Maharashtra: Smart agro services for drought-hit villages

CM Devendra Fadnavis, while announcing the project, stressed on the need for incorporating practices to manage the effects of climate change to bring reforms

Written by Shubhangi Khapre | Mumbai | Published: August 15, 2016 2:11 am
Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis buying fresh farm vegetables at a "Shetkari Bazaar"  to promote farmers vegetables and fruits. The CM inaugurated Sant Shri Savta Mal Farmer Market (ShetkariBaazar) at Vidhan Bhawan premises in Mumbai. CM also paid the money for the vegetables to the farmers. (Express Photo by Shubhangi Khapre) File Photo: Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis buying fresh farm vegetables at a “Shetkari Bazaar” to promote farmers vegetables and fruits. (Express Photo by Shubhangi Khapre/file)

As many as 4,894 villages in drought-hit Marathwada and Vidarbha are going to adopt ‘smart’ agriculture practices under a new project ‘Climate Resilient Agriculture’ (PoCRA), undertaken by the state government with the help of the World Bank.

The state government has prepared a detailed draft which would address the chronic water crisis in the districts, and create effective management techniques to ensure increased farm production despite erratic climate changes. The project entails ‘climate smart villages’ integrated with community water management and climate resilient agriculture practices.

The total cost of the project is Rs 4,000 crore of which the state would contribute 30 per cent. Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, while announcing the project, stressed on the need for incorporating practices to manage the effects of climate change and water management projects to bring reforms in agriculture. He spoke on the necessity to bring changes in crop patters along with precise weather forecasts using advanced technology. Fadnavis indicated that drought-proofing will have to consider multiple aspects to make agriculture robust.

Marathwada has 8,522 villages, all of them categorized drought-affected. Whereas Vidarbha, accounts for 8,570 drought-stricken villages. PoCRA covers 3,000 villages in Marathwada and 1,000 in Vidarbha. Apart from these, 894 villages from Vidarbha have been included for salinity improvement under PoCRA. Thus, the total number of villages covered under PoCRA is 4,894.

The proposed smart agriculture climate services would include weather and crop-related interventions. It compulsorily stresses on establishing automated weather forecasting system to provide real-time data at the cluster level, agro-advisory and identification of crop-related water sources per village. PoCRA calls for a special component on regularly monitoring the cropping system.

It recommended seed technology, precision farming along with diversification of agriculture to coarse grains. With 82 per cent of the cultivable area of the state falling under dry farming coupled with consecutive drought, the state government has now turned towards addressing the concerns of small and marginal farmers.

The draft insists on soil health tests as vital for healthy agro-growth. Other aspects in the draft stress on increasing the water storage capacity through water conservation as well as smart water management. It calls for making drip and sprinkler irrigation methods necessary to efficient water management and higher crop yield.

This is clubbed with development of local markets through value chains to facilitate the flow of agriculture produce along with a mechanism to ensure quick financial returns.

In the last two years, due to drought the food grain decline during kharif and rabi seasons dipped to 18 and 27 per cent respectively.

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