ifoam'96 ifoam'96
Book of Abstracts
11th IFOAM Scientific Conference
11-15 August 1996, Copenhagen, Denmark
EcoWeb Denmark


Options for Small Farm Households in Rained Areas in South India

Walsum, E. van

Agriculture Man Ecology (AME) Programme, Bangalore 560 078, India

Rainfed farming in South India is now predominantly taking place in the marginal lands that were under more permanent vegetation till about 50 years ago. Often, there is no attempt at soil and water conservation. Forests and pasture lands have shrunk drastically. Absolute numbers of livestock have increased but their quality and number per unit of cultivated land have come down substantially. Less apparent but more serious are practices that aim at maintaining the productivity of irrigated lands by a continuous supply of nutrients, biomass and soil from rainfed lands.
What can small farming households do, to break out of the constraints that force them to mine away the fertility and life supporting ability of their lands? Attemps that establish new social arrangements wherein technical innovations can happen, seem to point a way out. A couple of such cases are presented here.
The first is from central Andhra Pradesh where a group of women, without access to land, evolve a share-cropping arrangement. Then, they grow a local cultivar of sorghum intercropped with 3 kinds of legumes. They are aiming at an optimal supply of food they can use, fodder for their animals and improved soil fertility. While the prevailing local practice, using an improved sorghum variety with just one legume intercrop, seeks to maximise marketable production.
The second case is from North Western Tamil Nadu where two groups of farmers contribute and establish a revolving credit facility for taking up ecologically sound practices. After diagnosing their problems, they decide to incorporate coconut pith waste to increase soil moisture retention and biofertiliser inoculations to improve groundnut and rice yields. They then test these solutions systematically to draw valid conclusions about performance ans applicability.
Both initiatives are still evolving and have started spreading to nearby locations and groups.

Gopal, K.S. (1996) : Livelihood workshop paper, HIVOS-AME, Bangalore

Chandrasekhar, Umesh (1995): Internal report, AME programme, Bangalore