The river Brahmani flows in the vicinity of Dhenkanal Sadar cluster of Dhenkanal district of Odisha. The six villages of the cluster viz. Khectarellibandha, Nuagaon, Mandapal, Talagotha, Khectaremara and Kotapala are located in the right side of the river. Although the river is rainfed, but availability of water during the rabi and summer season is sufficient. Earlier, the soil of the region was sandy land and was infested with Kans (Sacchectarerum spontaneum) weed. Farmers of the region used to cultivate watermelon at river bank. In the Year 2004-2005, only four farmers cultivated watermelon in an area of 1.6 hectare with low productivity of 8.75 tonnes/ hectare. They were using low yielding and low quality varieties and seeds.
Interventions of NAIP
During 2011-12, the NAIP sub- project under component-3 ‘Sustainable Rural Livelihood and Food Security to Rainfed Farmers of Orissa’, Orissa University of Agriculture and Technology (OUAT), Bhubaneswar and the consortium partners attempted to improve livelihood of watermelon growing farmers through cultivation of good quality high yielding varieties like BSS Bejo Seetal, Sugar baby, Madhubala, Karan, Agasta and Poonam with improved management practices. Training on cultivation practices and critical input support were provided for cultivation of the crop in an area of 14.8 hectare involving 40 households. With these interventions, productivity of crops enhanced upto 25 tonnes/hectare. During the year 2011-12, local farmers yielded total production of 370 tonnes from an area of 14.8 hectare and their net income increased upto Rs. 65,000/hectare.
Success became the energizing agent among the farmers
During 2012-13, more farmers came forward for watermelon cultivation. They removed kans from land and brought more area under watermelon cultivation. Each farmer took up watermelon crop in an area of 0.8 hectare. The farmers organized into groups for better management of crop production, watching and marketing.
The NAIP subproject provided critical inputs to 72 households for an area of 28.8 hectare and each household cultivated the crop in additional area of 0.4 hectare. Besides, another 78 new households adopted river bank watermelon cultivation in an area of 0.8 hectare each. The area under watermelon cultivation increased from 14.8 hectare in 2011-12 to 120 hectare during 2012-13. It was showing an unprecedented increase and farmers realized net return of Rs.27,27,000 at the rate of Rs. 95,000 per hectare.
Rich outcome of the project
Out of the total production from area supported by the sub-project, fruits amounting to 765 tonnes valued Rs. 44,55,000 were sent to cities of Odisha viz. Angul, Bhubaneswar, Bhadrak, Cuttack, Dhenkanal, Khurda, Kendrapara and Pattamundai and different cities of neighboring states viz. Kolkata, Shillong, Silcher, Vijayawada and Deogha besides, the domestic consumption amounted to about 9 tonnes. Through the sub-project linkage was also established with Mahalaxmi Vegetable Supplier, Kuakhia and Jajapur for marketing of the produce in the distant markets. Now, watermelon cultivation in the area has become a source of livelihood not only for farmers but also wage earning for women from surrounding villages.
(Source: OUAT, Bhubaneswar)