Jagadguru Kripalu University (JKU), which is currently in the construction phase, launched a pilot project, “The Organic Odisha”, on Saturday. This initiative would facilitate the scaling up of organic and natural farming in the state.
The effort would promote natural and organic farming by small and marginal farmers in Odisha for their sustainable livelihoods and food security. It would support the implementation of the organic agriculture policy framed by the state government in 2015.
The Organic Odisha initiative is launched in collaboration with the NANBAN Foundation in Dallas, USA.
The project would be undertaken in 20 clusters in Rayagada, Puri and Cuttack districts over the next three years. The aim is to create prototypes of successes in these clusters in the organic and natural agriculture sectors for other districts to follow and make a mass movement.
The project would cover 2,500 farmers in the 20 groups enabling 500 villages to practice natural farming. The practice can be adapted either on land where there has not previously been agriculture using chemical fertilizers and pesticides, or by converting existing chemical agricultural land to organic and natural land.
The pilot initiative would convert 1,000 acres in three years based on the participation of at least 125 farmers and 50 acres of land in each cluster. Through collaboration and partnership with government programs and the private sectors (particularly, corporate CSR and sustainability initiatives), emphasis is placed on spreading organic agriculture as an alternative livelihood for the people and farmers.
In addition, the program would set up “organic haats” in rural areas, exposing farmers to best practices in the fields and assisting in the production of organic manure by farmers and others. One of the key features of the project is to engage women from self-help groups (SHGs), producer groups and farmer companies in natural farming practices.
Previously, the government of Odisha had focused on 15 mostly tribal and hilly districts for organic farming. However, crops such as cotton and other widely used hybrid seeds have posed a challenge to the organic movement. The critical limiting factor in organic farming is the lack of organic fertilizers. Fortunately, this can easily be developed by SHGs not only through natural methods but also with the use of natural substances.
Currently, Odisha needs 9.5 million tons of chemical fertilizers per year from external sources to cultivate its land. This project is a perfect avenue to reduce the need for artificial composts and replace them with organic composts. Since organic fertilizer can be produced by local farmers, it will make the state self-sufficient in its agricultural needs.
“Natural and organic agriculture is an urgent need of humanity and planet Earth,” said Swami Mukundanandaji, Founder of JKU, Odisha.
JKU Chancellor Dr SK Dash said: “The idea is to convert at least 10% of Odisha’s farmland to organic and natural farming by 2036, the year marking the 100th anniversary of the birth of the state.