Today even common farmers who have an alternate option for employment, skip farming activities. However, there are some sons-of-the-soil take time for agriculture from their busy schedule. One of them is successful Bollywood actor NAWAZUDDIN SIDDIQUI. Not only he is engaged in farming but also bringing technologies to the Indian agriculture sector and making farmers aware of their benefits. One of these technologies is water efficient CENTER PIVOT IRRIGATION which is yet to be officially introduced in India. The actor talks to MOHD MUSTAQUIM about his revolutionary step and zeal for agriculture
How do you view the agricultural scenario in India?
I belong to Western Uttar Pradesh’s Budhana in Muzaffarnagar district where the soil is too fertile, thus any crop can be grown. As I have been into farming since my childhood, it was a big shock for me to have known that my area has been declared as ‘dark zone’ five years ago due to rapid depletion of groundwater. Earlier, water was available below 80 feet but today we have to do 450 feet deep boring. It is very scary that the area is now dark zone which earlier had abundant groundwater.
Our generation would pass on but what would we leave for the next generation? Water is going to be a big issue in the future. There was a war like situation in Marathwada this year due to drought. We should wake up for the future. When we extract water from deep down through boring, the electricity consumption increases, and a big amount of that precious water gets wasted in conventional method of irrigation.
How did you encounter the Centre Pivot Irrigation system?
When I was attending Cannes Film Festival in May, had cinema lover French friends who were actually farmers. They invited me to visit their farms. They had very interesting irrigation system, Center Pivot Irrigation. A system covers around one bigha (0.62 acre) farm. The system showers water on the crop through sprinklers onto leaves, the roots get water through the leaves as per their requirement. When water comes from above through the leaves, it reaches to the roots of the plants directly. It is used efficiently and in fact saves around 75 percent water than the conventional method of irrigation.
When I returned from Cannes, prepared a sample and exhibited in front of the farmers in the surrounding area. About 95 percent of them agreed to its application. Whether it becomes successful in our fields or not, I am experimenting the system on one of my small tracts of 10 bighas where we grow vegetables. If my experiment gets successful, I would use the technology in my rest of the fields and will also support the neighbouring farmers to adopt it. Currently, we are farming in around 200 bighas of our family land, including my brothers. Each drop of water is precious, so we need to use it very efficiently. Not even a single drop should be wasted.
Despite being a successful actor, what interest pulls you towards agriculture? Agriculture is in my blood. My forefathers were farmers, I am a son of farmer. It was my father’s dream to continue farming. Before moving to Mumbai, I have been doing farming for around 20-25 years. My family, including my cousins are holding around 500 to 600 bighas of land. In the smallest tract which is around 10-15 bighas, we grow vegetables, on another tract, we grow sugarcane and wheat and other crops.
What is the operational cost of the technology?
It would be too early to comment on this. It is just in the initial stage. I am just bringing the technology. Let the process gets completed. Maybe, after one year I would be able to analyze the operational cost. But, the cost is expected to be low as a system made for one bigha of land can be used in other fields also on rotational basis. The system I am going to use just for saving water. Thus, if the cost increases, I would bear it and support the farmers of my surrounding area too. The farmers should get the benefit of the technology. It is my responsibility to make the farmers aware and how the things can be corrected from a dark zone.
As the area has been declared dark zone, do you have any plan for water conservation?
In western Uttar Pradesh, there is no trend of water conservation. People are totally unaware of it. They extract groundwater through tube-wells, sometimes they get water from canals. But, the dark side is that the canals are there but they run out of water most of the time. First, I am focusing on efficient usage of water through Centre Pivot Irrigation system. Of course, my next step would be water conservation. But, for that I would need technological know-how for which I would work on later. After getting the know-how I would educate the farmers there so that they can conserve rainwater and use it efficiently. Farmers in my place doing farming on the way our forefathers had been doing. I want them to adopt modern way of farming.
What challenges did you face while bringing the technology to your field?
The challenge is the investment which a common farmer may not be able to afford. But, if we work jointly and use the system on rotational basis as crops do not need water everyday, it can ease the problem. A farmer who has the system, can lend it on custom hiring to other farmers. It would make the system affordable for them.
There are other water efficient technologies like drip irrigation and sprinkler irrigation available in India, so what was the rationale behind adopting Central Pivot Irrigation?
The biggest benefit of this technology is that it rotates easily and can be moved from one field to other field easily. The other technologies cannot be shifted to other farms. They have to be fixed at one farm and you need a separate investment for others. Our farmers may not afford the system at every field but they can use a single Center Pivot Irrigation system in many fields as it runs on big wheels.
What challenges do you see in front of India’s agriculture?
Farmers are lacking the knowledge on many fronts. As I am an educated person, I am sending my brother to workshops. My focus is to double farm production of all neighbouring farmers by efficient usage of resources. I am analyzing the right methods for doubling farm production. The big problem with the farmers in western UP is that there is a rat race. When a farmer sows wheat, all would do it, when a farmer sows sugarcane, all would go with sugarcane. This mentality should be changed. There should be mixed farming for better soil and water management. There are some plants which increase the soil fertility if they are sown at the boundaries of the fields. They should also grow horticulture products like fruits and vegetables. Farmers should cultivate as per the soil texture. It would double their benefits.