Progressive woman farmer leads the way in promoting DSR-based cropping system in Odisha

 Sugandha Munshi, Wasim Iftikar, Ashok Kumar, and Virender Kumar   |  

The case of Mrs. Bishnupriya Biswal reflects the importance of considering subjective social paradigms in designing interventions. Her newfound confidence is a testimony to the technological benefits and advantages of experimenting and adopting the DSR-based cropping system at her farm. It also led to her transformation into a woman initiating innovations for the benefit of other farmers.

From a successful farmer,  Mrs. Biswal became a service provider after attending formal hands-on training by the DSR-Odisha Project. In the 2023 kharif season she and her husband, with support from the project team, offered their service to neighboring farmers. (Photo: IRRI India)

 

“I do it,” Bishnupriya Biswal said confidently.

Mrs. Biswal, a farmer from Radho Village in the Mayurbhanj District of Odisha, was responding to the question of who practices direct-seeded rice (DSR)-based farming at a village meeting. But behind her confidence is a story of her willingness to endure adversity to try new things.

Her entry into mechanized DSR  began with her association with the Precision direct-seeded rice-based diversified systems for transforming labor requirements, yields, and profitability of smallholder farmers in Odisha (DSR-Odisha) Project.

Tougher than weeds
Mrs. Biswal and her husband Kiran Kumar owned 3.2 hectares (ha) of land. She tested DSR technology on their land during the 2022 kharif season.

Her initial attempt, however, did not go well. Mrs. Biswal faced a weed infestation more serious than she had encountered before in her rice fields because she failed to apply post-emergence herbicides at the right time. Despite getting several recommendations from the project team on herbicide use, her husband decided to return to traditional cultivation using puddling.

However, Mrs. Biswal did not give up on DSR-based farming as easily.

“I convinced my husband to leave half a hectare for DSR and follow the recommendations shared by the project team,” she said. “After one month my husband was surprised and pleased to see the progress of the DSR crops as compared to the rest of the farm using transplanted rice. The DSR crop resulted in better harvest.”

Mrs. Biswal said the advantages of DSR over puddling, which included less labor, drudgery, higher savings from less water, and higher yields, changed their mindset about the technology.

In the 2022-23 rabi season, the couple conducted adaptive trials and demonstration plots of groundnut, maize, sunflower, green gram, and black gram using a seed driller, potential varieties, and tailored agronomic management practices on their entire farm with technical support from the project.

The productivity and profitability of different mechanized seeded rabi season crops realized during 2022-23  further strengthened their capacity and confidence (see Table 1).

Table 1. Yield and economics of mechanically seeded rabi crops (2022-23)

Breaking rice cropping traditions
During the 2023 kharif, Mr. and Mrs. Biswal covered 14.9ha of their leased land under mechanized DSR and 1. 2 ha with a drum direct seeded improved inbreds (Swarna Sub-1, MTU-1010, MTU-1124, Mugeisal, Dhanraj) and hybrids (Dhani, Dhani DT, Arize-8433 DT  and Arize-6444 Gold) adapted to their farm’s landscape.

The resulting grain yield and economics under mechanized DSR were highly encouraging so the couple used mechanized seeding to sow maize (8 ha), groundnut (5 ha), green gram (4.8ha), black gram (1.2ha ), and mustard (0.4ha ) in the 2023-24 rabi season. (See Table 2.)

Table 2. Yield and economics of mechanized DSR compared to PTR during the 2023 kharif season.

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Early rice establishment using DSR technology led to early crop maturity (10-15 days) and harvest. That meant the Biswals could plant different rabi season crops while there was still residual soil moisture.

“When I saw the overall impact, I was sure that this technology would work in the future,” said Mr. Biswal.

Today, the couple has fully transformed their farm convinced that mechanized DSR and the mechanized seeding of rabi crops would be very effective in promoting crop intensification and diversification in the region.

From farmer to service provider
Taking it a step further, Mrs. Biswal became a service provider after attending formal hands-on training by the DSR-Odisha Project. In the 2023 kharif season she and her husband, with support from the project team, offered their service to neighboring farmers covering about 21 ha.

“When I converted our farm from transplanted to DSR, I convinced my husband with the evidence,” she said. “I thought I could also convince the neighboring farmers to adopt DSR. It was not only my words that influenced them but the on-field standing crops, yield, and cost-benefit ratio that helped persuade them. Now, I also provide service for the mechanized seeding of different crops to other farmers in my village”.

In the 2023-24 rabi season, Mrs. Biswal covered 48 ha under different mechanized seeded groundnut (41 ha), maize (4 ha), green gram (2 ha), and black gram (1 ha).

Managing and engaging large numbers of laborers throughout the cropping season was cumbersome which caused pressure and frustration for Mrs. Biswal’s family.

“Convincing family members and other farmers to adopt new technology and replace traditional practices is a tough job,” she said. “But with our experience, we, at the household level, will continue using mechanized DSR followed by mechanically seeded rabi crops  Our prime focus is this and service provision to other farmers.”

Bishnupriya and Kiran plan to purchase a four-wheel tractor, a multi-crop drill seeder tractor-mounted mechanical weeder and sprayer, and threshers for groundnuts and green gram/black grams.

”When cultivating only paddy, I was generating income from a single crop,” she said. “When I diversified my crops, I have additional income from selling maize, groundnut, green gram, black gram, and mustard. Along with the monetary benefits, our family also consumes our farm produce and benefit from a nutritionally enriched diet.”

Women-friendly approach
The role of Mrs. Biswal in persuading her family to try new ways of doing things highlights the need to engage and involve women in, meetings, seminars, demonstrations, and exposure visits. This strategy is crucial and effective for mainstreaming women farmers and creating a conducive platform for decision-making.

“Women do most of the work on the farm but are not recognized,” she said. “There is a need to give us more opportunities to learn. Being part of any program that directly works with us also helps us have an identity of our own.

“When we women come to participate in meetings, workshops, and travel seminars and are allowed to share our perspective in our local language we all learn new languages from others in the group, “Mrs. Biswal added.

Using this approach, 4,439 women (23% of the total participants) were trained in 328 activities under the DSR-Odisha Project since November 2021.

Gender-conscious interventions
Social perceptions are the major barriers to mainstreaming women into agriculture. The lack of awareness is the major bottleneck for women farmers interested in new technology. Other trade-offs also need to be considered when working with women farmers. Awareness, access, and affordability have been an important part of the strategy for taking the DSR technology to women farmers.

It carefully embarks on the journey of women farmers as active participants in learning visits and travel seminars through intervention programs that consciously provide an equal level playing field for them to benefit from the technology.

The exemplary case of Mrs. Biswal reflects the importance of considering subjective social paradigms in designing interventions. Her newfound confidence is a testimony to the technological benefits and advantages of experimenting and adopting the DSR-based cropping system at her farm. It also led to her transformation into a woman initiating innovations for the benefit of other farmers.

The DSR-Odisha Project is funded by the Government of Odisha. 

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