Village Saida in Risiya block, Bahraich District, eastern Uttar Pradesh, is dominated by the Muslim community. Vegetable farming does not exist in this area except in kitchen and rooftop gardens, for private consumption. Paddy, maize, wheat and pigeon pea are the main crops.
Varsati, a marginal farmer, has 1.4 acres of land where he grows paddy, wheat and maize. He sustains a family of nine members including his wife, four sons and three daughters-in-law. His sons are casual labourers and do not contribute much to the household income. Varsati is not afraid to experiment with new techniques, or to try out new crops in a small scale. And so, he decided to use 0.08 acres of his plot to demonstrate ‘machan’ cultivation with turmeric and bitter gourd being the selected crops.
‘Machan’ cultivation (or ‘multi-tier’ system) involves the simultaneous growing of multiple crops on the same land to fully utilise vertical growing spaces. The combination of the crops has to be scientifically decided. The system has the potential to scale up the productivity of small farms.
Varsati cultivated 4.28qts of bitter gourd, earning Rs7,000 from its sale, and 2.34qts of turmeric, which earned him Rs2,800, bringing his gross income to Rs9,800. Cultivation costs came up to Rs2,150. His net income was therefore Rs7,650. If he continued with machan cultivation on the rest of his land, Varsati could earn a respectable income of Rs95,000 per acre.
Varsati was traditionally growing pigeon pea in the same plot of land, investing Rs800, and earning Rs3,500. But pigeon peas take 10 months to mature, and provides him a one-time income every nine or ten months. However, Varsati earns a better income (Rs7,650) at more regular intervals (every five months) from machan cultivation of vegetables. This has increased Varsati’s confidence and he has decided to expand the area under machan cultivation and cultivate vegetables throughout the year.