Green Harvest: Organic Farming along the Maharashtra Coastline

Feeding the Future: Organic Farming along the Maharashtra Coastline
Photo: Dhiraj Singh/UNDP India

System of Rice Intensification technology, introduced by UNDP and Government of Maharashtra, has affected an increase of rice yield per gram by nearly 40-80 percent while reducing the need for irrigation by up to 40 percent. The farming technology is also increasing family incomes from  INR 20,000 to 70,000 per season.

A beaming Laxman Dhondu Naik stood outside his three acre paddy farm in Asoli village in Sindhudurg district, as a group of 50 people including farmers and district administration officials gathered to discuss the harvest. They have several questions for Naik, eager to replicate the success of his farming technology, on their own land. Naik patiently answers each query as he explains the System of Rice Intensification, an innovative farming technique and the secret behind the rich yield in his paddy fields.  

Highlights

  • Rice is the predominant food crop of people belonging to the coastal district of Sindhudurg in Maharashtra
  • Partnership with the Government of Maharashtra aims to conserve the rich biodiversity of the coastal region and support sustainable livelihoods. The partnership is supported by the Global Environment Facility
  • The System of Rice Intensification technology aims to increase rice yield through a low water, less labour-intensive organic method that uses younger seedlings, singly spaced to improve the yield
  • The farming technology has affected a 40-80 percent increase in the yield per gram and 40 percent reduction in irrigation
  • Family income has increase from INR 20,000 to 70,000 per season with fewer hours of manpower required
  • SRI technology is also addressing climate change by reducing the methane gas emissions from the paddy fields by up to 60 percent
  • The district administration of Sindhudurg, Maharashtra has decided to adopt SRI technology to 1000 acres

The System of Rice Intensification (SRI) technology was introduced in the three coastal areas of Sindhudurg by a UNDP partnership with the Government of Maharashtra that aims to conserve the rich biodiversity of the coastal region and support sustainable livelihoods. In 2013, Laxman Naik was one of the 40 farmers who travelled to Goa to learn more about how to cultivate rice in a different, more environment-friendly way. Today, he is a success story. Yield per grain has increased between 40 to 80 percent; irrigation required is 40 percent less, and all inputs including herbicides and pesticides are low cost and organic. While earlier, he would harvest 4.3 tonnes per hectare, the SRI yields around 6.7 tonnes. The partnership is supported by the Global Environment Facility. 

“I was hesitant to take up SRI since my paddy field looked miserable after the paddy transplant, with just a tiny plant on each hill and the field looked almost empty. All my friends laughed at me for volunteering to try this new technology. However, fear slowly gave way to surprise as Naik’s paddy crop thrived. The same results were reported by other farmers in the region who had planted the same variety of rice.

Rice is the predominant food crop of people belonging to the coastal district of Sindhudurg in Maharashtra. Traditional methods of rice cultivation require large amounts of irrigation, and expensive inputs, making it difficult for farmers to make ends meet. However, SRI aims at increasing rice yield through a low water, less labour intensive organic method that uses younger seedlings, singly spaced to improve the yield. Seedlings are raised in a nursery from where they are transplanted to the field when they are only 9-15 days old. SRI seedlings are planted a distance of 25x25 cms from each other. This has the advantage of allowing the roots and leaves more space to grow. Laxman Naik also no longer needs to completely submerge his field in water as SRI requires much less water. The seed requirement in SRI is almost one-tenth that of traditional methods.

The farming technology used by Naik and other farmers also has important implications for addressing climate change. Methane gas emitted from the rice fields has declined by up to 60 percent, compared to conventional paddy farms. In addition, less dependence on pesticides has reduced the danger of harmful inorganic inputs ending up in the coastal waters of Sindhudurg, thereby protecting the biodiversity rich coastal waters.

Sunita Naik, Naik’s daughter-in-law has just returned from the fields. She says the SRI farming means she has more time for her family because she can now use a cono-weeder, a specific kind of weeding tool that reduces labour costs and prevents nutrient loss, by ploughing back nutrients into the soil. She also no longer has to oversee the submerging of her fields. Family income has increased from INR 20,000 – 70,000 per season, and the need for manpower has also reduced. “We grow more with less”, she says. “I wish we had used this technology before. We are saving on investment, and are getting more from the land.”

Encouraged by the results, the district administration has decided to adopt SRI technology to 1000 acres.

Having witnessed the successful harvest in several farms, the District Collector of Sindhudurg has advised the District Agricultural Office to include SRI technique under their District Paddy Development and Promotion Programme, and to allocate funds to supply inputs to farmers. 

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