Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Internet of Things(IOT) for Agriculture- A Pilot Project from World Bank on Automated Sensor for Improving Paddy Water Use Efficiency in Hooghly and Paschim Medinipur District


                     Irrigated rice accounts for 28 percent of total irrigated area in the country. However due to the adoption  of water exhaustive  traditional  methods of flood irrigation, paddy alone consume one third of the water required for agriculture. An ICRIER -NABARD Study estimates the Total Consumptive Water Use(TCWU) for rice production in India at 221 BCM per year. West Bengal's Irrigated rice accounts for 45 % of the total irrigated areas making it the fifth state in ranking after Odisha ( 91 %), Chattishgarh ( 81%), Andhra Pradesh ( 60%) and Tamil Nadu (50%). West Bengal is the largest producer of paddy in the country accounting for 14 % of all India production. Farmers in West Bengal grow 3 crops of paddy, Aus (Autumn season), Aman( Winter season) and Boro( Summer season). Rice occupies 57 % of the total cropped area thus making it the most important crop in the state.
                        West Bengal Accelerated Development of Minor Irrigation Project (WBADMIP) was implemented in 2012 targeting water scarce rainfed areas which are predominantly  single cropped and largely inhabited by small and marginal farmers. Paddy was the dominant crop occupying 90 % of the total cropped area. Traditionally, rice is a highly water intensive crop, typically grown under rainfed condition in wet season and irrigated condition in dry season. Even though crop diversification programs under irrigated condition initiated by the  project has been able to increase non paddy crops significantly from 10 % to 55 % of the total cropped area, there are few districts where boro paddy still covers a large part of the irrigated areas.
.                   The traditional method of irrigation in paddy involves flooding the field from planting to harvest causing a huge consumption of water. Boro paddy cultivated during the dry season requires upto 2500 mm of water which is quite high compared to non paddy crops. With increase in population, demand for rice production has increased manifold, therefore, meeting future demand for rice while drastically reducing water usage, is a challenge for the scientist community that need to be addressed on priority basis.
                      Alternate Wetting and Drying(AWD) according to International Rice Research Institute, is a water saving technology that farmers can apply to reduce their irrigation water consumption in rice field without decreasing its yield. In AWD, Irrigation water is applied a few days after the disappearance of the ponded water. Hence, the field is alternatively flooded and non flooded. the number of days of non flooded soil between irrigation can vary from 1 to more than 10 days depending on the soil type, weather and crop growth.
                    Internet of Things(IOT) is a system of interrelated computing devices, mechanical and digital machines, objects, animals or people that are provided with unique identifiers and the ability to transfer data over a network without requiring human to human or human to computer interactions.
IOT can be applied to a series of interconnected decision points for optimal efficiency gain.
                   World Bank with support from WBADMIP personnel carried out a pilot project on  sensor based Alternate Wetting and Drying (AWD) method covering 25 farmers from 5 Water User Association in Paschim Medinipur and Hooghly District. The main objective of the pilot project was to design and implement a workable and scalable solution for demonstrating water use efficiency in boro paddy cultivation by introducing Alternate Wetting and Drying(AWD) method of crop field and by installing sensor assisted Internet of Things(IOT). The IOT based part consists of water level sensors, water scheduling algorithm, mobile based pump control system and a decision support system. All these systems are connected with a cloud based system.
                       Farmers were particularly excited to see how motor pumps are operated through a mobile phone and a large number of them participated during the field demonstrations. A per hectare average cost and return comparison between control plot and AWD plot shows that the gross return in the two plots differ by 6 % but reduced cost of cultivation gave a 37 % higher net return in the AWD plot. The pump operators reported that 20-25% of water can be saved during the dry season through AWD method. Water saving will be even more if DSR (Direct seeded rice) method is also adopted with AWD.  Moreover, mobile phone operated pumping system also enables the pump operators to engage simultaneously in alternate source of livelihood.

Friday, January 10, 2020

Promotion of Hi-Tech Floriculture in Kalimpong District

                           Kalimpong was carved out of Darjeeling District in the year 2017 to become the 21st District in the State of West Bengal. Situated in the Sub-Himalayan range between two hills, Deolo and Durbin, the region is known for its rich biodiversity. More than 80 % of the inhabitant's livelihood depends on agriculture Despite being one of the highest monsoonal rainfall receiving region, high surface run off has made Kalimpong one of the most water scarce region in the state. With inadequate irrigation facilities and agricultural extension service, Farmers in the area resorts to subsistence farming with an average annual farm return as low as INR 10,000. Average paddy yield in the district is 2 ton/ha which is considered to be lowest in the state.

West Bengal Accelerated Development of Minor Irrigation Project(WBADMIP) has undertaken 40 Minor Irrigation schemes in the districts to channelise water from the perennial springs towards water scarce agricultural lands. These 40 schemes once completed will be operated and managed by the community represented by Water User Associations. To make sure the WUAs maintains inclusion, access and equity in the future, its members are empowered through various capacity building programs on water management as well as exposure tours to the farms of progressive farmers from other WUAs.

Besides the 40 Schemes, Project has also taken up the constructions of five Water Silos that will support 24 Hi Tech Floriculture units on Garbera and Carnation cultivation. The water Silos are pre fabricated steel water storage tank with a capacity of 25,000 litre each. Water from the silos will be delivered through pvc pipes that will feed the drip system fit in each of the 24 polyhouses of size 96 Square meter each.
A Water Silo

A female benificiary
 The climatic conditions in kalimpong makes it congenial for growing a wide variety of highly remunerative flowers like Garbera, Carnation, Orchids, Gladioli, Anthurium etc. Floriculture is not new to kalimpong, rather its a century old tradition. Flowers from Kalimpong has been reaching the western market since long, however lack of adequate infrastructures and most importantly water scarcity halted its pace . The hi tech floriculture unit established under the project will not only provide a source of livelihood for the beneficiaries but also will contribute towards rejuvenating the lucrative floriculture sector in the district which desperately needs some momentum.

Monday, January 6, 2020

Tapping Spring water for irrigation in the Hilly Districts of Bengal


Springs are the lifeline for majority of the inhabitants
from Darjeeling and Kalimpong districts
 Springs or more commonly known as Dhara are the major source of water for domestic and irrigation purpose in the hilly districts of Darjeeling and Kalimpong. A spring is a point at which water flows from the aquifer to the earth's surface. Springs can be either perennial i.e with continuous flow or seasonal. According to a report published by Central Ground Water Board in the year 2014, Irrigation practices in the higher hills are largely dependent on the springs or streams that is fed by the springs. Despite the fact that the hilly regions gets  adequate rainfall during the monsoon, most of the springs gets dried up due to factors such as high level of surface  runoff, ecological degradation and unsustainable land use management. The high level of surface run off hamper the ground water recharge leaving less water for the dry winter seasons. With the growing impact of burgeoning population as well as climate change, availability of ground water in the springs are getting scarce day by day.
             Agriculture in the hilly districts are mostly rainfed and a large part also is covered by springs. The declining trend in water discharge from these springs has been engulfing the farm economy since long thus triggering off mass migration of rural youths to other cities. 

A desiltation tank under the Surface Flow Minor Irrigation Scheme
WBADMI Project in this regard has undertaken Surface Flow Minor Irrigation Schemes(SFMIS) in the hilly districts of Darjeeling and Kalimpong to arrest surface run off from the perennial springs by creating artificial reservoirs to make the water available for irrigation in the nearby agricultural fields. A total of 15 such schemes has been taken up and will be handed over to the Water User Associations for their operation and management. Furthermore, Project has undertaken another 30 schemes in the two districts to rejuvenate the dried up springs with the similar objective of catering the irrigation requirement in the agricultural field. As the construction of these structures are carried out, there are simultaneous process of capacity building programs among the beneficiaries for the adoption of on-farm practices improving water management at community level and also to create opportunity to improve their livelihoods, bring social stability and upscale the agriculture based economy for a prosperous future.

Friday, January 3, 2020

Reaching out to the Scholars- An initiative from WBADMIP to generate aspirations among the young talents towards Sustainable Development!

             West Bengal Accelerated Development of Minor Irrigation Project(WBADMIP) is soon to complete its 7th year. Since its inception in March 2012, Project has been able to create a roadmap in multiplying farmer's income in a sustainable manner. However, the journey associated with the project's accomplishments has never been easy. It is surrounded with lots of complexities that needs smart decisions for their timely redressal. Besides posing challenges from time to time, these complexities also has given opportunities for the project officials to understand the dynamics of development activities at the grassroots and come up with working model from the lessons learnt. 
             With the objective to acquaint the scholars with the projects narratives on the lessons learnt as well as to inculcate the essence of becoming a development practitioner, project launched its "Internship Program" in the year 2018 where four international and three domestic students successfully completed their internship. Out of the four international students, 3 were from Harvard University, US and one was from RMIT, Australia whereas, among the domestic students, two were from IIT and one from Delhi University. There are always room for improvements in any development project. The tacit and explicit information captured by the interns from their field visit is helping the project officials to refine the project interventions more farmer specific. The learning will also help the students to gain insight to the real world challenges and solutions through active exploration.
             In Dec 2019, Project also facilitated a study tour comprising of 47 BSc Horticulture Science students from Dr. Y.S Parmar University of Horticulture & Forestry, Solan, Himachal Pradesh.
Interns Joao from Harvard University, US and Somveer from IIT Kgp with Bankura DPMU team, June 2018

Rhia from RMIT, Australia in Canning Block, 24 Paraganas South, Aug 2018

Interns Sujoy and Sophie from Harvard University, US in Darjeeling District, Aug 2019

Intern Aryaman from Delhi University visiting Birbhum, July 2018

BSc students from Dr. Y S Parmar UHF, Himachal Pradesh in 24 Paraganas South, Dec 2019

Thursday, January 2, 2020

Empowering Farmers through ICT- Introducing Mobile Based Farm Advisory Service, "Krishi Katha" in the Project areas.

                    Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in modern day agriculture plays a crucial role in expanding horizons in its development. ICT is all about empowering the farming community in the decision making process while adopting best approaches to improve their food security and livelihood.
       Till few years back, it was beyond imagination for many to consider how mobile phones can play powerful role in revolutionising the agricultural extension services. Even though the government have their own mechanism to carry out the agriculture extension service , but in a state like Bengal with high population density it needs a huge manpower to cover every corner of the state. Mass Media such as TV, Radio, Press has been the most commonly used medium since decades to carry out  the extension services but there are limitations considering their one way communication approach.
     Mobile phone is becoming one important tool of communication, according to a survey conducted in 2015, the number of mobile phone users in India will reach over 800 million by the end of 2019. In the farming sector too, mobile phones are playing crucial role in empowering farmers to get better access to the market information. Mobile phone ownership and its application in agricultural extension service is getting attention among the policymakers. As a result, various Govt agencies and development organisations has initiated mobile based farm advisory services to reach at the grassroots..
        Mobile based ICT tools can play effective role during various farming cycle. During pre sowing stage, information on weather, soil moisture and agri inputs such as seeds, pesticides, fertilisers etc. will increase the adaptability of crops to the local climatic condition whereas information on best practices and pest management will enhance the quality as well as quantity of the farm produce. Post harvest information on storage practices, available markets and commodity prices will increase the value of the farm produce. From Bengal perspective, mobile based farm advisory services becomes even more significant due to the fact that climate change impact is becoming prominent in the farmlands. It is predicted that the weather variability as a result of climate change in the state will increase, in such situation farm advisory through mobile phones will expand  the extension service to larger areas in short time.
       With a similar objective to gear up the extension service in minimum time, West Bengal Accelerated Development of Minor Irrigation Project(WBADMIP) launched  its mobile based advisory service "Krishi Katha" on pilot basis initially in 14 districts covering 10,000 farmers. It is an integrated system with the combination of Interactive Voice Response System (IVRS), Web and mobile phone technology to disseminate farm specific advisory service as per user's convenience with time and mode. The advisory service have two interfaces, a mobile interface at the front end for its registered farmers and a web interface at the back end for a team of agriculture experts. Besides disseminating information through voice and sms, the farmers can also call at the service's Toll Free number and record their query. The queries are responded within 12-48 hours. The advisory service is developed and operated by US based Non Profit Organisation, Precision Agriculture For Development (PAD) with Project's funding. Initially implemented for 6 months, the Service already reached the target of 10,000 farmers and looking at the good response from the farmers, project is further exploring the possibility of expanding the service to  more districts in the coming days.

Addressing Elephant Infestation in the Farmland of North Bengal Through Strategic Horticultural Plantations:

             Paddy in Bengal is linked with food security, being the staple food, the Kharif season is almost entirely dominated by paddy cultivation, in many districts this crop is cultivated even during the Rabi(winter) season. More than 80 percent of the farming community in the state are small and marginal farm holders. Farming in rainfed areas with small and marginal land holding has always been challenging. Some of the major challenges are, water scarcity, unavailability of community based institutional framework for operation & management, appropriate technologies, a ready market and last but not the least, climate resilient agriculture. The uncertainties propagated by these challenges has prompted migration of many youths from the rural Bengal towards distant urban cities in search of a better life. In this regard, The World Bank funded West Bengal Accelerated Development of Minor Irrigation Project (WBADMIP) has been able to develop a successful model with its integrated approach on agri water management thus bringing a ray of hope to these economically as well as ecologically disadvantaged rural farmers of the state.
A Female WUA member from Nipania Block, Darjeeling District
 displaying paddy crop destroyed by elephants.
                  While farmers in the WBADMI project areas are leveraging from the incremental benefits catalysed by assured irrigation and appropriate technologies, some of their counterparts are still living with uncertainties. These ill fated farmers are inhabitants  of areas adjoining to the forests and frequently encounter elephant infestations. Despite having assured irrigation and agriculture support services, farmers hasn't been able to leverage much from the project deliverable. The elephants often maraud their cropland and destroy everything .
With the degradation of natural food habitat, the elephants gets tempted to shift towards human habitat in search of food and destroy crops in the process. Their taste buds are also shifting more towards agriculture crops like paddy, maize, vegetables etc. than usual wild trees and shrubs.
Black pepper cultivation in Chenga Basti, Mirik Block, Darjeeling
      Based on consultation with wildlife experts and local communities, Project introduced black pepper as non preferred crops for elephant on pilot basis initially in Darjeeling district. A total number of 8086 black pepper saplings were planted covering 292 farmers from Chenga Basti under Mirik Block with technical support from Central Plantation Crop Research Institute, Mohitnagar, Jalpaiguri in the financial year 2017-18. With a market value of Rs 500/kg, these 8086 plants are expected to generate a cumulative net profit of INR 1.05 Crore ( USD 147000) after three years against an investment of INR 16,17,200( USD 22677).
        Further expanding this initiative, Project is also introducing citrus plantation as a barrier crop in the areas with human elephant conflict . Citrus based plants act as repellent to marauding elephants besides the additional income the fruits generates. 

Monday, December 23, 2019

Using Discarded Plastic Bottles for low cost Drip Irrigation by Tribal Farmers from Murshidabad District

                Assured irrigation is one of the biggest challenge in rainfed agriculture and in a state like Bengal with almost 2 Million Ha single cropped rainfed areas,  monsoon failure means a huge drop in production. Majority of the farmers are small and marginal with very limited  source of livelihood as such drop in agriculture production directly hit the local socioeconomy. 

West Bengal Accelerated Development of Minor Irrigation Project( WBADMIP) has targeted to transform 75000 ha of such single cropped rainfed areas into multi cropped irrigated areas through assured irrigation by creating demand driven Minor Irrigation structures (Surface and Ground Water). Since its inception in the year 2012, the project has irrigated 68000 ha so far bringing incremental benefits to more than 100000 farm families represented by over 2000 Water User Associations.

One of the biggest challenge with Surface Water Minor Irrigation scheme is the comparatively low irrigation potential compared to GW schemes due to water loss through evaporation and seepage. As such it becomes more crucial for the Water User Associations to adopt various water conservation methods for availability of water during the dry Rabi season. Drip irrigation is one efficient method in which water is delivered in drops to the soil surface instead of the traditional method of flowing through channel thus enabling the root zone to be wet enough for the plants to uptake for physiological function. However for small and marginal farmers, affording commercial drip irrigation system without public investment is still a big challenge.

 Demonstrating a fine example of adopting innovations and environmental accountability, the tribal farmers from Aruliadanga Water User Association in Murshidabad district are using discarded plastic bottles to transform them into low cost drip system for irrigation. Internet is becoming a powerful medium in the cross border transfer of affordable technologies and the farmers from Aruliadanga spent no time in adopting this low cost eco-friendly technology when they first saw in YouTube. The young saplings in the recently established Mix Fruit Orchard needs regular supply of water  during the initial years for survival. The low cost drip system  has ensured the regular supply of water required without putting much pressure on the Surface Water Scheme( Water Detention Structure) that was created under the project to cater the irrigation requirement for agriculture activities in these rainfed areas.

       Plastic is considered to be one of the biggest toxic pollutants that is adversely affecting our land and rivers. Infact, Plastic has toxic chemicals which can cause several health hazards upon coming in contact with human. In rural areas besides causing water logging, plastic also effects the crop growth by hindering the process of photosynthesis.

                In developing nation like India, solid waste management is more prominent in the urban areas whereas in the  rural areas it is yet to gear up the momentum. Since plastic is non biodegradable, besides reducing its usage, one of the most effective way  to deal with plastic pollution is to reuse and recycle.