Sustainable Sugarcane Initiative (SSI): More with Less
Farmers grow sugarcane only on a portion of their land along with a staple food crop like rice. Although sugarcane often determines the economic status of a farmer, it has functioned as an insurance crop to farmers in the midst of climatic variations. In the specific context of Nayagarh district, sugarcane is a second priority crop for the farmers after rice. It contributes largely to boost the economic condition of a household and the community at large. Lately, due to high cost of inputs, scarcity in water and frequently changing climatic conditions, Sugarcane has not been yielding the desired results. Bearing this in mind, NIRMAN has sought to increase the productivity of sugarcane by acquiring relevant technical yet simplified knowledge from ICRISAT-WWF i.e. ‘Sustainable Sugarcane Initiative’ (SSI) in the year 2009. The new technology, which increases the sugar content in the cane, requires organic inputs and consumes 75% less seed and 40-60% less water. Currently, From January 2010, NIRMAN with support from WWF-ICRISAT has expanded the programme to cover three Blocks of Nayagarh district, i.e. Nayagarh, Nuagaon, Ranapur and one block of Khurda district i.e. Bolagarh. Towards the end of 2012 process with other local civil society networks has been upscaled in Baragarh and Ganjam district and together reached to 604 farmers covering 324 acres. The adoption of SSI technology by sugarcane farmers has led to increase in yields of sugarcane by nearly 25% and substantial reduction in input cost and vulnerability due to lesser use of water and fertilizers. In addition, innovation like vegetable cultivation along with sugarcane cultivation as intercrop in 5 numbers of villages on pilot basis has not only diversified the cropping pattern, but also added the food availability at household level with more options of income.