Mahabir Munda, 45, was among the hundreds of thousands of farmers in Jharkhand who suffered due to last year’s drought. The paddy crops that he had planted on two acres of land in Ranchi's Angarha block had almost dried up. This year, however, Munda is expecting a good yield during the kharif season as he has learnt the latest techniques in farming from experts, thanks to the Krishi Rath or agrotech vans that visited his village on Saturday.
The state agriculture department rolled out these Krishi Raths in all 24 districts to educate the drought-hit farmers on the latest styles of farming and various government schemes including crop insurance and kisan credit cards (KCC) that protect their livelihood during crisis.
"The rath, which started May 26, will cover the maximum number of villages possible before the kharif season begins. The raths comprise agriculture scientists, official and experts from allied sectors, including fishery and animal husbandry," state agriculture director Jatashankar Choudhary said.
"Farmers still bank on traditional method of farming. The experts are advising them how to change farming pattern according to change in rain pattern. They are also encouraging farmers to go for pulse farming in case of deficient rainfall," Choudhary said, adding that the state is expecting a good yield this year as the monsoon predictions are encouraging.
During the last kharif season, Jharkhand suffered 38% crop loss. Out of 260 blocks, 126 blocks recorded over 40% crop loss due to poor rainfall in the last phase of monsoon previous year. The state government had announced a Rs 1,398 crore relief package in November, but it didn’t offer any relief to the drought-hit farmers for crop damage suffered during kharif season.
In December, the state requested the Centre to declare Jharkhand drought-hit. In February this year, the Centre then sanctioned Rs 336.94 crore as disaster relief for farmers.
The state agriculture department has set a target of growing paddy over 17 lakh hectares and pulses on five lakh hectares of cultivable land this kharif season. A majority of the farmers, however, are worried of a deficient rainfall. "I wanted to know how to protect my crops in case of deficient rain. The experts suggested that I dig a dobha (farm pond) near the farm land, which will help irrigating the plants," Munda said.
The state is actively encouraging other farmers to do the same. ”One lakh dobhas will be dug by June 15 this year and five lakh dobhas by end of this fiscal. Besides, 2,000 ponds are being renovated across the state," chief minister Raghubar Das said on Saturday at a programme.
Agriculture department officials said 25,000 dobhas have been dug by May 27.