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Helping farmers rebuild life
Business-standard.com - 05 Apr 2006

Chandrasekhar 

Farmers of drought-prone villages of western Prakasam district and fishermen of eastern coastal villages, who were hit by the tsunami, have picked up the thread of life and are getting on with life. Making it all happen are the innovative schemes of the ITC-ILTD Division. The division has implemented watershed and wasteland development scheme, Agri Input Business Concept and other innovative schemes in these villages. The schemes have now been extended to Vinjamur in Nellore district and Vinukonda in Guntur district.

S Janardhan Reddy, chief executive officer (CEO), ILTD Division, told Business Standard that the tobacco major had spent Rs 1.7 crore on these schemes while the farmers contributed Rs 77 lakh. The scheme covered 52 villages of eight mandals, benefiting 2,100 families. Farmers harvested rainwater, stored it in various structures and irrigated cash crops in 14,000 acres. ITC with the help of Kandukur-based Society for National Integration through Rural Development (SNIRD) and Vadarevu-based Chaitanaya Development Society, constructed 57 percolation tanks, 358 farm ponds, 57 nallabunds (checkdams) and 2,200 metres of field trenches. These structures have created 80 lakh cubic metres of additional water storage in the district.

The company was promoting casuarina plantations in 770 acres of wasteland to provide alternate livelihood to fishermen along the Chirala coast and subabul plantations as an alternative crop in 2,400 acres of saline black and red soils in Kandukur division. It funded Rs 1,400 per acre for casuarina and Rs 1,000 per acre for subabul, Reddy said. A Subabul Producers’ Association has also been formed with farmers in the Kandukur division. After harvesting and sale of crop, the cumulative interest amount on ITC loans will go to the association and not to the ITC. These will, in turn, be used to strengthen the agri business. Subabul is being raised in 37 villages – 7 in Lingasamudram madal, 3 in VVpalem (3 villages), 5 in Kanigiri, and 20 in Ponnalur mandal.

Reddy said the company was also developing Vijayalakshmipuram, which was destroyed by tsunami, as a model village in Andhra under the Agri Input Business Concept. After tsunami, ITC provided loans to the members of the Sagar Fishermen’s Society at 6 per cent non-returnable interest. The farmers were divided into 10 groups and each group was provided Rs 10,000 each. The society group leaders purchase all quality agro inputs in bulk, saving transport cost incurred by individuals and checking meddling. Last year, they sold a whole lot of village groundnut crop to a single buyer, earning Rs 2.25 lakh.