Results of Promoting the Chisel
In the area of Mewat, Haryana, India, the quality of soil is very poor and the ground water is saline in many places. This is significantly affecting crop yields. The soil below the normal plow depth is solid due to careless use of fertilizers that have inhibited water movement and root development. Farmers are also not aware of the best practices that could enhance the quality and quantity of yield. They followed conventional methods of cultivation that they had inherited. The Sehgal Foundation introduced the chisel to the villages of Ghaghas, Rangala Rajpur, Agon, Goela and their clusters villages to help improve crop yields.
The Foundation’s team from water management and income enhancement programs analyzed the annual rainfall, ground water quality, and soil test results in these villages. They felt that chiseling the fields would have multiple benefits. By tilling deep into the ground, farmers could break up restrictive layers to allow for deeper water percolation and strengthen plant roots. Chiseling would also play a role in rainwater harvesting.
The chisel is a farm instrument that has 18 inches long teeth. It is anchored to a tractor to loosen the soil without inverting it and keeps surface soil mixing to a minimum. The tool shatters the restricted soil layers that run below the depth of a normal plow.
The use of chisel was promoted in the Fruits and Vegetables Growers’ Association (FVGA), a platform created by Sehgal Foundation to address agricultural issues. The technical aspects of this new tool convinced the farmers. However, only a few farmers actually stepped forward and were willing to take on the extra input costs needed to use the chisel.
The Foundation paid attention to the farmers’ inhibitions and their purchasing power. It agreed to loan Rs. 7,000 to the FVGA to buy a chisel. Its members could use this at a subsidized rate. Unfortunately, this plan still failed to encourage adequate farmer participation. The Foundation began a second phase of chisel promotion in June 2004 as the monsoons approached. The water management team wanted to harvest rainwater in every way possible in order to raise the ground water table and reduce its salinity. It was crucial that action was taken immediately.
Sehgal Foundation launched a scheme where it agreed to cover part of the chiseling cost of every farmer that agreed to chisel two or more acres. Farmers saw positive results from the chisel across all areas of their farms. They were advised that fields should be chiseled only once every three years. If chiseled more frequently, excess moisture retention in the land could delay the sowing and transplantation of the crop. Farmers took on a competitive attitude toward chiseling and managed to chisel 400 acres of land before the onset of monsoons.
Farmers had a number of remarks about their experience of chiseling. Ram Kishan Sain, a 65-year-old farmer, owns eight acres land in Agon. Like many other farmers, he grew wheat, Millet (bajra), and mustard for many years. For the last three years, he began growing carrots on a section of his land to increase his income. This new crop enhanced his income, but only marginally. “The quality of carrots was not up to the market standards; they were pale colored and broken, so I had to sell the produce at the lowest market prices of Rs. 120 per bag,” said Ram Kishan. In June 2004, he participated in the Foundation’s subsidized scheme and chiseled two acres for carrot cultivation.
Ram Kishan saw the results of chiseling very quickly. At his next harvest, he collected long, thick and deep-colored juicy carrots. “This year, I sold my produce at Rs. 320 per bag, which has increased my income by more than 50%,” Ram Kishan said. He added, “I used to irrigate the fields 10-12 times, but this year the land stayed moist so I had to irrigate only 6-7 times, which helped me save even more.
Ram Kishan is one of several farmers who enthusiastically participates in all the agricultural trainings and demonstrations organized by Sehgal Foundation. He wants to start diversifying his crops even more by growing other vegetables including eggplant, squash, and cucumbers and plans to adopt the new cultivation methods he has learned.
Farooq is another young farmer from Agon. He owns two acres of land at the end of the village, close to the foothills of the Aravali Mountains. Standing water during the monsoon season used to frequently destroyed his fields. He said, “I used to feel unlucky to have my land closer to the terrain, but this deep tilling has broken the hard layers beneath the ground. The ground now absorbs the rainwater and keeps the soil moist for many days.”
Ahmed Hussain works as a teacher in the government school of Rangala Rajpur and farms for the remaining part of his day. “In spite of being educated, I had very little knowledge on agricultural practices. I attended many trainings organized by the Sehgal Foundation and learned about pest control, seed variety and quality, vermi-composting, bed-making and use of chisel,” said Ahmed.
Ahmed was one of the first few farmers to be confident in the benefits of chisel, prior to having observed the results. He purchased a chisel and a bed-maker on his own and afterwards had a great yield of tomato and onion, both in terms of quality and quantity. In an interview, he said, “Before, standing water damaged my onion fields during the rainy season, but chiseling helped percolate rainwater within half an hour, which saved my crop. I had the best produce of onions from my village this year”. He further added, “My crop looked so beautiful that neighboring farmers and people passing by frequently stopped to inquire. The Pusa Government Institute also videotaped my fields”. He earned back the entire cost of the chisel and bed-maker within one season by leasing the two instruments to other farmers.
The chisel was adopted by many farmers in the villages of Ghaghas, Rangala Rajpur, and Agon, but has not yet been properly adopted in the village of Goela. However, the talk of lush green chiseled fields is spreading through the cluster villages and motivating the farmers’ of Goela to start using the chisel.
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