Balasore:7/2/23: Here is some good news for the farmers. The state Agriculture department has taken an initiative to revive mustard cultivation in some areas with a view to helping the farmers increase their income.
Four gram panchayats in the southeastern Simulia block of Odisha’s Balasore district – Maitapur, Bangalpur, Abjhuna and Purushottampur – were famous for their golden mustard fields, especially during the period 2010-2014. Farmers in this region under the aycut area of the Salandi Irrigation Project were inspired to take up mustard crops in the Rabi season just after harvesting Kharif paddy.
However, the farmers in this region gave up mustard cultivation gradually owing to the disruption of irrigation facilities during the Rabi season and unfavourable soil moisture because of changes in the pattern of monsoon. At the same time, diseases like club root infestation also discouraged farmers to take up the cultivation of mustard crops since 2015.
On the other hand, the Agriculture Department of the Odisha government was keen to revive mustard cultivation in the region and sent repeated requests to the Irrigation Department to improve the irrigation facility in the entire area.
During the current Rabi season, Balasore Collector and District Magistrate made a joint field visit on November 10, 2022, along with the Chief District Agriculture Officer and other officials of the department to Maitapur and adjacent gram panchayats to motivate the farmers to revive mustard cultivation in the region. However, local farmers expressed their grievances to the DM regarding the non-availability of irrigation facilities in their fields. As a result, they had to give up mustard cultivation, the farmers told the visiting officials.
On his part, the Balasore Collector assured the farmers that the authorities would provide irrigation water and instructed the Irrigation department to do the needful. Acting on his directives, the CDAO, Balasore, personally contacted the Chief Construction Engineer of the Salandi Irrigation Project at Anandpur in Keonjhar District on November 17 to apprise him of the farmers’ problem. The block officials also met the Assistant Executive Engineer, SIP, at Simulia. After constant efforts, the Irrigation department finally decided to provide three irrigation facilities to the four gram panchayats. The first irrigation facility was operational on January 15, 2023.
After receiving the assurance of irrigation facilities, the ADO, BAO, AAO and other field staff organised a series of meetings with the local farmers on the Rabi crops.
Gradually, the farmers were motivated to revive mustard cultivation. After several rounds of discussions, mustard cultivation was taken up in 275 acres under a departmental demonstration involving around 200 farmers. According to the local farmers, the mustard crop was grown on 2,600 acres by 1,800 farmers in all these gram panchayats. Members of nine self-help groups (SHGs) and six Farmer Interest Groups (FIGs) also joined the initiative.
On December 24, 2022, a meeting was held under the chairmanship of the Simulia MLA at the FIAC, Simulia, where the sarpanchs of the four gram panchayats and 50 progressive farmers participated and discussed the Rabi crop coverage keeping in mind the Irrigation department’s assurance of making irrigation available. Field functionaries also provided technical guidance to the farmers on the use of agricultural inputs and pesticides.
On December 27, the district nodal officer visited the area along with district-level officers to inspect the mustard crop under cultivation. They found that the crops were just 8 -12 days old. Balasore Collector asked the local farmers to clean up the irrigation channels, while the NREGS provided the wages for labourers engaged in the task. The Collector also discussed a project to set up an oil extraction unit with government subsidy with women self-help group (WSHG) members.
As the mustard crop was cultivated on 2,600 acres, on an average of 650 acres in each gram panchayat, it was decided to include the mustard crop in the ‘One GP One Product’ venture launched by the Balasore Collector for 2022-23 fiscal.
What is encouraging is that farmers who could not sow mustard crops in time were interested to take up green gram and black gram in their fields. Moreover, one WSHG in the region showed interest in starting a mini dal mill under the subsidised scheme.
Now, everyone concerned is hopeful of the successful revival of mustard crops and pulses in the area and is of the view that the initiative will inspire farmers in other areas of the state to take such initiatives to augment their income.