No less than 12 districts of Punjab and Haryana — the biggest contributors to the food basket of India covering three lakh acres of farmland of 50,000 farmers in 300 villages — has resulted in over 84 per cent reduction in stubble burning this season. Thanks to the Crop Residue Management (CRM) project — a community-driven initiative of CII Foundation launched initially in 19 villages in 2018, covering 16,000 acres of farmland in Punjab under its ‘Cleaner Air, Better Life’ initiative.
Under the project, the farmers are advised and supported to adopt the environment-friendly alternatives through interventions focused on creating awareness about the hazards of stubble burning, offering them viable alternatives, and supporting them in adopting those viable alternatives, said the spokesperson for the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII).
In 2021, the project covered 226 villages and two lakh acres and resulted in 84 per cent reduction in stubble burning in the intervened farmlands.
Sharing his experience by adopting ecological techniques for handling residue, a marginal farmer with 2.5 acres in Mandour village in Nabha block of Patiala district Gurdarshan Singh said that he had been burning 100 per cent of the stubble due to the lack of knowledge of the alternatives to handle stubble. In 2020, he got associated with the CII Foundation's Crop Residue Burning initiative and hasn't burned stubble since then.
As a small-scale farmer, he said that he could not afford to purchase the required machinery. Earlier, he was spending close to Rs 2,800 per acre on managing stubble, which was a drain on his already-meagre resources.
After associating with the crop residue management project, he started utilizing machines from the Tool Bank and underwent training provided by the project. The knowledge, along with the availability and affordability of agricultural tools has helped him tremendously.
Gurdarshan has been making savings of Rs 1,000 per acre on crop residue management and said that the air in the village feels much fresher and more breathable now.
Asking farmers for a behavioural change, Rajesh Kumar, 36, a farmer with five acres of farm in Dholu village of Fatehabad district in Haryana, learnt about the crop residue management initiative in 2019.
He began participating to learn more about the alternatives to stubble burning and the support the CII Foundation could offer. As a marginal farmer with limited financial means, Rajesh found the Tool Bank very useful. He could now easily access advanced agriculture tools needed to manage paddy waste such as Superseeder and Rotavator, which were unaffordable earlier.
With this assistance, Kumar decided to treat the paddy stubble ex-situ. He claimed that the Happy Seeder, Mulcher, Zero Till, and MB Plough have all been very useful in managing crop residue.
Enumerating the success story, CII Foundation CEO Seema Arora said that CII is working to bring industry resources, both financial and technical, to support community initiatives at the grassroots.
This has helped popularize alternate technological solutions among farmers. In the villages where CII is working, incidents of stubble burning have drastically reduced. Other farmers are learning from the experience, creating a positive cycle of change, she added.