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INCOME GENERATING PROJECT FOR RURAL WOMEN RICE-DUCK-AZOLLA FARMING

A pilot project on RICE-DUCK-AZOLLA FARMING has been started at Rangagara, Duliajan by our Dibrugarh district coordinator, Mr Pulak Gogoi

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In many remote villages, women never belong wholly to themselves; they are the property of others throughout their lives. Their physical well-being – health, security and bodily integrity – is often beyond their own control. Where women have no control over money, childbearing may be the only marker of value available to women.Women work two-thirds of the world’s working hours. According to the United Nations Millennium Campaign we have to get rid of world poverty by the year 2015. The overwhelming majority of the labour that sustains life – growing food, cooking, raising children, caring for the elderly, maintaining a house, hauling water – is done by women, and universally this work is free.
Poverty is especially severe in our villages, where social services and infrastructure are limited. The majorities of those who live in rural areas are poor and depend on agriculture. About 90 percent of the food produced by marginal farmers cultivating tiny plots of land that depends on rainfall rather than irrigation systems. Across the district though they earn subsistence living but often go short of food, particularly during the pre-harvest period.We want to introduce micro entrepreneurship ‘Rice-duck-azolla cultivation’ model for poor village women. The present system of rice production requires the use of agro-chemicals such as fertilizers and pesticides, often in heavy doses. And it’s known to everybody that these chemicals particularly are harmful to the environment. Moreover, resource-poor farmers, i.e. the marginal farmers who have 6-8 months rice-provisioning ability and where both husband and wife are involved in the household affairs; often cannot afford to apply optimum doses of agro-chemicals to their rice crops to get the desired crop.

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Background History of Rice Duck Azolla Farming:

Takao Furuno, a Japanese farmer has developed and disseminated a sustainable, integrated organic rice and duck farming system. This method significantly increases yields and has been replicated in thousands of locations across Asia. Rather than using chemicals, Furuno introduces ducks into rice paddies to fertilize and strengthen rice seedlings and protect them from pests and weeds. This process boosts farmers' incomes and decreases their workload, while reducing environmental damage and increasing food security.
In the next three decades, population growth will lead to a 70% increase in the demand for rice. The Green Revolution, which increased food yields through intensive monocropping and use of inorganic fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides, is recognized today as unsustainable and environmentally unsound. Annual increases in the use of chemical fertilizers now outstrip the growth of rice yields, causing declining incomes and intensifying rural to urban migration. Alternative systems are necessary. In the mid 1970s, Takao Furuno, a high-spirited farmer who had been influenced by Rachel Carson's Silent Spring, was determined to turn his farm organic. Furuno spent ten years doing the backbreaking work of pulling out weeds by hand. In 1988, he came upon a traditional practice of using aigamo ducks to protect rice. The ducks eat insects, pests and snails. They also use their feet to dig up weeds, in the process oxygenating the water and strengthening the roots of rice plants. Furuno lovingly calls this method the "duck effect" and his farm yields have soared.
Furuno's duck-rice system is the result of continuous study of a natural symbiotic relationship after years of trial and error adjustments. One season, disease destroyed his entire crop. For three years, dogs ate Furuno's ducks until he got the idea to install electric fences. Furuno has identified the optimal age at which ducklings should be released into rice fields, the number that should be introduced per tenth of hectare and the moment when ducks should be removed. Through experimentation, he discovered that the addition of certain fish (loaches) and a nitrogen-fixing weed (azolla) to the field boosted rice and duck growth. In addition, Furuno has successfully marketed duck rice, which now sells at a 20-30% premium over conventionally grown rice in Japan and other countries. Today, his 3.2-hectare farm gives him an income of US$ 160,000 a year from producing rice, organic vegetables, eggs and ducklings.

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