Odisha Pulse Mission
By Ashutosh Sarker
Odisha, India – At the heart of the collaboration between ICARDA and the government of Odisha in eastern India is the “Odisha Pulse Mission.” The aim of this project is to enhance nutritional security by encouraging farmers to grow their own pulses and explore myriad benefits of this crop. In the past two years, Odisha Pulse Mission has targeted 144 villages whose food security is often fragile. ICARDA and its local partners have promoted lentil, grasspea, chickpea, mung bean, and black gram to help them adapt to climate change and improve nutrition.
Developing customized solutions and technologies
From governmental institutions to non-governmental organizations and farmers, stakeholders at all levels in the eastern states of Odisha and West Bengal have been engaged in this effort. Odisha Pulse Mission is funded by the Government of Odisha and endorsed by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research. The project comprises a wide range of activities, including the application of technologies that have been developed by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research. Other activities included the introduction of improved pulse varieties and production technologies, the establishment of seed systems, the formation of farmers’ organizations, and empowerment of female farmers through new knowledge.
ICARDA has carried out this project with its longtime partners: the Odisha’s Department of Agriculture and Farmers’ Empowerment, West Bengal’s State department of Agriculture, and the State Agricultural Universities. Together, they have also promoted legumes as part of sustainable rice-based production systems, entailing sequential cropping of rice and legumes, which means the legumes grow after rice harvest.
The potential to scale out
The results are promising. With wide geographical coverage area of the project an estimated 50,000 individuals have benefitted from the project. The interventions have paved the way for future efforts to enhance food and nutritional security in the region. The potential for scaling out this model to other vulnerable communities is significant. Based on the experience form the past two years, this approach could be replicated in similar agro-ecologies and extended to areas of Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Uttar Pradesh, Assam, and Tripura states in east India.
During a workshop over the summer, more than 200 delegates came to Odisha to take stock of the multi-year project. Several high-level officials were also present, including Chief Secretary and Agricultural Commissioner Shri. Gagan Kumar Dhal and Principal Secretary Dr. Saurabh Garg, both from the Odisha’s Department of Agricultural and Farmers’ Empowerment.
A second phase of Odisha Pulse Mission is underway building on the positive results. It will take place in partnership with the Institute on Management of Agricultural Extension, Odisha University of Agriculture and Technology, and State Seed Corporation. Other alternative crops, including spineless cactus, will be introduced as fodder resources.
With this extension, ICARDA has reiterated its commitment to boost the resilience of farmers and farming systems in Odisha, using science-based innovations.
The project is managed by ICARDA’s senior scientist Ashutosh Sarker, Head of ICARDA’s Food Legume Research Platform and Coordinator of the South Asia and China Regional Program.