Farmers themselves spread better cultivation practices

Sundar Borude in the central Indian state of Maharashtra has become a grass roots advocate for the joint IKEA and WWF project and a role model to his neighbours. Like many local farmers, he used to struggle to live off the land. The change began three years ago when he contacted a local agricultural resource centre.

“I wanted advice on how to improve my profits – the environment wasn’t my first concern. But I learned a lot about sustainable farming, and when this project started I was asked to be a master trainer to help spread good practices to farmers in my village.”

He has set a good example for others by putting his knowledge to good use at his own farm: “I have not increased the use of chemical fertilisers, pesticides and water use, despite increasing the number of plants per acre. Now my neighbours want to learn how to do the same.”

Increased profit has also allowed Sundar to invest in a drip irrigation system: “Drip irrigation is more effective than the old way of flooding the entire field – most of the water would be lost as run-off, taking nutrients with it. Now plants get water when and where it’s needed. Nothing is wasted.”

Sundar Borude’s results and practical advice help convince even sceptical neighbours that you can get a better harvest and more profit using less water and chemicals.

Field experiments are complemented with classroom training for farmers who want to learn how to pass on their knowledge to other farmers in their villages.

Spraying with chemicals is expensive and dangerous, but farmers spray because a pest attack can ruin a year’s work. Sundar Borude teaches them how to recognise beneficial and harmful insects early, and spray with safe plant extracts instead.

Pheromone traps help farmers keep an eye on the type and numbers of insects in the fields in order to prevent unnecessary pesticide spraying.

Ancient knowledge about compost and manure is being revived, reducing the need for costly artificial fertilisers. Adding organic matter to the soil can also reduce the need for watering.

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