Community farming launched to augment villagers’ income

The Forest Department’s pilot project is under way at M.M. Hills Wildlife Sanctuary

The Forest Department has launched a pilot project to encourage community farming and help augment farm income of local villagers on the outskirts of M.M. Hills Wildlife Sanctuary.

It was launched last week at Tulsikere village bordering M.M. Hills range and 12 families, who were keen to be part of the pilot project and displayed active interest in the scheme, are part of it.

The concept entails providing incentives to beneficiaries to cultivate vegetables and add value to the agricultural products for which the department will network with buyers.

“We will provide an assured market for agricultural produce of the farmers most of whom are tribals, though there are non-tribal families also in the scheme,” explained Y. Yedukondalu, Deputy Conservator of Forests, M.M. Hills Wildlife Sanctuary.

No chemical fertilizers

The farmers have been instructed not to use chemical fertilizers and pesticides and instead harness cattle dung that is available in plenty but which used to go underutilised. The dung will serve as manure and the idea is to go organic or take up natural farming, said Mr. Yedukondalu. The ban on use of insecticides and pesticides will reduce the cost of cultivation, he added.

There are nearly 150 to 200 cows in the village and the milk produced by them will be used for making ghee and sweets, which will be sold through farmers’ producers company. Though the community is traditionally dependent on agriculture for their livelihood, it is unsustainable and also lacks a commercial component. This is because agriculture takes place under rain-fed conditions in the hilly terrain and the food cultivated is consumed locally.

“The Forest Department will provide solar-powered drip or sprinkler irrigation system at a cost of ₹3 lakh so as to ensure that agriculture could be taken up on a commercial scale,” said Mr. Yedukondalu.

There is money earmarked for projects of the eco-development committees of the villages and this amount will be utilised for funding the project. “Vegetables are in perennial demand and we will take up the last-mile networking and marketing and have also involved a farmers producers company which has assured to purchase the produce in bulk,” he added.

A portion of the land will be developed as a grassland so as to ensure fodder for the cows. The authorities aver this will also reduce the practice of letting cattle inside the forest for grazing which tends to degrade the jungles. If successful, the template will be replicated in other villages too.

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