Farmer Connect Begins Activities
The Farmer Connect Project, externally known as ‘RAHBAR’, began its activities in October 2015 in Sheikhupura district – the pilot phase of a 5-year CSR initiative byEngro Fertilizers. The project is aimed at improving farm yields and income through the capacity building of small to medium farmers in the rice-wheat cropping system of Punjab and Sindh through the use of best crop management practices (BCMPs) and the introduction of innovative farming techniques.
During the wheat season 2015-16, the Project Team registered 5,000 farmers in 100 selected villages, and completed 60,000 Training Man Hours at critical crop stages of sowing and land preparation, weed control, irrigation and urea top dressing, and harvesting and post-harvest care of produce. These trainings were conducted on farmer deras, along with practical demonstrations on BCMPs at trainee fields. The trainings were further strengthened with regular streaming of SMS messages to registered farmers on weather forecast and relevant agronomic advices. The highlight of the program was field demonstration of the energy conservative and environment friendly concept of ‘sowing without plowing’ by using zero tillage drills (ZTDs).
The technology gave dual benefit of reducing cost of production through decreased consumption of diesel at the plowing stage, and bringing about yield improvement through sowing lead time saving after rice harvest, and optimized placement of seed and fertilizer in the soil ensuring maximum utilization of input resources. Farmers also benefited from weather alerts by synchronizing crop irrigation, weedicide and urea applications with rains during the season.
Resultantly, registered farmers realized a yield improvement of 26% compared to non-adopters in their areas, coupled with improved farm profitability and conservation of natural and added resources. On the sidelines of these activities, 500 women have also been trained on such farming operations where women are involved, such as grading, cleaning, and preparation of home-kept seed for the next crop, and post-harvest management of wheat grain for ration and seed purposes. The Project activities are underway for the rice season 2016, and the pilot phase will conclude in October, 2016. In the meantime, Engro Fertilizers’ Management has given a go ahead to take the Project to the next level by starting its activities in two more districts of Punjab and one district in Sindh province.