Soil mapping and variety-based entry-point interventions for strengthening agriculture-based livelihoods – exemplar case of ‘Bhoochetana’ in India
Soil health diagnosis in nearly 100,000 farmers’ fields under ‘Bhoochetana’ initiative in Karnataka showed widespread soil degradation. Soil mappingbased fertilizer management was an effective entrypoint intervention to take most farmers onboard to initiate the process of upgrading agriculture. Soils of the farmers’ fields showed low levels of microand secondary nutrients such as zinc (Zn) (55%), boron (B) (62%) and sulphur (S) (52%) in addition to that of phosphorus (P) (41%), potassium (K) (23%) and soil organic carbon (C) (52%). Soil mappingbased fertilizer management recorded significant productivity benefits that varied from 25% to 47% in cereals, 28% to 37% in pulses and 22% to 48% in oilseed crops. In terms of economics, a rupee spent on soil testbased fertility management brought returns of Rs 3 to Rs 15. Similarly, the participatory trials showed that the use of high yielding varieties of sorghum, pearl millet, finger millet, groundnut, soybean, castor, pigeonpea and chickpea enhanced productivity by 30% to 123%. The tangible benefits through soil mapping and variety based interventions have enhanced the risktaking ability of farmers to invest in technologies based on use of soil testing and use of improved cultivars of crops. The adoption of simple knowledgebased technologies as entry point interventions along with policy reorientation to ensure knowledge sharing and availability of needed inputs at village level, enabled in a period of four years (2009–2013) to outreach more than 5 million families in Karnataka to transfer improved technologies in more than 7 million ha area. The study indicates that knowledgebased entry point interventions like soil mapping and improved varieties targeted at providing simple solutions are the best options for quick benefits and rapportbuilding with the majority farmers to initiate a collective action for technological upgradation of dry land agriculture.