Family Khat lives on a farm in Bodia Talai, a small village in the Anandpuri Block in Southern Rajasthan. They are one of the 40 farmer families in their village that has adopted sustainable integrated farming system (SIFS) introduced by Bhoomi Ka’s partner Vaagdhara.
Family’s 12 Bigha farm is located on a slope hill, deficient in fertile soil and water, and vulnerable to floods and soil erosion during the rainy season. The land encounters heavy rainfalls, floods and droughts that exacerbate their challenge to produce enough food throughout the year.
Before family Khat participated in the SIFS programme, they only owned a cow, two bulls for field cultivation, and a well that could not be used to irrigate fields without an electric pump.
Insufficient crop and financial burden
Besides a few mango and mahua trees, they cultivated corn, jawar (sorghum) and minor millets such as kuri, bati, and mal. However, the harvested crop was only enough for 2-3 months. The main income did not come from selling crops, but from collecting firewood in the forests. By selling a bundle of wood, they would buy 2-2,5kg jawar seeds for their fields.
Despite the efforts, their crop was insufficient. They often had to purchase food for the family to survive. Being ineligible for bank credits because of low income, Shankar had to borrow money from local lenders in the village who demanded interests of 10% per month. Further, he took a loan from his fellow tribal community members through ‘Notra’, a tribal custom to lend money and used both loans to buy chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Yet his crop yield failed to improve. In order to square debts and ensure food supply over 12 months, the entire family periodically also migrated to the neighbouring state of Gujarat in search of work. But their condition remained unchanged.
Vaagdhara’s implementation of SIFS
When Vaagdhara introduced the BMZ and Welthungerhilfe supported self-reliant Sustainable Integrated Farming System methods in their village, family Khat was quite eager to learn about it. With a focus on providing training in organic farming, soil and water management, and long-term strategic farm planning, the programme aimed to improve livelihood opportunities for farmers through better household, farming and nutrition practices.
After the training, as a first step, family Khat decided to switch from chemical pesticides and fertilizers to organic manure (compost pit, vermi-compost) and pesticides (made of buttermilk, neem based dashparni extract, and a mixture of garlic, ginger, onion pest). Implementing the WADI method by structuring the farm into terraces, they strategically planted mango and cashew trees around the farm, ensuring higher protection from storm and floods. Then, they integrated various techniques such as soil water conservation, energy security, rainwater harvesting, and cropping sequence management and interlinked all elements, ensuring both food quantity and quality.
After the family’s SIFS training, they have successfully been able to increase crop diversity by cultivating mango trees, wheat, and green gram. They have also developed a kitchen garden where they plant more than 20 different vegetables such as tomato, eggplant, spinach, radish, air potato and others. This has ensured the family a continuous food supply throughout the year. They only need to purchase supplementary goods from the market now.
Like the Khat family, Bhoomi Ka’s partner Vaagdhara has supported 3000 families in Southern Rajasthan in establishing their own sustainable farming systems – which now relish the grapes of organic farming.