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Diverse farming – Need of the hour for small farmers

M.N.Kulkarni and Suresh T.

 Effects of climate change is making the lives of small and marginal farmers more difficult.  Livelihoods of the small and marginal farmers are at a greater risk. Under such circumstances, diversified farming seems to be the only hope to sustain in farming. Upparahalli village leads by example.


Upparahalli, in Chikkanayakanahalli taluk of Tumkur district is a small village with 140 households. Agriculture is the primary livelihood of all the families.  80% belong to marginal and 20% to small farmer category.  Though coconut is the main commercial crop in the taluk, farmers in this village have resorted to vegetable cultivation ever since the coconut has started to suffer from various pests and diseases.

Vegetable cultivation

In Upparahalli, over 50 to 60 farmers are involved in the cultivation of vegetables such as  tomato, lady’s finger, ridge gourd, snake gourd, beans, leafy vegetables and chillies.  Depending on the land holding, farmers are growing vegetables in five guntas to half acre. Those having assured water have extended it to one acre too.  “During rainy season, we grow vegetables in uplands and during summer, in the coconut orchards.  Water required for cultivation of vegetables in coconut orchards is comparatively less owing to conjunctive use of water.  With the available resources, we do get vegetables and manage coconut orchards”, explains Sri. Rangaiah, a vegetable grower.

Sri Ningaiah shares his experience with tree based farming with the visitors to his farm

Farmers having assured water, usually grow four to five types of vegetables- tomato, beans, snake gourd, bitter gourd, ridge gourd etc.  With more diversity, the risk is less.  Also, farmers adopt organic farming practices. They were exposed to ecofriendly ways of cultivation when the Department of Agriculture, Government of Karnataka implemented an organic farming project in the village during 2011 to 2013.  Farmers apply vermicompost and have reduced application of chemical fertilizers by 50%. Many farmers apply botanical preparations for management of pests and diseases.  Consequently, farmers on an average, are able to save Rs. 2500 to 3000, which they were hitherto spending on chemical fertilisers and pesticides.

Rangaiah is a small farmer.  He has been growing finger millet, cow pea, red gram and green gram for home consumption. He was the one who started cultivating vegetables a few years back. Other farmers saw the earnings of Ranganna and slowly started to follow him.

Rangaiah practices integrated nutrient management for vegetables.  He applies FYM in large quantities.  Vermicompost is mixed with irrigation water and applied.  He has adopted drip system too.  He also prepares liquid fertilizer by mixing one litre of cattle urine with 10 litres water and sprays at regular intervals.

This year he has grown snake gourd in 5 guntas, bitter gourd in 2 guntas, chilly in 2 guntas and field beans in 10 guntas.  Snake gourd has started yielding and he has sold one ton and earned 20000 in one month.  Other crops are yet to yield. During the previous year, Rangaiah’s net earnings from vegetables was Rs.60000 from snake gourd, Rs.24000 from bitter gourd and Rs.45000 from Field beans. Apart from this, he also earns from crops and coconut orchards.

Vegetables are sold in Huliyar, CN.Halli and KB Cross towns which are nearer to this village.  Earlier, they used to transport through private buses.  Now, transport facility is available in Upparahalli itself.  Farmers also transport vegetables through autos.  They go to the market individually and sell the items to middlemen.  Of all the items, only tomato is graded and sold.  “We get Rs.50 additional per box for graded tomato” tells Rangaiah.  However, field beans are sold collectively. During the season, one ton is consumed per day in Huliyar market.  The vegetables from Upparahalli look attractive and are in demand and there is less bargaining from consumers.   On an average, each grower earns Rs. 4000 to 5000 per week.  Average expenditure is Rs.1500 towards harvesting, transport etc.

Farmers like Shivanna are earning better incomes with vegetable cultivation

“All the families in our village own land ranging from two to five acres.  In the uplands, finger millet is grown.  Green gram, horse gram, red gram etc., are grown as mixed crops along with finger millet.  Under normal rainfall conditions, we get 6 to 8 quintals finger millet per acre and pulses enough for home consumption.  Our village is known for good quality vegetables” explains Thimmaiah who is cultivating vegetables and food crops.

Integrating dairy

It is interesting to note that majority of the vegetable growers do rear 2 to 3 cattle.  Also, about 90 farmers were supported partially by the project for purchase of dairy animals.  BAIF- Institute for Sustainable Livelihoods and Development, Tiptur, has facilitated the community for adopting organic farming practices.  This has resulted in increased milk production.  These farmers sell around 8 to 10 liters milk per day.  A private milk collection center has been set up in Upparahalli village.

Shri. Rangaiah applies botanical liquid fertilisers prepared on his farm

Recycling resources

Farmers recycle resources from one enterprise to the other. Fodder sorghum, sunhemp and finger millet provide fodder for the cattle, in turn, dung is recycled back to the fields.  The dung is converted into compost and applied in large quantities to vegetable fields.  Silt application is also practiced by few farmers.  This has helped them to minimize the application of chemical fertilizers.  Only milk goes out of the system.  Hence one can see a complete cycle where in one enterprise provides inputs for the other and vice versa.

Conclusion

Of the 140 households in Upparahalli village, 50-60 farm families have diversified enterprises adding to the nutrition and income for the family. Diversifying farming with enterprises like vegetable cultivation and dairy has resulted in assured income for the farmers.  In the changing scenario of climate change, diversified farming has helped to spread risks while sustaining the income and broadening the livelihood base.

 

M.N.Kulkarni and Suresh T.

BAIF Office, Kusumanagar

Kalageri Road, Dharwad – 580008

Email: mnkulkarni65@gmail.com