Dhanbad, Jharkhand: Pursuing its philosophy of improving and developing the communities living around its project site in Maithon, Tata Power in partnership with AC Nielsen launched an exclusive ‘Maithon Power focussed Livelihood Intervention Project’. The project was launched with the objective to develop agriculture in the area from mere subsistence level to commercial farming, thus make farming profitable for hundreds of farmers in the region.
A baseline survey conducted by Maithon Power (a joint venture of Tata Power and Damodar Valley Corporation) established that though 52 per cent of households in the Nirsa belt, a major coal belt where the coal industry provides sustenance to most, practised agriculture, only 13.15 per cent had any income from it. The reasons discovered were the practice of rain-fed and mono crop system and primitive modes of agriculture with the sole purpose being self-consumption.
An opportunity to introduce improved agricultural practices in the area presented itself when it was also discovered that the average cultivable land holding in the community was about 1 acre per household along with a favourable topography (both lowland and highland). Water was also available aplenty in the form of private and community ponds that could be leveraged for irrigation.
The aim of the project was intervention in forward and backward linkage, improving technology, improved seeds, fertilisers, cultivation practices, capacity building and forward supply chain. Taking note of the opportunity and available resources, a decision was taken to improve both the existing crop which was paddy and incremental crop (vegetables) during the pilot year and apply the learning in subsequent years.
“The challenge was to make agriculture profitable at a place where farming was not thought of as a means of sustenance. The idea was also to inspire mass participation from the community leading to improvement in their lives. And if we look at numbers, both the participation and the final outcome were simply astounding. This inspires us to do more,” said Praveer Sinha, head, eastern region projects, Tata Power.
In the first year, a total of 150 farmers participated, with 48 in paddy and the other 102 in vegetable cultivation. The introduction of appropriate farming techniques and certified foundation seeds has led to a fourfold increase in paddy production, with an average yield of 44 quintals per hectare. The vegetable production based on mixing crop pattern was so successful that the project is on course towards realising the goal of commercial farming covering almost 500 acres of land within the first three years itself.