22 September 2011
Field visit to Navdanya Farms in Balasore, Orissa, to see the Vermicompost units supported by FoN-raised funds:
Navdanya has a network of approximately more than 500 farmers in Orissa who grow rice (paddy) and vegetables in 2 different seasons. These farmers’ efforts are technically supported by Dr. Ashok and Kusum Panigrahi, who have maintained one of Navdanya’s finest seed banks with emphasis on climate resilient seeds in Balasore Orissa. This particular seed bank stores more than 650 varieties of native rice species, including drought, salt and flood tolerant varieties that increase farmers’ climate resilience capacities. The Panigrahi's single minded focus and devotion has led to the success of this fine collection.
The Panigrahi’s and the farmers diligently conserve and expand these varieties and support the network of farmers by distributing seed to farmers prior to planting and by providing support to the small farmers in terms of improved indigenous methods of farming. As in all Navdanya Seed Banks seeds are distributed free to local farmers who agree to bring back more than what they have “borrowed” after the harvest. In this way, the seed banks grow over time and collect multiple varieties of native, climate resilient seeds. The farmers are mainly utilizing organic methods to grow paddy, although due to a lack of availability of adequate organic fertilizers, some use chemical-based fertilizers to grow vegetables.
With FoN’s support and the Panigrahi's dedication, this network of farmers in Balasore and Mayurbhanj has become more committed to using vermicompost an indigenous fertilizer. After an initial investment the vermicompost is free as it utilizes cow dung and biologically degraded plant materials and earth worms which consume these biodegradables and excrete the Nitrogen, phosphorus and potash rich vermicompost.With seed money from FoN small vermicompost units have been built on the farmers premises. The vermicompost units which are cement structures with a thatched roof vary in size from 7' X 7' 10' X 10' and require an initial investment ranging from Rs. 4,000 to 5,000 and know how that has been generosusly provided by the Panigrahi's and Banshidhara a Navdanya employee.
31farmers have been supported so far to develop these units and the broader response has been overwhelming. While visiting the site, we were solicited by other farmers who now want to be part of this network and use vermicompost for their winter vegetables in the following months. We wish Banshihdara and the Panigrahi's success in their drive to enrol and support more of our small and marginal farmers in their drive to food and financial security.