India Interior

Nature dictates the outcome

Sarita Brara | Updated on April 05, 2019

jeevaram along with his brothers and others farmers at the organic wheat field

jeevaram displaying the organic pesticide that he has prepared

Zero-budget organic farming improves yields for Gujarat’s farmers

There is always resistance to change. Jeevaram, a farmer in Sutrapada village of Gir Somanath district, Gujarat, faced the typical dilemma of whether to go in for zero-budget organic farming or stick to using chemical fertilisers and pesticides. He was apprehensive about this new concept. Should he take the risk when the cotton crop he had grown was totally destroyed by the pink bollworm?

Jeevaram and his three younger brothers own 16 bighas of land where they grow wheat, groundnut, cotton and seasonal vegetables. When representatives of the GHCL Foundation working with farmers in the Sutrapada block approached him in 2015, he and other farmers were reluctant to go organic.

To encourage them, the Foundation offered 90 per cent subsidy on organic manure, bio pesticides and fodder, with supplementary nutrition, as well as saplings for horticulture. It also arranged training for farmers to prepare their own organic manure and bio pesticides. It took Jeevaram almost a year to make up his mind. Ultimately, he decided to go for it.

Today, his farm has become a model for others to emulate as he reaps the benefits of organic farming. “Earlier, groundnut yield from one bigha used to be stagnant at four quintals, the same with wheat. I spent ₹3,000-4,000 on chemical fertilisers and pesticides. I now make my own organic manure and bio pesticides and use them instead of the chemical stuff, the result is that my production per bigha has gone up by 6-7 quintals,” he says.

Jeevaram is saving on the cost he earlier incurred on chemical fertilisers and pesticides and is also seeing increased yield. And since it is certified organic, the produce fetches him a good price. “My income has gone up by 20 per cent,” he says.

However, the increase in yield when you go organic is not immediate. Excessive use of chemicals can render the soil infertile as was the case with Devshiv Bhai. He switched to organic farming about two years ago and is yet to reap the benefits.

But he is hopeful. “Looking at my wheat fields I do get a feeling that my yield this year will definitely be better than last year.” Devshiv Bhai and his three brothers together have 40 bighas of land and grow channa dal, coconut, wheat and fodder.

Sherman Bhai from Bosana village has 25 bighas of land where he grows sugarcane, wheat, groundnut and bajra. “My yield has gone up by 10 per cent, but more than that, the health of the soil has improved a lot,” he says, as the benefits of organic farming are being felt all around him.

Take Haridas Bhai. A progressive farmer, he holds a monthly meeting of over 100 farmers, giving them tips on organic farming and inter-cropping. Owner of 22 bighas of land, Haridas Bhai adopted organic farming four years ago and has now gone further to use a new technique of intercropping to increase his produce.

Haridas grows sugarcane, til, urad, water melon, sweet melon, banana, papaya, sehjan, beans and lobia. “My yield has gone up by 10 per cent but more importantly, the health of the soil has improved a lot because of organic farming.”

Haridas says he is using mulching technique to water crops. (Mulching has the ability to retain moisture in soil.) This helps in reducing the consumption of water and hence that of electricity used for pumping water.

Knowledge pooling

The GHCL Foundation is also providing subsidy to construct rain harvesting structures up to 50 per cent and 20 per cent on fodder for the cattle. Ten thousand farmers have so far been trained in 100 villages. Women are more involved in animal husbandry than men and they too are being trained in zero-budget farming and dairy farming.

Over 250 farmers in the area have adopted organic farming and many more trained for the same are moving towards it, slowly but surely. The subsidy is already down to 40-50 per cent and the time is not far when there would be no need for the farmers to buy organic manure or pesticides at subsidised rates as they will be producing it on their own farms, say Foundation representatives.

Besides periodic training and workshops, farmers hold meetings to share experiences and expertise. This benefits people like Jeevaram. Though he has only studied till Std VIII, such meetings help him apply new knowledge. For instance, he does not have an oil extraction machine, but gets it done without spending a penny, by selling the hull to the oil extraction factory.”

Like him, almost every farmer in the area has a story on how they increased yield and raised their income from other farm-related activities through the zero-budget farming method.

The writer is a senior journalist based in Delhi

Published on April 05, 2019

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