September 2018

Turning farming into fortune

Like many other farmers in Vidarbha, Gajanan and Subhash were also facing a financial crunch. Their economic conditions began improving after the Trusts intervened through the Sukhi Baliraja Initiative (SBI), and introduced them to sustainable agriculture practices

Gajanan produced six tonnes of ash gourd within a span of four months with a profit of Rs19,390

Gajanan Mahadevrao Dhaskat, a farmer in Shendola village of the region, used to cultivate crops like cotton, soya bean and red gram with a few returns. When asked about his situation, he says, “Since ages, my family had been practising conventional farming. But I began realising that if I wanted my profits to increase, I had to switch to sustainable farming techniques involving fewer inputs and more of technology and innovation.” Around this time, Perfect Harvest Farmer Producer Company Limited, formed under Sukhi Baliraja Initiative (SBI), introduced the farmers in his village to ash gourd farming. The idea was to help them increase their profits. Through meetings and discussions, a few farmers agreed to plant ash gourd on a trial basis, and Gajanan was one of them.

Advocating the ash gourd farming , Gajanan explains, “The SBI team informed me about the high yielding property and commercial value of this vegetable. Hence, I decided to try and cultivate it on one acre of my land. The first step was to make beds and provide fertiliser as per the pre-determined model. After few days of cultivation, I also undertook weed management.” In addition to this, Gajanan followed the recommended practices on fertilizer, water management and pest management as directed by the agriculture experts who visited the fields regularly. As a result, he produced around six tonnes of ash gourd within a span of four months. The total expenditure incurred was Rs12,200, with a profit of Rs19,390. Today, Shendola village stands as a perfect example of taking a remarkable step forward towards innovation, diversification, and sustainable agriculture.

Similarly, SBI’s intervention has helped the farmers earn more profits in other villages too. Subhash Babarao Dhangar belongs to a farming household in Fattapur village of Vidarbha region. He has inherited five acres of farmland on which he cultivates cotton, soya bean and red gram. Talking about his farming business, Subhash shares, “For the last 10 years, I had been farming with the same conventional ways like my father. However, in the end, I used to be left with no profit as the input cost was quite high. I realised that I will have to invest more in the farm and therefore, I laid pipes for drip irrigation on three acres of land. Despite this, I earned a meagre profit of Rs20,000 which was not sufficient to support my family and other agriculture needs.”

With sustainable agriculture practices, Subhash produces one and half times more cotton as compared to conventional farming methods

Subhash’s story was no different from that of any other farmer. The input cost in conventional farming is so high that the farmers are barely left with any profits. In 2015, the Trusts covered their village and chose 10 farmers, including Subhash, to work on a pilot basis. The SBI team conducted field camps, appointed a Krishidoot and held meetings with the farmers. They were trained on adopting sustainable agriculture practices which subsequently helped them reduce the input cost. Through the SBI team, Subhash learned about soil testing, seed treatment and pest management which were significant for cotton cultivation. His farm was selected as a demo plot where cotton was cultivated using all these methods. He happily shares, “The timely guidance from Krishidoot proved to very useful. There are around 60-70 cotton balls on each of my cotton plants, which means one and a half times rise in the produce. I will always be indebted to Tata Trusts for introducing me to sustainable agriculture practices.”

The Ner cluster, comprising of 34 villages in the region’s Yavatmal district, has also benefitted from SBI’s comprehensive livelihood sustainability programme. The villages have benefitted through the Trusts’ interventions like integrated pest management, community-based microfinance, rain water harvesting , and market development and linkages.