Mul­ti­ple re­sponse

Farm­ers in Go­rakh­pur have re-learnt the art to adapt to er­ratic weather con­di­tions through multi-crop farm­ing KUNDAN PANDEY |

Down to Earth - - GOOD NEWS - GO­RAKH­PUR DIS­TRICT @down2earth­in­dia

WHEN KAM­LESH Nishad, a farmer from Bad­hani vil­lage, Go­rakh­pur, Ut­tar Pradesh, re­turned home af­ter giv­ing up a job of a con­trac­tor in Pa­ni­pat, he knew his life was go­ing to change. The con­trac­tor’s job used to pay him just 15-18,000 each month, and that too was er­ratic. He took a cue from his wife who used to train farm­ers to make their pro­fes­sion more prof­itable. The cou­ple be­gan their ex­per­i­ment by tak­ing a lease on a piece of land (about 1.35 hectares) in April last year. The in­put cost was barely 50,000. “We now earn 30,000 each month,” says Kam­lesh.

The se­cret of his suc­cess is multi-crop farm­ing, where sev­eral crops are grown at the same time and the land is used as much as pos­si­ble. Kam­lesh grew three types of crops, gen­er­ally veg­eta­bles, sow­ing one crop on top of the other through lay­er­ing. He erected a canopy-like struc­ture, where he grew sev­eral var­i­ties of gourd and used the ground to grow leafy veg­eta­bles. Last year, he cul­ti­vated pump­kin, cu­cum­ber, spinach, radish, chick­peas, onion and co­rian­der. The cou­ple im­ple­mented tech­niques they had learnt in the train­ing, such as time man­age­ment for each crop. Kam­lesh is one among 300 farm­ers in Go­rakh­pur who have ben­e­fit­ted from multi-crop­ping. And in do­ing so, they have only re­vived the re­gion’s an­cient tra­di­tional farm­ing prac­tises that en­abled them to fight er­ratic weather con­di­tions.

Farm sen­si­tiv­ity

It all be­gan in 2011 when the Go­rakh­pur En­vi­ron­men­tal Ac­tion Group (geag), a

non-profit based in eastern Ut­tar Pradesh, re­alised it had to reach out to farm­ers who were los­ing their crops fre­quently due to er­ratic weather con­di­tions. Eastern Ut­tar Pradesh, es­pe­cially Go­rakh­pur dis­trict, faces twin prob­lems—it is chron­i­cally flood­prone and of­ten faces drought. The re­gion is served by the river drainage sys­tem of Ghaghara, Rapti, Ro­hin, Kuano and their trib­u­taries, and is in­un­dated dur­ing the rainy sea­son. To­day, ar­eas that ex­pe­ri­ence wa­ter­log­ging have in­creased, which has af­fected the liveli­hoods of small and mar­ginal farm­ers.

geag se­lected 15 vil­lages, which were lo­cated on low-ly­ing ar­eas, and were peren­ni­ally wa­ter­logged. Their task was to make the liveli­hoods of farm­ers more re­silient. “Know­ing our lim­i­ta­tion, we se­lected two farm­ers from each vil­lage and trained them to be­come model farm­ers. Our aim was that these model farm­ers would mo­ti­vate oth­ers to fol­low sus­tain­able meth­ods,” says K K Singh, project co­or­di­na­tor of geag.

While eval­u­at­ing their project, geag found that crop di­ver­sity had in­creased by 42 per­cent in Go­rakh­pur. More­over, crop­ping in­ten­sity—the num­ber of crops planted an­nu­ally, which is an im­por­tant mea­sure of re­silient liveli­hoods—had also in­creased.

Ram Asare Yadav, a farmer, says he now cul­ti­vates sev­eral crops on the same piece of land, and it is all about time man­age­ment. “We were taught in the train­ing that if we sow wheat be­fore Novem­ber 15, we can har­vest more than 300 kg on even 0.404 hectares of land. Small tips can make a huge im­pact in our lives. We have learnt about the growth cy­cle for all crops,” he adds.

Yadav har­vested wheat, mus­tard, gram, pea and potato. Sub­se­quently, he planted maize, peanuts, la­dyfin­ger, dou­ble beans and va­ri­eties of gourd. In July, he planted paddy, tur daal and many other crops. Now there is an in­creas­ing in­ter­est among farm­ers to grow veg­eta­bles, as farm­ers have re­alised they can save money if they grow the veg­eta­bles they con­sume.

The re­turn of mil­lets

Ram Ni­was Mau­rya, an­other farmer, re­calls that mil­lets were com­monly grown in Go­rakh­pur dis­trict about 40-50 years ago. Over the years, peo­ple de­vel­oped an in­cor­rect per­cep­tion that these foods were for poor peo­ple. He re­alised its im­por­tance when he learnt about multi-crop farm­ing af­ter com­ing in con­tact with geag about five years ago. Ear­lier, he used to cul­ti­vate barely four to five crops a year. Now he cul­ti­vates 85 crops.

Singh says mil­lets have more re­sis­tance ca­pac­ity, and can sur­vive even in ad­verse, un­cer­tain and chang­ing cli­matic con­di­tions. It can also bear floods and short du­ra­tion droughts and pro­vide bet­ter yields. Mil­lets have more nu­tri­tional in­gre­di­ents and greater scope to make prof­its.

In Go­rakh­pur, rice cul­ti­va­tion of­ten suf­fers due to cli­matic con­di­tions and this af­fects the liveli­hoods of small and mar­ginal farms. Mil­lets, on the other hand, con­sume less wa­ter and have the ca­pac­ity to re­sist wa­ter­log­ging. Hence, in ad­verse con­di­tions, farm­ers get pro­tec­tion as well as pro­duc­tion. Some of the mil­lets be­ing grown in­clude kodo, sawan, madua and tan­gun. Thanks to geag, Go­rakh­pur’s farm­ers have re­vived their an­cient tra­di­tional meth­ods of mul­ti­ple crop cul­ti­va­tion. And they have set an ex­am­ple for small and mar­ginal farm­ers across In­dia on how to adapt to er­ratic weather con­di­tions.

Farm­ers in Go­rakh­pur are grow­ing a greater num­ber of crops on the same piece of land, thus in­creas­ing crop­ping in­ten­sity

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