India Interior

Floriculture fortune: Gujarat farmers strike gold with marigold

Usha Rai | Updated on October 05, 2019

Scented success A farmer of Dahod with a basket of blooms

Adding flavour Axis Bank Foundation and Sadguru Foundation help lift ivelihood opportunities through crop diversification, dairying and making spice powders, among other activities   -  Usha Rai

‘Ten thousand saw I at a glance’ Plentiful harvests of marigold are helping boost farmers’ income in Gujarat ‘s Dahod district Pics Usha Rai   -  Pics Usha Rai

Their fields, and lives, are blooming, thanks to horticulture and improved farming techniques

Over the last 4-5 years, a sizeable number of the 300 households of Kamboi village, Limkheda block of Dahod District, Gujarat, has shifted from maize and paddy cultivation to floriculture, horticulture and growing seasonal vegetables, transforming their lives and the landscape of the village.

Endless stretches of bright marigold fields and fragrant Indian roses can be seen in season. Women lead the charge for change and the men assist them in marketing the blooms.

The economic surge in Kamboi is reflected in children going to private schools for better education, villagers investing in motorcycles for speedy transport of their blooms to markets and thatched huts giving way to pucca houses.

Behind the positive action taking place in the 650 villages of Dahod and Panchmahal districts of Gujarat and the adjoining Banswara and Jhalawar districts of Rajasthan is the Navinchandra Mafatlal Sadguru Water and Development Foundation (NMSWDF), an NGO working in the area since 1970 to improve the socio-economic status of the rural poor and the tribal population through natural resource management.

Since 2014, Axis Bank Foundation has been supporting Sadguru Foundation to improve and upgrade the livelihood opportunities of people in the region through crop diversification, improved techniques of agriculture and production of local seeds, dairying, making spices and improved marketing skills. Check-dams and lift irrigation structures have been created to ensure that the annual 800 mm of rainfall is retained and channelised for agricultural productivity through the year.

At Kamboi, among the first steps taken was the construction of check-dams, landscaping and terracing of the hilly terrain so that a variety of crops could be harvested. Hence, maize and wheat are grown on the higher slopes and on the terraced lands, lower down, there is a profusion of flowers.

While 58 farmers are into long-term floriculture development, on 90 plots the focus is on marigold cultivation. Tomato cultivation is through trellis farming. Teak trees have been grown on the borders of the farm lands to ward off strong winds as well as in clusters to create a teak forest. The 4,000 to 5,000 teak trees of Kamboi are its long-term investments.

On their 2,200-sq feet terraced garden, Vinita behn and Surti behn get 20 kg of marigolds every alternate day, fetching them ₹400 to ₹600. In the four-month flowering season, they earn ₹30,000-35,000 from just marigold. Sarita behn spends ₹4,000 in buying the marigold sapling, each at ₹5. During the festival season, sales are brisk, with marigold garlands selling for ₹20-30 each.

Cultivation of roses fetches higher returns. Each rose sells for 20 to 30 paise and there could be 100 blooms in one cluster. Two varieties of roses and five varieties of marigold are grown in Kamboi village. This winter, the women will venture into chrysanthemum cultivation….white and magenta being the chosen colours.

Lalitha behn, one of the lead farmers of the region and the longest in floriculture, earns ₹700 to ₹1,000 a day. Initially, she says, there were just two farmers in the village who took to floriculture and then 13 more joined them in 2015. Today, there are 135 farmers growing flowers.

’Look, we have motorcycles’

The money made in floriculture stays with the women. As the money rolled in, they invested in bore wells, ensuring there was never shortage of water. Then families began buying motorcycles. There are 55 motorcycles in the village — both to transport the blooms to market, and the children to better schools. Savita behn, the Sadguru Foundation’s community resource person in charge of three villages, says prosperity is visible not only in the fields but in their improved lifestyle. Earlier, growing only maize, they were earning just ₹10,000 to ₹12,000 a month. Now, incomes have doubled and trebled.

In the case of Deep Singh, the income from seven acres of land has gone up 10 times. A member of one of the four men’s SHGs in the village, he was contributing, in 2002, ₹30 a month to the group’s savings. On the basis of his savings he was able to get a bank loan of ₹25,000 and bought saplings of rose and marigold. Having trained in vermicomposting, he applied organic manure on his land in the sowing season. From 2007-2008, his annual income from flowers was ₹30,000 to ₹40,000. Now, that is his monthly income.

Every year, there was improvement in the quantity and quality of the blooms as he sourced seeds from Ratlam and Ujjain. Over four years, with the savings from floriculture, Deep Singh has built a large home of his own for ₹15 lakh and has moved out of the joint family. The cherry on his cake is the Bolero bought this year, to transport the flowers.

In the last four years, Kamboi village made ₹6.42 crore just from floriculture!

In the adjoining village of Goriya, Limkheda block, the collaboration between the two Foundations is reflected in improved living through horticulture, dairying and vegetable cultivation. After deepening bore wells and strengthening the irrigation system, some 155 farmers have orchards of mango (kesar), guava and lemon. Round the year there is income from the orchards, first from mango, then from guava and finally from lemon. In a year there are two crops of lemon, says Sumitra behn, who heads the women’s horticulture cooperative.

In Goriya too, 29,000 teak trees have been planted around the fruit orchards to act as wind barriers and the community’s fixed deposit.

Another 200-odd households are into growing vegetables. Janta behn, who grows okra on her 5,500-sq ft plot, practises organic farming. Every alternate day she plucks the okra. There are 13 to 15 plucking days in season and 50 kg is collected with each plucking and sold at ₹40 a kg. Okra sales alone have fetched ₹60,000 annually. She also grows brinjal and chilli and has many drumstick trees. Both the leaves and the drumstick have tremendous nutritive value.

Dairy work started in 2016. The traditional knowledge on rearing buffaloes was enhanced with inputs from experts and since Goriya was on the milk route, a milk collection centre was established there. The milk collection from the village soared and the revenue from milk is estimated at ₹1.37 crore.

With the boom in irrigation and earnings from a variety of crops, distress migration from Dahod has stopped, says Kanhaiya Choudhary, the CEO of Sadguru Foundation.

The writer is a senior journalist based in Delhi

Published on October 05, 2019

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