Sundargarh District, Orissa, January 17, 2006

Centre for Youth and Social Development (CYSD), the project partner in Orissa conducted the Second Outreach Meeting under the GRANITE project at Kuchedega panchayat under Hemgiri Block of Sundargarh district, Orissa on January 17, 2006. A total of 22 farmers participated in the meeting, out of them, nine were large farmers, seven were middle farmers and the rest were small farmers. Being a Schedule-V area, clear majority of the participants were Scheduled Tribes (STs).


The objective of the meeting was to gather people’s perception from the grassroots level on trade related issues with respect to agriculture on both domestic and international front; to study primary stakeholders’ requirements and accordingly to prepare information base to disseminate the same at the grassroots level; and to develop advocacy agenda to lobby before the government on trade related issues.


There was a clear difference in the landholding size of the participants. Most of the small and marginal farmers either posses land in upland area or do agriculture as sharecroppers. Besides agriculture as the mainstay even for the small farmers, the role of Non Timber Forest Product (NTFP) in sustaining livelihood of the people of the study area is important. Irrespective of their land holding size all the families depend on procurement and selling of NTFPs, particularly during the months of less agricultural activity i.e. from March to June. Mahua flower and seed, kendu leaf, and Sal leaf and seed contribute immensely to the NTFP economy. However, small/marginal farmers in agricultural season work as agricultural labourers.

People in the region primarily depend on rain for cultivation. The agricultural season ranges from June to January, which is in correspondence with rainy season and post-rainy days. However, the people have now become aware of benefits of rainwater harvesting and are also using other irrigation facilities like lift irrigation. Major crops of the region include paddy, green gram, black gram, arhar, and different vegetables. Besides ginger, the most important cash crop, groundnut, sugarcane and potato are also cultivated.

A decade ago none except Kandula, Gulchi, Ragi and Maize were some of the crops produced along with paddy. As the amount of paddy produced was not able to meet the demand of the people, the farmers started producing cash crops.


For the meeting, Kuchedega panchayat was selected and group discussions and personal interviews were carried out among the villagers on the issues designed on a preset checklist. In order to cross check the responses of the people in the focused group discussions, personal interviews were carried out. These tools were chosen because it is less time consuming and also economical.

Following are the key study areas probed on agriculture through both focused group discussions and personal interviews:

Cropping Pattern

With growing experience, advent of new technologies, new seed varieties and guidance from both government and non-government agencies, farmers adapted themselves to new crops for better productivity. Practice of maize cultivation was abandoned due to the destruction by jackle and bear.

The number of bonded labourers in the panchayat has decreased from 30 to 5 over the years and people have got their own land for cultivation. On an average, the farmers have now minimum three acres of land for agricultural activities lasting six months in a year. The remaining months they depend on NTFP collection, processing and selling.

The large landholding farmers face rising labour cost and lesser availability of agricultural labourers. Moreover, as the land holding size of such farmers has reduced because of land ceiling by the Government, agriculture production has come down. Use of fertilizer, opening of markets in nearby areas, change in irrigation facilities, adoption of new technologies like constructing water harvesting structures have all helped in increased yield.

As production of local variety paddy has come down over the years due to scanty rainfall and lowering soil fertility, farmers embraced new high yielding varieties, like Khandagiri, Sarana, HMT, Konark, Ganga, Annapurna, Lalata, 1001, 1009 etc. instead of the old varieties like Sapuri, Kadua, Gua, Hula, Alganga, Karni, Luchei, Jhilli, Gajna, Budhabudhi, Sunakathi. However, these new varieties of paddy seeds give much lower production in upland areas. In anticipation of decreased yield in future, Village Agricultural Worker (VAW) is the right person to facilitate adoption of newer varieties of seeds and newer technologies in consultation with other agricultural extension services. Besides changes in production of paddy and other cereals, a visible change can also be observed in cultivation of vegetables. Now-a-days farmers cultivate vegetables like tomato, onion, brinjal, cauliflower, cabbage etc. Besides fulfilling their needs for household consumption they also sell the surplus in the nearby local markets. CYSD is said to be primarily responsible for this change.

Agricultural Inputs

VAW’s Role and Seed Distribution

Despite the provision of VAW or Gram Sevak by the Agricultural Department, they seldom visit different villages and disseminate information to the villagers on agriculture. Many are even unaware of such facility. However, one woman agriculturist of the village was obliged towards the role played by VAW. According to her, the VAW’s advice has helped the villages to switch over to new variety of paddy, which was available in block office. Yet another woman interviewee told that the role of VAW was only to inform about various diseases of crop and their remedial measures.

The block office only provides seeds for high yielding variety paddy and not for any other crop. But other participants told that even paddy seed distribution through the block was an irregular phenomenon due to political intervention and malevolent intension of certain vested interest groups.

Paddy, potato, onion, ginger, black gram and arhar are the crops for which the farmers preserve seeds to be used in the next cropping season. However, if at all there is any loss to these saved seeds, they either borrow seed from their neighbours or fetch them from nearby markets. For vegetable seeds, they primarily depend on the local markets.

Soil Compatibility

To know the soil compatibility for a particular seed variety or crop, the farmers depend on their experience gained over the years. However, for new seed varieties, particularly of vegetables, CYSD has helped them in choosing appropriate soil quality. Sometimes, even if the farmers purchase seed from the local market without any knowledge regarding its soil compatibility they do a kind of experimentation, which is a forced factor because of artificial seed crisis made during distribution at the Block office. Hence, the small/marginal farmers become the soft targets for this market induced seed experimentation. Irrespective of this prevailing practice, the farmers of Kuchedega Panchayat both apprehend and welcome the idea of a soil testing mechanism at place. The participants’ apprehension was that ‘an outsider having little knowledge on local condition might prove costly if he recommends a wrong soil-seed compatibility and as a result there will be total crop failure’.


Though the farmers largely use chemical fertilizers, CYSD has made some inroads in introducing bio fertilizers like vermicompost, which the government is also promoting. The farmers were of the opinion that the use of chemical fertilizers has made the soil hard so it would take sometime to get the desired result from using bio-fertilizers. They complained that there was no subsidy available on fertilizers that they purchased from nearby local markets.


Lack of proper irrigation facility is a major impediment for agricultural growth. There has been no assistance from the government and the panchayat though the panchayat here has set up a minor irrigation point, but due to faulty positioning, it is destroying the cultivable land. To counter such difficulty, some big farmers are using agro pumps, which, however, prove costly as the pumps consume two litres of diesel per hour to lift water. Electricity would substantially reduce irrigation cost and government needs to take appropriate steps to provide power at subsidised rate to the farmers. In addition, the farmers also see a huge potential in rainwater harvesting by constructing water harvesting structures, which has become successful in one village of the panchayat. Irrigating one acre of land in the present practice cost the farmers Rs. 1000 to Rs. 1500.

Subsidy and Minimum Support Price (MSP)

The farmers do not get any kind of subsidy on fertilizers or on paddy seeds. However, a farmer would be able to get electricity at subsidised rates only if he had a boring point for irrigation. It was observed that many farmers did not possess any idea on MSP. However, it was interesting to note that all of them knew about the rate the government provided on paddy i.e. Rs 540 per quintal.

Credit Facility and Insurance

Earlier the farmers used to depend on the local traders and moneylenders for credit inflow who charged very high rates of interest. But now they prefer institutions like Large Size Agricultural Multi-Purpose Society (LAMPS) and United Bank of India, which charge 14 percent interest per annum. Insurance on crop failure is available only for paddy and to those farmers who avail loan from LAMPS. Thus small/marginal and medium farmers having less access to LAMPS are not able to access the benefit. However, with the coming up of large number of Self Help Groups (SHGs) in the area, farmers, particularly the small and marginal farmers, are depending more on these SHGs for agricultural loans because of their lower interest rates three percent per month and for their easy accessibility.

Trading the Produce

Establishment of a coal extracting unit of Mahanadi Coalfields Ltd. (MCL) in Sundargarh district and consequent development of road and transport infrastructure in the region have opened up floodgates of opportunities for the agricultural producers. Except paddy, all the agricultural products having good market demands are generally sold out at nearby markets. Nevertheless, farmers or the primary producers besides having good market access suffer at the hands of middleman. Thus, they are forced to sell their goods at a very low price and with little profit.

The farmers also sell their paddy to the local moneylender of the nearby panchayat. Sometime traders from neighbouring states of Jharkhand and Chhatisgarh also come to their villages to procure paddy, but they buy at a lower price of Rs 500 per quintal which is quite lower than that provided by the government under MSP. The farmers demanded fair price in paddy selling and thus of the opinion that government must make provisions to establish mandis at each panchayat headquarters to procure paddy.

Gender in Agriculture

Women do majority of agricultural work starting from weed clearing to various other works except ploughing. Most importantly, they play a major role in seed preparation and saving the seed for the next cropping season. However, their role is minimal in choosing a new variety seed, which is done by the male members.


The participants were completely ignorant of the issues of globalisation and World Trade Organisation (WTO). However, they showed keen interest to know it, including trade related developments.


Lack of irrigation facility, inadequate credit facilities, shortage of marketing infrastructure, non-implementation of soil testing and demonstration mechanism and paucity of proper information dissemination on modern technology are some of the bottlenecks in developing agriculture in this region. There is urgent requirement for domestic reforms to increase agricultural produce in Orissa.

It is very difficult to gauge the ill impacts of changing WTO policies at the international level, there is hardly any benefits to the domestic market of Orissa and particularly on the primary agricultural producers. Farmers have lost control over old seed varieties and are being forced to adapt the new seed varieties, which give good yields but requires more inputs in terms of use of chemical fertilizers, irrigation etc

In context of WTO and trade liberalisation, the study findings suggest for a large-scale domestic reform, particularly in areas of credit and insurance facilities to small farmers and developing market infrastructure while minimising the role of middlemen.