also enabled villages covered under the scheme to achieve self-reliance and self-sufficiency in food production in the village level. aThe sources said that the funds available under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) were also used to enhance yield potential under Rain Fed Sustainable Agriculture scheme by digging trenches along field boundary, conservation furrows across farms against slopes, construction of farm ponds, compost pit, tank silt application in land covered under CMSA using MGNREGA funds. Approximately, Rs. 48,910 per acre was being spent on these components and being executed in 3.19 lakh acres land owned by 1.46 lakh Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes farmers.

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