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Revolutionizing Agriculture: How Odisha's Double Cropping Strategy is Changing the Game

Odisha's Comprehensive Rice Fallow Management Program (CRFM) revives fallow lands, promoting pulse and oilseed cultivation for sustainable farming and economic empowerment.

Saurabh Shukla
Revolutionizing Agriculture: How Odisha's Double Cropping Strategy is Changing the Game (Photo Source: Pixabay)
Revolutionizing Agriculture: How Odisha's Double Cropping Strategy is Changing the Game (Photo Source: Pixabay)

Over the past 20 years, the state of Odisha has shown remarkable resilience in the face of natural disasters like floods, droughts, and cyclones. The agricultural sector has played a crucial role in this resilience. The government has implemented strategic initiatives to increase agricultural productivity and ensure food security. Specifically, promoting stress-tolerant crop varieties and innovative cropping methods like direct-seeded rice (DSR) has helped boost surplus paddy production. However, challenges remain, particularly with fallow lands during the rabi season.

Odisha has a total of 6.15 million hectares of agricultural land, out of which more than half is utilized for paddy cultivation. However, during the rabi season, a considerable portion of this land remains uncultivated, especially in the uplands and medium lands of western and southern Odisha. The dry soil in these areas makes it difficult to grow second crops, while the lowlands along the coast are affected by excess moisture, which hinders rabi cultivation. Additionally, factors such as the labor-intensive nature of traditional planting methods, insufficient irrigation, and fragmented land holdings further worsen the situation, making it hard for farmers to diversify their crops.

Diversification for Sustainability

To address these challenges and optimize land use, the need arises to promote crop diversification beyond rice cultivation. Pulses and oilseed crops emerge as promising alternatives, not only complementing the food basket but also enhancing soil fertility and providing additional sources of income for farmers. However, despite their potential, Odisha continues to grapple with deficits in pulse and oilseed production.

Comprehensive Rice Fallow Management Program (CRFM)

The Department of Agriculture and Farmers’ Empowerment (DA&FE) launched the Comprehensive Rice Fallow Management (CRFM) Program. It aims to revive fallow lands during the rabi season and boost pulses and oilseed crop production, thereby enhancing agricultural sustainability and rural livelihoods. Through targeted interventions, CRFM has already made significant steps, covering approximately 70,000 hectares in 30 districts in its inaugural phase.

The program is carried out by the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA), the World Vegetable Centre (WorldVeg), the Agricultural Finance Corporation Ltd., and Krishi Vikas Sahakari Samiti Limited.

Central to the success of CRFM is a technology-driven approach spearheaded by the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI). Leveraging satellite imagery and soil moisture assessments, IRRI has identified vast tracts of fallow lands suitable for cultivation. By introducing shorter-duration rice varieties and promoting water-efficient rabi crops like pulses and oilseeds, IRRI is empowering farmers with viable options to maximize land productivity and optimize resource utilization.

The CRFM program emphasizes sustainable agricultural practices such as sequential cropping, nitrogen-fixing legumes, integrated pest management, and soil fertility enhancement techniques. Through incorporating climate-smart agricultural practices and providing training on land preparation and crop management, the program not only ensures increased crop yields but also mitigates environmental risks associated with intensive agricultural practices.

IRRI has implemented innovative solutions to transform underutilized lands into productive areas. It has introduced shorter-duration rice varieties and sequential crops and revolutionized agricultural practices. Notably, for the kharif season, IRRI has championed varieties like Sahabhagi dhan, BINA dhan-11, MTU-1156, DRR-42, and DRR-44, while for the rabi season, they recommend crops such as Virat and Shikha (green gram), VBN-8, PU-31, PU-35 (black gram), Giriraj (mustard), Amrit and Suprava (sesame), and rapeseed.

A key enabler of the CRFM program is the cluster-based approach, which fosters collaboration among farmers and facilitates the exchange of knowledge and resources. By forming farmer clusters and promoting women's leadership in agriculture, the program promotes inclusivity and empowers rural communities to take ownership of their agricultural practices. Farmer facilitators are appointed as they leverage block-level coordination. CRFM has fostered a spirit of collective action, transcended traditional barriers, and catalyzed widespread adoption of double cropping in rice fallows.

Furthermore, the CRFM program recognizes the importance of developing a self-sustaining seed system to ensure the timely availability of quality seeds for rabi crop cultivation. Strengthening seed distribution networks and promoting seed-saving practices, the program seeks to reduce dependency on external seed sources and enhance farmers' autonomy in seed procurement.

Looking ahead, the success of the CRFM program in Odisha holds promise for replication in other states with substantial fallow lands, such as Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand. CRFM plans to mobilize thousands of farmers and utilize existing government programs to create a ripple effect that will lead to a significant shift in agricultural practices. The organization aims to achieve this by incorporating social and behavioral change communication and developing a self-sustaining seed system. By doing so, CRFM hopes to pave the way for a more resilient and inclusive agricultural ecosystem.

With initiatives like CRFM, the state is not only ensuring food security but fostering economic empowerment and environmental protection.

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