Balconagar; 19th July 2023: Bharat Aluminium Company Limited (BALCO), India’s iconic aluminium producer and a subsidiary of Vedanta Aluminium has brought additional joy to farmers during the festival of Hareli, by offering them free, comprehensive training on the System of Rice Intensification (SRI), which promises improved crop yields with reduced inputs. Under its Project Mor Jal Mor Maati, the company has empowered over 600 farmers with sustainable, efficient rice cultivation practices, ensuring increased yields and improved livelihoods for farming communities.
The Hareli festival in Chhattisgarh, widely known as the ‘Rice Bowl of India,’ celebrates the start of the agricultural cycle, especially focused on rice cultivation. It holds immense importance for small and marginal farmers, who engage in ‘Ropai’ – planting young rice seedlings in their fields, heralding the arrival of the monsoon.
As a water-guzzling crop, rice cultivation requires the transplanting of its seedlings. Rice growers in the region often rely on manual transplanting of seedlings to control weeds in wet conditions. Conventional methods with randomized seed dispersion lead to competition with weeds, hampering yields by forcing the saplings to compete for resources, and also cause pest and disease issues, causing huge losses to the farmers.
To protect farmers from these preventable losses, BALCO has, in partnership with the Action for Food Production (AFPRO), trained farmers on the System for Rice Intensification, which serves as a sustainable and science-based approach to rice production, focused on maximizing yields. Under SRI, the farmers were taught to transplant young single seedlings in a carefully spaced grid pattern, ensuring optimal growth conditions and quality cultivation.
They were also made aware of the importance of straight rows that led to effective weed management, offering space for hand and rotary weeding. More than 600 participant farmers have adopted this system that reduced farming duration with usage of younger seedlings, and water usage with maintaining most soil, not constant flooding. The adoption of SRI into farming practices by these farmers will lead to enhanced productivity in over 600 acres of agricultural land.
Appreciating the efforts made under Mor Jal Mor Maati, Mr. Rajesh Kumar, CEO, and Director, of BALCO, said, “At BALCO, we are focused on empowering farmers and thereby fostering community growth. Through the introduction of modern agricultural practices like the System of Rice Identification (SRI) technique, we provide farmers with essential knowledge, resources, and sustainable methods. Our ongoing support of the farming community through technical assistance, and educational initiatives, is a testament of our commitment to the betterment of the farmers. We also aim to make a tangible impact on the lives of local communities, through interventions encompassing education, healthcare, and infrastructure development, in addition to agriculture and sustainable livelihoods.”
BALCO’s Mor Jal, Mor Maati project reaches out to over 2,400 farmers, covering more than 1,400 acres of land in 32 villages. More than 70% of farmers have adopted modern agriculture techniques under this project such as System of Rice Intensification (SRI), trellis, organic farming, climate resilient cropping, vegetable & wheat cultivation, etc. Around 15% of the farmers are engaged in livelihood diversification activities like animal husbandry, horticulture & non-timber forest produce. The project intervention has led to an increase in their average annual income along with an increase in production by almost 50% and a reduction in input costs by 40%.
Bharat Aluminium Company Limited (BALCO) is India’s iconic aluminium producer. It is owned 51% by Vedanta Limited and 49% by the Government of India and. BALCO is part of Vedanta’s Aluminium Business, a division of Vedanta Limited, which is India’s largest manufacturer of aluminium. BALCO operates a 0.57 million tonne per annum aluminium smelter in Korba, Chhattisgarh. It is also a leader in value-added aluminium products that find critical applications in core industries. With its world-class smelter and power plants, the company fulfills its mission of spurring emerging applications of aluminium as the ‘Metal of the Future’ for a greener tomorrow.