|Ramharsh receiving technical assistance from the project team|
The project team began field trials for the commercial farming of onion with small farmers. With a focus on transferring technology to them, demonstrations were conducted and the team provided constant support to farmers across all the clusters.
Ramharsh Kushwaha, a farmer in the region, has to maintain a family of 14 members. His livelihood depends on a small farm of 3.5 acres where he grows crops like sugarcane, rice and wheat. Learning about the initiative in his area, he began cultivating onion with support from the project team, which provided him with seeds, training and technical assistance. Ramharsh has pro-actively learned the use of technology and applied it to his business. He proudly says, “I am the first one here who used an onion seeding machine. I used it for direct sowing of onions, with sugarcane as an intercrop”. By growing onions, he has earned an additional income of over Rs24,000.
Following the encouraging results obtained in the pilot phase, the programme was scaled up to an area of 1,200 acres in 2015-16 and further up to 3,000 acres in 2016-17. Cultivation of onion on 3,000 acres of land needed 12,000 kg of seeds, which required an investment of Rs1.5 crore. To accomplish this, Tata Trusts planned to leverage the government schemes; they approached the state government and proposed the plan to scale up onion production in 11 districts of Eastern UP. The team presented the idea to the officials, and shared the results of the pilot intervention. The proposal received a positive response and was accepted under the Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana (RKVY).
Several rounds of meetings were held to discuss the implementation of the project and the challenges posed by Direct Benefit of Transfer (DBT) to farmers. The officials eventually realised that small and marginal farmers would not benefit from DBT as they might not have the funds to buy good quality seeds. Therefore, Tata Trusts suggested that the government procure onion seeds instead of transferring money to the beneficiaries. As a result, the government procured 12,000kg of onion seeds and distributed them to all 13,000 farmers across the 11 districts. With this significant support, the farmers are expecting production of over 23,000 tons in the second
phase of the programme.
This story has been taken from the SDTT annual report 2016-17.