Development of an integrated approach for introducing conservation agricultural practices to the tribal communities of Odisha, India
Roul, Pravat K.
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The smallholder farmers in the tribal areas of Odisha State, India have struggled to produce adequate crop yields under their current low input, continuous mono-crop farming system. The introduction of a Conservation Agriculture Production System (CAPS) has been proposed as a method to mitigate degradation of soils occurring under current farming practices and to improve crop yields while minimizing the use of additional inputs. The objective of this project was to develop an alternative cropping system to provide sustainable income and crop yields for the tribal farm families in the district of Kendujhar, Odisha State, India. Three approaches for maize production were introduced, incorporating the primary principles of CAPS: minimum tillage, crop rotation, and continuous soil cover. The CAPS treatments included combinations of no-till, maize-cowpea intercrop, and relay-cropping with a cover crop. The methodology followed an integrative, sequential approach to evaluate the agronomic, environmental and economic effects of different CAPS treatments on farm households. A complete randomized block design experiment with eight treatments and three replications was conducted from June to December 2010 to evaluate changes in yield, labor, and input costs for different CAPS approaches. A socioeconomic survey was conducted in the village to assess the farmer practices, inputs, labor demands, and crop yields. The results were then incorporated into a representative farm household model to evaluate the impact of these treatments on potential farm income. Results of the experimental plots showed that no-till maize intercropping with cowpea had the best outcome as the highest yielding CAPS scenario with the greatest prospect for income generation and sustained household food security. This approach, with its emphasis on the integration of site-specific crop production outputs, labor demands, and market analysis, will help to introduce the concept of CAPS to farmers, while developing sustainable farming systems and securing livelihoods for rural India.