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Tagged as one of the least developed states, Odisha has seen some improvements in recent years. Yet, more needs to be done to reduce widespread rural poverty and improve health and nutrition indicators. Smallholder agriculture remains a key social and economic sector. Improving the productivity and family nutrition in the over 4 million small farms will still be a  priority in raising Odisha's human development indicators in the coming years.

4.66 million -Number of holdings in Odisha in the last 2011 census (91.2% have less than 2 hectares)

72% - Percentage of holdings of less than one hectare in Odisha

1,408 mm - Annual rainfall in Khorda district of Odisha

39.2% - Share of population living below the poverty line in Odisha [2009 data]

67% - Share of kharif cropped area planted to rice in Odisha

General context
Located on the eastern coast of India, Odisha has been tagged as one of the lagging Indian States. Even though both rural and urban poverty have fallen drastically in recent years (39.2% of the rural population lived under the poverty line in 2009-10 as against 60.8% in 2004-05), health and poverty indicators are still among the worst.

Over 4.6 million rural households depend on farming (62% of the workforce are cultivators or agricultural workers as per the latest statistics). Odisha suffers regularly from extreme climate incidents like the drought in 2011 and  cyclone "Phailin" in October 2013 which caused serious damage in 19 out of 30 districts, affecting about 13.2 million people. These recurrent events take a toll on Odisha's already low agricultural productivity; over three-quarters of the cropped area is rainfed. About 31% of the major crop area is irrigated as against an India average of 44% (2006-07).

Nine farmers out of ten have less than 2 hectares of land. Rice is the main crop covering two-thirds of the fields during the kharif season, while pulses are the dominant rabi crop. One major constraint in improving agricultural production is inadequate and erratic irrigation facilities. The use of fertilizer, improved seeds and other inputs is lower than the Indian average even though access to modern technologies is improving. Women's empowerment remains a key issue as a third of girl children continue facing discrimination in health care, education and nutrition.

ICRISAT research in Odisha

ICRISAT works with Bubhaneswar Agricultural University and other partners in Odisha to address the many challenges of farmers. Identification of stress-prone agricultural zones through remote-sensing techniques, improving access to stress-tolerant crop varieties and promoting crop diversification are among the strategies being adopted to improve smallholder farmers' climate resilience.

A better understanding of the poverty dynamics helps provide the right policy advice to improve Odisha's social and economic indicators. Under the Village Dynamics in South Asia project, extensive social studies on the drivers of change in family economics are being carried out in 4 villages since 2010, in Bolangir and Dhenkanal districts. 

Crop research focuses in particular on pulses, the key staple of the rural poor. High-yielding and adapted improved varieties of pigeonpea, chickpea and groundnut are promoted through farmer-participatory varietal selection trials.  

Pulses yields are particularly low (415 kg/ha) in Odisha, particular due to the non-availability of good quality seed. A large section of farmers in the rainfed upland ecosystems of Odisha have remained isolated from improved cultivars and management practices of pigeonpea. There is great potential for the expansion of high-yielding, short and medium duration pigeonpea varieties and hybrids in these rainfed areas. Through the one village-one variety seed production approach, improved varieties like Asha, Maruti, ICP 7035 and ICPL 88039 are promoted, for instance as a rotation crop in rice fallows and in intercropping. 

Research on scaling up sustainable practices in natural resources management is being carried out with rural communities of the Mayurbhanj model watershed

Under the Village Dynamics in South Asia  project, extensive social studies are carried out in 4 villages in Odisha: Villaikani and Anlatunga villages in Bolangir district and Sogar and Chandrasekharpur villages in Dhenkanal district.
Raising crop intensity through intercropping (here pigeonpea is intercropped with cotton) and rotation in rice fallow lands.