Standing in his millet field, Narayan Singh Dangwal, 55 years old farmer of Sunkiya village in Dhori block of Nainital district of Uttarkhand, shows his crops with smile as this year he expects a good price of his produce. Singh and fellow villagers of Budhibana areas where their farms are spread over long-streched hilly terrains and nestled in the foothills of the Himalayas continue with traditional farming with some innovations. Innovations include technological interventions in the forms of good quality seeds, training, poly houses for vegetables and choice of crops according to their needs. Farmers of Sunkia, Budhibana, Majira-Pokhar and Chakhuta-Silang villages, surrounding areas of Muktheswar prefer multiple cash crops and vegetables to face volatility of the market and by doing this they have turned around farming as a lucrative enterprise.
Challenges are many for these farmers. Water is a major problem and that is why they opt for crops which consume less water. Market linkage is yet another big challenge. High transportation cost in hilly areas and siphoning off a considerable portion of margins by Haldwaini Mandi’s middlemen at times leave them very disheartened. They look for the government’s agency and NGOs for support in terms of technical knowledge and market linkages.
Traditional Versus Hybrid Millets
Narayan Singh of Sunkiya shows his terraced fields of Millets known as Madwa and Madira. He uses both traditional as well as hybrid seeds of Proline and Swarna companies. However, he says farmers mainly prefer traditional seeds as they fetches good price at markets with less input cost.
“Hybrid seeds are expensive. We get it at the rate of Rs 120-130 per kg but traditional seeds we do not have to buy from market as we produce it of our own. So farmers save input cost here and traditional millets are of good quality and shining,” says Narayan Singh.
Fellow Villager Madan Singh, 45, also shares similar views saying that millet is the main crop here and with good seeds, technical knowledge related to soil and agri-practices from NGOs like Gene Campaign and Chirag, farmers are getting good produce.
“Apart from millets, we are growing vegetables and fruits as well. Potato, Cabbage, Caspicum, Green Chilli, Apricot, Pears among others are being produced by us. With the help of Uttarakhand Agriculure Department and Horticulture Mission, we have set up poly houses for vegetables and floriculure at a very subsidised cost and it has really helped us to produce more in a scientific manner,” Madan Sigh explains while showing his crops and vegetables.
Nearly six kilo meter away from Budhibana, in Dhori block’s village Chakhuta Roop Singh, 56, has transformed the way farming is done in his areas. Not only he himself switched over to use of organic fertilisers and farming but trained several groups of over 35 nearby villages. At his vermipost centre, he narrates his modern and organic farming.
“Sometime back I realised that our fertile soil has become completely infertile, leading to a disaster for any kind of farming. Soil was becoming infertile and use of chemical fertiliser was increasing therefore a higher input cost. So I switched over to vermipost and set up 8 pits here. Now from one pit to another, within four months, I get the required organic fertiliser for the whole season,” Roop Singh says while showing his vermipost located backside of his house in village Chakhuta.
To train next generation, he has been associated with NGOs like Gene Campaign and Chirag as resource person to guide farmers of areas about not only his techniques but about his new experiments of weeding etc,
Singh is an experimenting farmer and so far trained farmers of 35 villages. “ I tell people about dangers of chemical fertilisers and what future awaits us if we continue to use that. Thankfully, we are getting some support from Agriculture and Horticulture department, only thing is that the support needs to be scaled up,” he suggests.
“I want that all farmers of the area should get facilities like poly houses, vermipost etc from the government so that gradually we can create an organic market,” Roop Singh emphasises.
Fellow villager Kishan Bhist has a poly house for vegetable, set up with the subsidy by the government. “ Gene Campaign trained us about the agro climate conditions with regard to crops and vegetables and we are following their guidance. Now we are producing, apart from traditional crops like millet, vegetable like Brinjal, Potato, Capsicum among others and getting good price from the market.
Bhist has set up a nursery and with a water tank in the field he is able to good sapplings and seeds for variety of crops and vegetable. “ I do this for myself and also to sell in the market,” he says.
Young Farmers : Striving for profitable enterprise
Only three kilometer down the hill from Roop Singh’s village, Majira- Pokhar village tells about the struggle of a young and post graduate farmer Pawan Dhaila who has transformed farming into a profitable enterprise only with 1.5 Nali ( 300 Square Meter) area. Now he is looking for some land on lease to scale up his farming. He has ambitious plans for the next season.
Standing at a point overlooking the village’s fields, Dhaila says “Our area is known for vegetables and fruits as well. The best thing is that we produce these when there is off-season in the most part of Northern India. Since last three years, I am producing potato, Cabbage, Millet, Capsicum, Rosemary, pears. Multiple crops and vegetables save us from volatility of the market.”
With the support of the government’s subsidy nearly 30 per cent of villagers have set up poly houses and these have made the enterprise profitable. Dhaila says that this need to scaled up.
“For next year, I am planning to take some land on lease. Moreover I am also trying to form a group 8-10 farmers for volume and scale. My success has inspired young farmers here and they are not fleeing but striving for better produce. Hopefully, we will set some cooperative with the help of NGOs. Women Farmers Groups are also active and we all together would find better way to deal with our biggest challenge-that is marketing,” Dhaila says.
Marketing linkages are the most critical part of this hilly areas. Transportation costs are high. Reaching Haldwani market takes lot of time and cost. Middlemen squeeze their profits. Majority of farmers interviewed by Rural Marketing say that sometimes with high input cost and low price at markets deprived them all profit.
“If we could send our produce directly to Delhi market or other bigger markets directly from here we can better double of price what we get at Haldwani. But that is not happening and unless that happens, it would be difficult to sustain farming for long,” Dhaila says.
“Currently I am sending my produce to some parties in Delhi to get better price and from the next season onwards we will try to send them directly to all our group’s or cooperative’s produce. That is only way out for us,” he adds.