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Stubble management: Book suggests continuous hand-holding of farmers can yield desired results

Every government in Punjab has/had been doing its bit, including distribution of thousands of machines, to keep a check on crop residue burning during the paddy harvesting season, but the results leave/left a lot to be desired.

The Kapurthala Deputy Commissioner has issued a show cause notice to the Sub-Divisional Officer (SDO), Sultanpur Lodhi, for wrong reporting about the stubble burning in a village. (File Representational Photo)

When it comes to stubble management, it’s the same old story – be it government in the past or the current regime. Every dispensation has struggled with this burning issue.

Every government in Punjab has/had been doing its bit, including distribution of thousands of machines, to keep a check on crop residue burning during the paddy harvesting season, but the results leave/left a lot to be desired.

To sort this problem out to an extent, a book – ‘Rice Residue Management’ – based on field studies published in 2019 may come in handy for the government as well as farmers.

The field experiments done for the book were conducted in six villages of the state under the project titled “Climate & Clean Air Coalition to Reduce Short-Lived Climate Pollutants”.

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The book – published by Punjab Agriculture Management and Extension Training Institute (PAMETI) – aims at informing, educating, motivating, and convincing the farmers for managing crop residue by making use of all the available resource conservation technologies.

The book says that merely supplying the machinery and implements to the farmers is not enough, they need a continuous hand-holding by some trained personnel at the village-level for effective implementation and greater success of crop residue management (CRM) activities.

The study says proper training in agronomic practices – which must be followed during the use of machines – is also required. This would surely stand the farmers in good stead.
PAMETI situated on Punjab Agricultural University (PAU) campus, Ludhiana, is a state-level institute under the
National Mission on Agricultural Extension & Technology (NMAET) meant for capacity building of extension workers from agriculture and allied sectors.

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“While doing this project we found that as far as the use of machines & equipment is concerned, the project’s emphasis had been on ‘learning by doing’ & ‘seeing is believing’. There is no bigger motivation for the farmers to see the results on a fellow farmer’s field and get convinced about rice residue management.

It is also a behavioural problem, which can be addressed by regular social interaction and training of the farmers. The objective should be to shift the mindset of the farmers by providing them timely and required training,” said former director of PAMETI, Dr H S Dhaliwal, who was the principal investigator of this PAMETI-UNEP demonstration project carried out from 2017 to 2019.

Rice residue management machinery is a slightly technical equipment as compared to other traditional machinery for managing the crop residue, and farmers need hand-holding and proper training for using it. Engaging with the farmers constantly – which can provide them with latest, timely and concise knowledge about the advancements in the field of conservation agriculture – can bring a change in the attitude of the farmers, the book says, adding that felicitating the farmers also helps a great deal in motivating them about the rice residue management. Like the previous governments, this government had also launched an aggressive awareness campaign by engaging schools, college students, and religious places, holding farmer camps, awareness campaigns on social media, and distributing crop residue management machines, but these methods haven’t yielded satisfactory results.

So what is to be done in such situation?

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When supply of adequate CRM machines is needed in the fields at a nominal fee, continuous contact with farmers by experts and people who can convince farmers to shun burning is the only solution till the farmers’ behavioural pattern changes for the better.

“When we carried out this project in six villages – Bhoewali, Qiampur, and Rajjian villages of Amritsar district, and Tungaan, Uppli, and Kanoi villages of Sangrur district – we realised that we could not leave these villages to their own devices despite providing them free-of-cost machines and farm literature,” said Dr Dhaliwal.

“Our field staff associated with this project were present in the villages on a regular basis – organising farmer awareness camps, farmer-scientist meetings, field days, school awareness camps, door-to-door campaigning, farmer training camps, village-level workshops, distributing handouts/brochures, wall paintings, roping in institutions like village panchayats, religious places and schools to create awareness, using IT, ambassador farmers/opinion leaders, felicitating the farmers practising no-burning, visiting demonstration plots of progressive farmers and showing demonstrations of the machinery & equipment – to convince the farmers about the relevance, and ways and means of managing the crop residue,” said Dhaliwal.

The book contains 13 chapters on harmful effects, causes of straw burning, ways to manage crop residue, besides the economics of rice residue management. “We realised that a village-level approach is needed to tackle the problem of agricultural fires, which is a big challenge, and people of all walks of life should come forward in sorting out this burning issue,” said Dr Dhaliwal.

First published on: 25-09-2022 at 02:30:04 am
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