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By Manoj Kumar Menon

 As part of a pilot project designed to improve rural livelihood in India, Molvom in the North-eastern state of Nagaland is being fostered into the country’s first Biovillage

Since 65% of India resides in villages, agriculture should contribute immensely to the overall development of rural communities, villages and thereby the entire country. But ironically, in India, although 53% of the population is dependent on agriculture, agriculture only contributes 13.7% to the country’s GDP (in USA, only 2% of population depends on agriculture but contributes 1.2% to the GDP!). This implies the dire need for us in India to conceive sustainable solutions to make agri-based activities economically rewarding and substantially improve rural livelihoods.

Drawing from its 10 years of experience in rural projects across 14 states in India, International Competence Centre for Organic Agriculture (ICCOA) has developed a concept termed ‘Sustainable Biovillages’.

Organic and sustainable agriculture must definitely play a larger role than reducing chemicals or improving soil fertility or mitigating climate change. Biovillages do all this and beyond!

Introduction

A biovillage is an organic and sustainable model village with various technological and livelihood interventions, along with integration of government schemes. Ultimately, it will evolve into an eco tourism village which will exhibit all its organic and sustainable amenities for tourists.

Biovillages promote efficient and sustainable use of natural, biological and human resources, and strengthen and upgrade rural food, energy and livelihood security. Emphasis is laid on appropriate, eco friendly and resource-conserving technologies.

A biovillage integrates various elements—agriculture, horticulture, animal husbandry, soil and water conservation, entrepreneurship development, rural income improvement and ecological preservation— using a cluster mode approach for socio-economic development. It addresses crop production and other critical aspects like agri-inputs production, value addition, sustainable and clean energy, skill development, tourism and entrepreneurship development, among others.

Molvom in Nagaland is already on the road to becoming India’s very first biovillage. The pilot project is being implemented by ICCOA, Bangalore and the Department of Horticulture, Government of Nagaland, with funding from North East Council, Government of India. Villages in Tamil Nadu (Kolatti, Krishnagiri) and Kerala (Panathady, Kasargode) have also been initiated recently.

Molvom has become reputed for its organic pineapples a result of the project, ‘Organic Horticulture, Certification and Market Linkages’ (funded and supported by Department of Horticulture, Nagaland and Technology Mission, and implemented by ICCOA since 2009). Out of the 600 ha proposed to be brought into this project, 250 ha are already under pineapple cultivation. Efforts will be made to include soyabean, French beans, vegetables, etc, with a view to increase farmers’ incomes and enhance soil fertility

 

Methodology

The first phase of the project is adoption of organic farming practices and will aim at preparing most of the required inputs from the materials produced on the farmers’ fields. This will be achieved through establishment of community owned and managed compost production units, animal keeping, etc, which would also reduce the cost of cultivation and improve net incomes of farmer families and communities.

To develop Molvom as a model biovillage, 7 different components are planned to be implemented in a phased manner:

1] Agriculture/Horticulture

Molvom has recently become reputed for its organic pineapples a result of the project, ‘Organic Horticulture, Certification and Market Linkages’ (funded and supported by Department of Horticulture, Nagaland and Technology Mission, and implemented by ICCOA since 2009, with close association with the Central Institute of Horticulture). Out of the 600 ha proposed to be brought into this project, 250 ha are already under pineapple cultivation. Efforts will be made to include soyabean, French beans, vegetables and other possible crops in the project with a view to increase farmers’ incomes and enhance soil fertility.

2] Animal Husbandry

600 ha of cultivated area ideally needs about 4,800 metric ton (MT) of compost per year (at 8 MT/ha per year) or 2,400 MT of vermicompost/NADEP* compost/biogas slurry (at 4 MT/ha per year). Since these inputs require animal waste, it is proposed to have a combination of dairying, piggery/sheep/goat keeping, poultry keeping, as well as, apiculture in the village.

3] Organic Input Production

Organic inputs are crucial for sustaining soil fertility, especially for a mountain state like Nagaland where chemical fertilisers are neither a feasible option nor available in volume. Organic inputs can be in various forms and their selection depends on factors such as availability of animal wastes, crop residues, other biomass sources, traditional knowledge systems and management practices. Major forms and methods of compost production are:

  1. Farmyard Manure (FYM)
  2. Vermicomposting, NADEP Composts & Biodigestors
  3. Community Compost Units run by Rural Entrepreneurs

Ideally, medium scale vermicompost units should be made available to progressive farmers who can follow good management practices since worms require extra care and attention. The NADEP method is suitable, where cowdung availability is limited. Biodigesters should be provided to some farmers, initially on an introductory basis (supported by departmental schemes), for timely supply of required inputs.

4] Biogas Units

A model biovillage should also have at least one or two cowdung gas units, either managed by farmers or by the community. Ideally, these can be set up near the diary so that cattle dung is available on site. Apart from generating bio-gas for the kitchen, it will also provide slurry for the fields.

5] Processing & Value Addition Facilities

The biovillage is complete when it can add value to its products at the village level itself. This is especially important for mountain states where logistics are a big challenge and the products fetch significantly lower prices in their primary, raw form.

Therefore, a village-level integrated packhouse may be created for collection, pre-cooling, and controlled conditions storage (for pineapples) and slicing and drying (for ginger and turmeric). This can be started on a small scale with a provision for scaling up with the growth of the project and experiential learning.

6] Rural Entrepreneurship

It is essential for every Indian village today to develop models that provide gainful employment to its youth—educated, skilled, semi skilled and others. This will arrest out-migration from villages and thus decrease the growing pressure on urban centres. More importantly, rural centres will develop, which is crucial to the ‘inclusive growth of India’.

Entrepreneurs from the villages can be identified, trained and supported to develop small business units that generate employment. The government is already running various schemes for rural development, skill upgradation, etc and this can be an opportunity to integrate the support available from these schemes with this project.

7] Agri & Eco Tourism Development

North-eastern states like Nagaland and other Himalayan states (like Jammu and Kashmir) have a lot to offer as tourist destinations can capitalise from this new growth opportunity. Eco-tourism, agri tourism and homestays are catching the fancy of high-end tourists looking for a different experience. For such tourists from India and abroad, the novel concept of an ‘organic village’ producing top quality pineapples available during the peak holiday season (May-July) will be a rare attraction. This will further enhance the farmers’ income and livelihood avenues.

*An Indian composting technique created and named after Maharashtrian farmer N D Pandharipande

 

The author is Executive Director, International Competence Centre for Organic Agriculture (ICCOA), & Vice President, International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements, Asia (IFOAM-ASIA)


This article appeared in the January 2016 issue of Pure & Eco India

 

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