Once a part of subsistence farming, rice is now helping farmers in West Bengal prosper!
India is one of the largest producers of rice in the world. And West Bengal is the top rice producing state. But in 2007, farmers around Farakka and Sankrail were barely surviving on subsistence farming. The land was fertile, but outdated practices meant their efforts put rice on their plate, but no money in their pockets.
Surely farmers would walk away? But they couldn't leave the land fallow for the threat of encroachment. ACF stepped in to help and adopted the System of Rice Intensification approach. But farmers were skeptical. In the first meeting, 75 farmers attended, but half of them left midway - rubbishing the information as 'useless.'
Farmers had their minds fixed. If the land had seed, water and manure then the crop would grow. If it didn't, it was their own bad luck! Starting small in Sankrail in 2009 with just 10 farmers, ACF began to teach a different way to till and tend the land. SRI helps farmers reduce agri-inputs, lower costs, reduce pests and disease, cut water use and methane emissions. Most importantly - to increase yields by 20-25%.
One such farmer was Asit Kanji. Despite coming from a farming background he worked at a local jute mill to make ends meet. But in 2009, he retired and turned back to farming. With ACF's SRI support, his income doubled.
Since inception, ACF's SRI initiative has increased outreach from 174 farmers in 2009 to over 10,000 farmers in 2019. And farmer profits have increased 30%. Today, some of these farmers are sending their children to agricultural universities - to take family farming to an all new level.