Down to Earth - - COVER STORY -

WHILE MOST farm­ers in the drought-hit Vi­darbha re­gion of Ma­ha­rash­tra are dev­as­tated by crop fail­ure, jack­fruit pro­duc­ers are reap­ing rich re­wards. In the past 10 years, jack­fruit cul­ti­va­tion has been spread­ing slowly in Ya­vat­mal, Chan­dra­pur, Am­ra­vati and Gad­ch­hi­roli dis­tricts.

Sixty-five-year-old Ka­mal Naine Golchcha in Chan­dra­pur dis­trict earned ` 50,000 this year from his two-hectare (ha) jack­fruit plan­ta­tion, where he had planted 350 trees a few years ago. "I get 80-100 kg of jack­fruit from each tree," says Golchcha. He owns another plan­ta­tion of 4 ha, where he had planted 1,100 trees four years ago. "The trees yield only af­ter seven years, but jack­fruit will never fail even when other crops do," he says with pride.

Ram Bhavu Uke, a farmer in Ka­mat­wada vil­lage in Ya­vat­mal dis­trict, earned ` 40,000 this year by selling raw jack­fruit from the 15 trees planted by his fa­ther 13 years ago in their 2.8 ha land. "Raw jack­fruit has good de­mand in ho­tels here. It is used as dummy meat," ex­plains Golchcha. Raw jack­fruit sells well in Nag­pur, Vi­darbha's big­gest city.

Uke says jack­fruit has the po­ten­tial to en­hance the eco­nomic and nu­tri­tional sta­tus of Vi­darbha's farm­ers. He is earn­ing ex­tra money by selling saplings to fel­low farm­ers. This year, he sold 500 trees for ` 20 each, earn­ing ` 10,000. "Many farm­ers from my vil­lage now grow two to three jack­fruit trees," he adds.

Ka­mal Golchcha of Chan­dra­pur dis­trict earned 50,000 this year from his two-hectare plan­ta­tion

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