Parampal Singh (33), a farmer for 15 years from the village of Teona in Bathinda, has never heard of a program which is a key product for all agricultural departments in the country to improve farmers’ incomes and d ” improve crop yields.
“Can you explain what it is,” he asks, revealing the huge knowledge gap that exists between policymakers’ offices and farmland.
As part of the extension program – which experts call the backbone of modern agriculture, farmers must be trained in improved agronomic practices for each growing season and they must receive the latest information on government programs related to agriculture. ‘Agriculture.
“I’ve never seen an officer visit us and educate us on new techniques, new programs and provide training,” Parampal says.
He adds, “I can use WhatsApp, Facebook, and get farming related information from the heads of the department on these social media apps, but I’m not getting any. ”
Parampal, who owns 19 acres of land in Teona, has grown wheat, paddy and cotton for years. Speaking about this year’s pink bollworm attack on cotton, he said he had grown narma on 5 of his 19 acres and when the pest attack came he and many other farmers like him ended up spraying an excess of pesticides to save their crops, which was of no use.
“The agricultural experts could have immediately told the farmers that no spraying would work, but the farmers spent huge sums of money and they finally understood that pulling the plants out was the only solution,” he said, adding that before sowing any crop, farmers should get information about the seed quality of that crop, its diseases and prevention methods.
“But farmers learn these things once the damage is done,” he lamented.
Another farmer, Darbara Singh, said that in the name of training and education, he attended a farmers’ camp in his village which was organized about five years ago in 2015-16 when the he white fly attack damaged the cotton crop throughout the Malwa cotton belt. Region. “Most of the farmers in my village depend on information about new seeds and sprays after pest attacks and that too from seed and fertilizer companies, pesticide dealers in the area,” said Darbara Singh.
The farmer, in his forties, is from Moola Singhwala village in Mansa tehsil and claimed that there had not been an agricultural development officer (ADO) in his village for about 5 years and that a new teenager joined him 3 or 4 months ago.
“He has started contacting me now to allay doubts,” he said.
He owns four acres of land and has operated 30 acres – 26 rental acres – for more than two decades.
Uneducated, but a progressive farmer, Darbara Singh cultivates rice and wheat on 29 acres of land and an acre he keeps for cotton.
“This rabi sowing season, I want to grow mustard seeds on an acre for the first time in order to gain experience and increase the area under it from next season. But I have no knowledge of its sowing. I have been to the agricultural office in my district twice where I obtained the sarson seed, but no one was there to tell me about its sowing and other precautions for this crop. Now I will contact our local ADO again to find out about his seedlings, ”he said, adding that the farmers do not have time to visit the offices of the department over and over again as they are busy during the season. seedlings.
Recounting the difficulties he encountered in getting basic service like having his soil health checked, he added: Regarding the health of my soil.
“In this Kharif season, on my 29 acres of paddy fields, I did not spray any pesticides on 15 acres until the end of the crop cycle despite the presence of pests. However, I have followed the same old practice of regular spraying on 14 acre paddy fields that 95 percent of rice farmers follow in the state by starting spraying from the 45 day harvest until maturity. The results of the two crops were the same, ”said the farmer.
He argued that farmers should be informed that the appearance of any pest does not mean that “we must immediately spray because a small number of pests cannot harm any crops because they themselves die after a few days” .
Darbara Singh further says that he has only learned from experience that if the pests appear at the economic threshold level (ETL), they would not harm any crops, but the majority of farmers do not know such things.
Sansar Singh (70) from Kanakwal village in Sangrur has been farming for four decades, but he thinks little of the efforts of the agricultural department, saying that “there are few times when Kisan Melas is organized at the village level, by sadde palle kuj ni painda (we do not understand anything about these village festivals) ”.
Village after village, farmers told The Indian Express they needed expert training from the Agriculture Department to better manage their crops.
Gurcharan Singh (50), a grade 12 farmer, said: “We would like to have formal training on the benefits of not burning stubble in the field, the availability of quality seeds, on other subsidiary activities like dairy farming, but we hardly see any agricultural agent in our region to guide us.
“Only educated farmers receive information by phone, WhatsApp, Facebook, but 80% of the farmers in our village are uneducated,” Sansar Singh said.
Jalandhar farmer Talwinder Singh, who cultivates 60 acres, accused agriculture officials of making superficial visits to the fields of their ‘favorite farmers’ to show their field work in government records .
Farmer Devinder Singh from Tarn Taran’s Gandiwind Block said there had been virtually no ADOs posted to his block for years who were able enough to guide them on good farming practices.
Some progressive farmers, however, have said that they get important information from ministry officials before sowing a crop, but also after “driving” them.
“As part of agricultural extension, which is the backbone of our agriculture, formal hands-on training and education in agricultural and related fields is needed to introduce the latest methods to improve farmers’ incomes by reducing costs. unnecessary input costs and to increase yield by adopting precise farming techniques. It is also essential to help farmers adopt cultivation methods adapted to their soil type. There is an urgent need to strengthen extension services to lift farmers out of the agrarian crisis, ”said Varinderjit Bhandhari, former deputy director of the Punjab Department of Agriculture, who recently retired but still works for welfare. farmers.
Do our part, says the agriculture department
The Punjab’s agriculture ministry, however, says it is doing its part.
According to the department, there was around 10.93 lakh of operational land in Punjab until a few years ago, and around 18.50 lakh of farmers (after a new division of farmland among family members).
Agriculture department officials said about 3 lakhs of farmers receive training each year during the rabi and kharif season camps. The camps are organized at the district, block and village level. Giving figures, the department said about 344 such camps are organized at district, block and 5,000 at village level each year.
The department also said that to reach farmers, social media and other innovative methods are used, including the formation of WhatsApp farmer groups, phone calls and messages, and announcements in villages through local religious venues.
Mobile apps like i-khet machine, kisan suvidha app, m-kisan, farmers portal, cotton monitoring app and departmental website http://www.agri.punjab.gov.in are also there, said a senior officer of the department. He added that farmers are also advised to contact the local agriculture office for information.