ICRISAT-HOPE’s five-point program transforms lives of poor sorghum farmers in Maharashtra, India

ICRISAT-HOPE’s five-point program transforms lives of poor sorghum farmers in Maharashtra, India

Adopting a practice like in-situ moisture conservation (left) has led to greater postrainy sorghum yields for farmers in Maharashtra.

Adopting a practice like in-situ moisture conservation has led to greater postrainy sorghum yields for farmers in Maharashtra.

Benefits of  in-situ moisture conservation in postrainy sorghum yields

Benefits of in-situ moisture conservation in postrainy sorghum yields

Many smallholder farmers in the parched Marathwada and Western Maharashtra regions in India swear by a five-point program that has transformed their lives and brought smiles to their lips. The HOPE project’s five-point package of practices consisting of in-situ moisture conservation, use of improved cultivars, wide row spacing, use of fertilizers at sowing, and insect-pest

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management, has brought home to about 33,000 farmers the importance of a science-led approach in improving yields in the region, known as the sorghum bowl of India.

During 2012-13, Maharashtra had about 30-60% less than normal rainfall (about 400 mm). The failure of rains after the sowing of postrainy sorghum led to severe shortage of protective irrigation and drinking water. With the dissemination of rain water harvesting and in-situmoisture conservation techniques, supply of improved varieties and sharing of improved crop production technologies under the project, sorghum yields have significantly increased. The program was implemented in close partnership with state and national institutions such as the Marathwada Agricultural University (MAU), Mahatma Phule Krishi Vidyapeeth (MPKV) and the National Directorate of Sorghum Research (DSR).

As part of the Government of India’s Food Security Mission, ₹ 1 kg of sorghum seed is given to needy persons at 1, compared to its market price of ₹ 30. During the last four years (2009-10 to 2012-13), project activities have focused efforts in Sanpuri (Parbhani District), Limbaganesh (Beed District) and Wakulni (Jalna District) in the Marathwada area; and Hivare Bazar (Ahmednagar District), Borkarwadi (Pune District) and Aurad (Sholapur District) in Western Maharashtra, where about one-third of the targeted area is now sown to improved varieties, compared to just 10% before the project began.

Owing to the five-point program, the last three years have seen over 25,000 project farmers increasing sorghum grain yields by 35-52% and fodder yields by 27-34% compared to the use of local practices.

Sharing their experiences on the project interventions, farmers Bhausaheb Gaikwad and Raju Sayyed from Ahmednagar Taluq said that under rainfed conditions, they used to harvest only 500-750 kg/ha. The adoption of improved cultivars and use of management practices introduced by the HOPE project, according to them, had resulted in yield levels of 2000-2500 kg/ha.

Farmers like Bappasaheb Gavane (Savargaon), Yogesh Yempure (Udand Vadgaon), Rajesh Deshmukh (Nandakheda) and Naresh Shinde (Sanpuri) have managed to raise very good crops from improved varieties like Parbhani Moti and Akola Kranti. They are highly pleased with the higher grain and fodder yields from improved varieties and cultivation technology with in-situmoisture conservation under water-scarce conditions.

For these smallholder farmers in the two parched regions constantly battling drought, the project interventions have brought them hope of a better livelihood and a prosperous future.