Integrated Farming System is a holistic approach to mix plant cultivation with other components of farming like fisheries or poultry breeding. For example, a wheat+duck-rearing+fish production ecosystem. The wheat residues are fed to the ducks, whose droppings act as food for the fishes, thus improving the production of fishes. This system of farming serves a dual purpose of increasing the farmer’s income and improving the sustainability of the environment. Suppose if a farmer has 1 hectare of land, he can use 0.78 ha for growing rice, 0.14 ha for horticultural purposes, 0.8 ha for fish-farming, 2 cows and 11 goats for dairy purposes, 25 ducks, and the boundaries planted with fruit trees, he will get produce worth Rs.13,000 per month in the least, which may increase up to Rs.57,000 as some years go by.
- In this farming system, several activities are being done simultaneously, and the produce of one can be used as the input for another. This decreases the dependence on the chemical-based fertilizers and ensures the low-cost production of the commodities. Thus, this can be also linked to the reduced debt burden of the farmers.
- We can see that soil health improves naturally, but significantly through recycling in the process.
- There is a scope of risk reduction for the farmers: Income from eggs, meat, fish and milk can act as a buffer in case of adverse weather or during a pest or disease act.
- Eggs, milk, and meat also serve as additional sources of protein to the farmer’s family.
- Most importantly, every farming household becomes self-reliant in 6F’s (food, fodder, feed, fibre, fuel, fertilizer).
While integrated farming systems provide increased incomes and nutritional security to the farmers, however, there are some challenges associated with it too:
- Financial constraints: Small and marginal farmers cannot afford large cattle. Their maintenance costs quite a fortune. So small ruminants are recommended to such households.
- Non-agricultural practices like mushroom farming and beekeeping are not covered under the minimum support price system by the government. Therefore, these sectors require integration with the various food processing units and hotel industries.
- Improved extension services: Extension services aim at the transfer to knowledge and techniques from lab to land. There may be public extension workers or private ones. They are thus required to disseminate skills and help in the capacity building of the farmers.
If the aforementioned challenges are taken into account and acted upon, the Integrated Farming System can greatly help to double the goal of the Government to double the farmers’ income by 2022. It will also prove to be a crucial tool in the fulfillment of SDG No.2 which intends to accomplish its goal of ‘Zero hunger’ by 2030.
Images provided by Hilal Mohamed/ Malappuram, Kerala, INDIA.