Air, water and land are the basic amenities of life. But over population and rapid industrialisation have created a state of debauchery in the environment. Man has continuously fiddled with the nature. As a result a threat to his life has been increased, due to lack of healthy air, potable water and the imbalance established in the biosphere.
Earth is, perhaps, the only planet endowed with an environment and we all share it. Indiscriminate industrialisation has resulted in urban migration and slum development, which in turn resulted in degradation of environment.
Screening all these issues a young man with a foresight has developed a land amidst the smoke of pollution. To create a holistic environment through the understanding of various interrelationships that form an integral part of one’s life, Jay Kumar, a farmer by profession and a graduate from Bihar National College, Patna, has developed a land of 2.5 acres as a farm house at Shivala and eventually beyond his thoughts he has changed the climate of the area.
Kumar says, “I believe that if we the youth could initiate for the sustainable development in all spheres, everything would be possible. I never thought that this farm would bring me in the limelight. My vision of developing this farmhouse near Patna was to get rid of the dusty and polluted ambience.”
The farmhouse has a number of trees including guava, mango, lime, papaya, banana and several other fruits and vegetable plantations. It has been done in the fashion of integrated plantation. The trees of papaya, mango and guava are all planted in rows and with least scientific distance. One row of papaya consists of 100 trees while there are 8 rows of papaya plantations.
Identical to the papaya plantation, the mango and guava rows are also planted in the same style. Moreover, the lime trees are planted in 10 rows and each row consists of 150 trees.
“Trees are integral to our traditional farming system, for the innumerable benefits that they provide. However, over time, with shrinking land holdings, annual crops replaced trees for various reasons and people forgot to make plantations,” says Kumar.
He further says that with the climate change impacts being already felt, including trees in farming becomes more crucial than ever before. Also, trees considered as carbon sinks are one of the well known ways of reducing the global warming effects.
“The trees are catering the whole village with fruits of the season and even with vegetables at time and that also at subsidised rates. It is free for the children. Kumar is very emotional for even a patch of grass in his farm house,” says Saneesh Kumar, his neighbour.
The villagers also claim that the farm’s plantations and greenery have eased the mood of climate for them.
Enhancing the productivity from the available piece of land has been a continuous effort through integrated farming. The integration of the various interventions has already started bearing fruits, literally.
Likewise in Baladuan village of Keonjhar district adopted predominated by the SC, ST and OBC population. One of the interventions promoted by the consortium partner Central Horticultural Experiment Station, Bhubaneswar, is integrated aqua-horticulture on pond dikes and adjoining areas.
Purnachandra Das is one of the many farmers benefitted by this technological intervention and has now set an example by his uncanny success in the integrated aqua-horticulture in his couple of ponds. With an average educational qualification up to 10th standard, Das with a family of four members was formerly depended on single crop of rice.
The deliberations during one of the farmers’ meeting he was motivated to implement the aqua-horticulture system in less-utilised dike area of his couple of ponds. Being the part of the Self Help Group created for fruit and vegetable nursery, he could raise papaya seedlings of red lady variety in nursery from the seeds and planted 25 numbers of seedlings in his dike area with a plant to plant distance of 3mt.
After one year he got approximately 1 to 1.2 quintal papaya fruits per plant on an average. He harvested papaya fruits twice in the year and grossly he got 60 quintal papaya. He sold it in local haat and nearby markets for approx Rs 8 in rainy season and in summer Rs 6 per kg. Totally he got Rs 38,000 from papaya cultivation in his unutilised dike area of ponds excluding home consumption.
He also cultivated poi, bitter gourd, cucumber and earned Rs 8,000, Rs 5,000 and Rs 2,000 respectively. The candid utilisation of the dike area for economic gains through horticulture besides pisciculture has become a role model for farmers in the region.
Spreading the word
Today such kind of farmers are busy spreading the word of integrated farming throughout the country. Farmers from Bihar, Jharkhand, Orissa and Haryana are playing a lead role in the mission. The Haryana Kisan Welfare Club gives hands-on training on organic farming. Since most farmers cannot come to the district clubs, workshops are organised at village level. In February this year, a gathering of about 4,000 farmers was organised in Sonipat. The farmers concede that motivating government machinery towards integrating organic farming is a big task. “Jo sarak sarak kar chale who sarkar (The government is something that crawls along slowly),” casually remarks a farmer among the crowd.
But farmers are not waiting for government help. They have made integrated farming their mission. “I keep experimenting with various crops in my field. For instance, right now I am trying to grow a Chinese plant, which is 300 times sweeter than sugar but is cholesterol free. If I am successful in my venture, I will recommend it to others. Since the plant has medicinal value, it has a huge international market,” says Ramesh Chandra Swain, a farmer. Way back in 1987, Swain had introduced baby corn in Sonipat on a mere 0.40 ha plot. Today, almost 485 ha land in Sonipat is under baby corn cultivation.
With success come new challenges. The cost of organic food is priced higher than food grown with the use of chemicals. These farmers have tried to turn this adversity to his advantage. They make use of good marketing tactics to exploit the high premium on organic food. They also tied up with voluntary organisations that market organic food.
Another, problem for the farmers like Das is that India lacks a streamlined procedure for certifying organic foods. Also one kind of certificate is not valid for all countries. Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority is the nodal agency which addresses the issue of certification internationally. It has about 10 companies registered under it, of which only one is an Indian firm. A day’s visit of a company official costs about Rs 15,000. Which Indian farmer has so much money?” asks Das.
The Haryana Kisan Welfare Club has taken up this issue with the government, but without success. Finally it approached a Gurgaon-based private company for certification. The company should start work within a month. The club is following group certification scheme where rich farmers will subsidise the certification process of the poor ones. But it is high time, the Indian government facilitates the procedure and supports farmers like Das.