The Tamil Nadu government has launched a major initiative to promote dry land farming in cluster mode, focusing on improving production and productivity of millets, pulses and oilseeds in rain-fed agricultural fields that remain by and large unused.
The scheme, rolled out through a government order at water conservation, promoting mixed farming, mini-dairy and poultry units to supplement farm income in 1,000 clusters in the state over the next four years ending 2019-20. Each cluster will cover 2,500 acres.
With a view to facilitating credit to the farming community, each cluster will have a primary agricultural cooperative credit society as its nodal centre. The clusters will cut across contiguous village panchayats if the required land cannot be identified within one panchayat. Each cluster will have farmers' clubs with dry land farmers as their members and lead farmers as office bearers. The clubs, apart from identifying the plots where agro-based interventions have to be carried out, will also suggest setting up of soil and water conservation structures and agronomic practices.
The scheme envisages capacity-building initiatives, hand-holding farmers to impart technical knowledge, organising motivational programmes and encouraging farmers to adopt good agricultural practices to increase farm income. Most importantly, farmer trainers will be identified to train each and every farmer involved in the programme. Farm visits will be organised for farmers within the district, within the state and to other states to provide exposure to best practices adopted by successful farmers. There would also be demonstration farms for pulses, millets and oil seeds in various parts of the state.
The scheme also provides scope for dovetailing Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme and National Agriculture Development Programme to take up comprehensive land development activities and creating water harvesting structures. A wide range of water harvesting structures like community ponds, percolation ponds, check dams and farm ponds have been planned.
Since a large number of farmers in the state depend on dry land farming for livelihood, sustainability in dry land farming is imperative to uplift the farming community . Most millets, pulses and oil seeds are grown in the state under rainfed condition, but their yield is always less compared to irrigated fields.
Scientists from the TN agricultural university , Krishi Vigyan Kendra, assistant executive engineers in the agricultural engineering department, sub-registrar of cooperatives and assistant veterinary surgeons will coordinate the programme implementation at the block level. Below them, there will be cluster development teams comprising agricultural officers and officials from related departments. The activity will start after analyzing a host of parameters like soil condition, present cropping pattern, yield, availability of animals, farm machinery and agro-processing machinery for dry land farming, and available avenues for marketing of the produce.
The recently launched Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana will provide insurance and cover all risks from land preparation till harvest.