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Dr Harinder Lamba, Co-Founder and Secretary of a US-based NGO, PAGRI (Punjab Agricultural Rejuvenation Initiative) held parleys with Dr Satbir Singh Gosal, Vice-Chancellor of Punjab Agricultural University, Ludhiana to discuss the modalities to support small and marginal farmers of Punjab. The meeting was held in the presence of Dr Sukhpal Singh, Chairman, Punjab State Farmers’ and Farm Workers’ Commission; Dr Milkha Singh Aulakh, Founder Vice-Chancellor, Banda University of Agriculture and Technology, Banda, Uttar Pradesh; Dr Gurkanwal Singh, Ex-Director Horticulture and Er. Rajesh Vashisht, Ex-Director, Agriculture, Punjab.

Outlining the mission of PAGRI, Dr Lamba stated that the NGO is devoted to improving the income and social conditions of farmers and rural areas with long-term sustainable strategies. He explained that the NGO’s two-fold strategy of adopting high-value organically grown crops and cost-cutting in consonance with agro-processing facilities, education, and equipment and marketing support would enhance farmers’ income, tackle sustainability issues of soil and water, mitigate the effects of climate change and ensure nutritional security. He sought technical help from PAU, especially in Faridkot and Gurdaspur, where the NGO plans to adopt some small and marginal farmers.

Assuring all possible help to improve the plight of the farmers, Dr S.S. Gosal suggested Integrated Farming System (IFS) for the small and marginal farmers which provides income round the year in addition to meeting the domestic needs (cereals, vegetables, oilseeds, pulses, fruits, and milk). The combination of crop cultivation, dairy farming, kitchen gardening, and other secondary components can be adopted depending on the location. Sustained production, cost-effectiveness, meeting diverse requirements of farm households, optimal resource utilization, waste material recycling, sufficient remuneration, and livelihood security of resource-deficient farmers are the added bonus, he revealed.

Dr Sukhpal Singh felt that such an initiative would align with the objective of the state’s agricultural policy which is being formulated to increase farmers’ income while providing for ecological and economic sustainability and agriculture productivity. Mr. Vashisht advocated the need to branch out from water-guzzling paddy cultivation to other crops to arrest the decline of the underground water table. Dr Gurkanwal Singh backed fruit cultivation as an answer to crop diversification. Dr M.S. Aulakh was in favour of climate-smart agriculture that achieves the triple win of increased productivity, enhanced resilience, and reduced emissions.

Dr Lamba later visited the School of Organic Farming to look at the various components like dairy, fishery, goatry, vegetables, horticulture, protected cultivation, biogas, etc., of Integrated Farming model. Dr Sohan Singh Walia, Director of the School, showed him the low-cost technology of protecting fish from birds and explained the recycling process where output of one component is used as input of the other. The visitor was very appreciative of the bio-fencing initiative where fencing is done with thorny plants like karonda, the fruit of which is also saleable. PAU and PAGRI would soon be chalking out trainings for the farmers in the IFS system where PAGRI can provide the farmers initial financial support.

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