Helped by the Union government’s National Rural Livelihood Mission programme, some farmers in tribal areas of Jharkhand and Odisha have started augmenting their income, partly due to marigold cultivation as awareness campaigns and handholding by non-governmental organisations aided them to venture into non-traditional crops.

“It is highly profitable as this season I earned ₹50,000 from half an acre, whereas other crops are not that lucrative,” said Mami Pedenti, a farmer in Rayagada district of Odisha who started marigold cultivation three years ago. She wished she had more land to grow the flowers. Pedenti is one of the 290 small farmers in the district who have been growing marigold on a part of their land, according to Jagat Jyoti Barik, coordinator of NGO Pradan in Jaykaypur, Odisha.

Taking precautions

Pedenti has been growing other crops like mandia (a millet variety), cotton, paddy on the remaining two acres, even though the income is less. “If something goes wrong with marigold, what will we eat,” she remarked while explaining why the entire land is not used for marigold cultivation. She said as she was able to harvest all marigold flowers by Diwali and she took up sunflower in the same land and buyers from Bhubaneswar are coming to buy the oilseed crop.

Barik, a coordinator of the NGO, said marigold is being grown on 124 acres now against 5 acres by less than 30 farmers when Pradan started the project in 2020 in the Kolnara block of Raygada, “After much pursuasion, farmers were ready to spare some piece of their land for marigold as they were not sure about selling the flowers. Though we arranged to sell the flowers in neighbouring Anandapuram in Andhra Pradesh in the first year, now the market has developed and farmers are earning ₹35/kg,” he said.

Farmers who were earlier involved in growing cotton and millet with an income of ₹20,000- 25,000 per acre, are now getting nearly ₹70,000 per acre from marigold.

Adding value to earn more

On the other hand, farmers in some 3-4 districts of Jharkhand are selling marigold garlands and fetching ₹12 a piece. From a land of one-tenth of an acre, 1,000 marigold garlands can be produced whereas its cost of cultivation will be about ₹3,000 as saplings are brought from West Bengal, said Bala Devi Ningthoujam of Pradan who has been working with women farmers for past one decade in Jharkhand.

“Mostly these small farmers are using barren land to take up marigold cultivation and they do not want to completely shift from paddy in the main field as they grow the kharif cereal for their own consumption,” Bala Devi said.