New agri­cul­tural tech­niques have changed the lives of farm­ers in arid Banaskan­tha

India Today - - NATION - By Uday Mahurkar

Till a few years ago, Ganesh Pa­tel had very lit­tle to do with pomegranates. But in 2011, the 60year-old farmer from Gu­jarat pro­duced 20 tonnes of pome­gran­ate worth Rs 15 lakh on 35 acres of land in Kumb­halmer vil­lage in the arid Banaskan­tha dis­trict bor­der­ing Pak­istan. In six years, Ganesh has taken his land hold­ing from 10 to 35 acres. Shankar Mansa, 35, has a sim­i­lar tale to tell. A tribal farmer from Banaskan­tha’s Vi­ram­pur vil­lage, Mansa’s in­come from his seven-acre farm in­creased from Rs 11,000 in 2008 to Rs 92,000 in 2011 af­ter he added new high-yield crops such as fen­nel, chilli and cot­ton to his nor­mal crop of maize and wheat, and switched to the drip ir­ri­ga­tion tech­nique. This also helped in

pro­duc­ing more fod­der for his two cows and a buf­falo, in­creas­ing his dairy in­come from Rs 18,000 to Rs 41,000.

Ganesh and Mansa are among thou­sands of farm­ers from Banaskan­tha who are part of a unique agri­cul­tural rev­o­lu­tion. Less than a decade ago, the dis­trict, 70 per cent of whose area is ei­ther to­tally arid and saline or par­tially arid and rocky, was one of the most back­ward dis­tricts of western In­dia. To­day, with over 70,000 acres of land cov­ered un­der drip and sprin­kler ir­ri­ga­tion, it tops the coun­try in the use of this tech­nique.

The switch to mi­cro-ir­ri­ga­tion was ac­com­pa­nied by the cul­ti­va­tion of hor­ti­cul­ture crops such as pome­gran­ate, pa­paya and other high-yield­ing va­ri­eties. The re­sults are ev­i­dent. In 2011, Banaskan­tha pro­duced pomegranates worth Rs 90 crore from 10 lakh trees and pa­payas worth Rs 50 crore from 14 lakh trees. Even the pro­duc­tion of potato, is­ab­gol and oil seeds, com­mon crops in Banaskan­tha for years, has seen a four-fold rise in pro­duc­tion value in the past eight years, from Rs 125 crore then to Rs 500 crore now. To­day, Banaskan­tha is the high­est pro­ducer of potato in the coun­try at 6.15 lakh met­ric tonnes worth Rs 190 crore an­nu­ally.

Gu­jarat Green Rev­o­lu­tion Com­pany ( GGRC), a com­pany formed in 2003 as the brain­child of Chief Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi, has played a ma­jor role in this rev­o­lu­tion, mak­ing it pos­si­ble for farm­ers to adopt drip and sprin­kler ir­ri­ga­tion meth­ods by of­fer­ing ag­gres­sive sub­si­dies on cap­i­tal cost.

The suc­cess story be­gan nine years ago when GGRC was formed with a seed cap­i­tal of Rs 1,500 crore and a plan to prop­a­gate mi­cro-ir­ri­ga­tion meth­ods. GGRC of­fers 50 per cent sub­sidy on cost on adop­tion of drip and sprin­kler tech­niques. This sub­sidy was 75 per cent for tribal farm­ers. It was sub­se­quently re­vised to 85 per cent.

Has­mukh Pa­tel’s vol­un­tary or­gan­i­sa­tion, Sar­vo­daya Ken­dra, has played a vi­tal role in tak­ing the green rev­o­lu­tion for­ward. Pa­tel went door to door and held public meet­ings to in­form farm­ers about GGRC’S schemes. “What Banaskan­tha is wit­ness­ing is an agri­cul­tural mir­a­cle brought about by the dy­namism of both the farm­ers and the state gov­ern­ment. This rev­o­lu­tion is touch­ing the small­est of farm­ers. The way things stand, the dis­trict will con­tinue its agri­cul­tural leap for many more years to come,” he says.

Shankar Mansa’s rise is an ex­am­ple of how poor tribal farm­ers are ben­e­fit­ing by adopt­ing mod­ern ir­ri­ga­tion meth­ods. Be­fore he switched to drip ir­ri­ga­tion in 2008, Mansa could ir­ri­gate just four of his seven acres of land. His borewell used to yield water for one hour ev­ery seven hours due to low ground­wa­ter re­serves. Now he only needs 60 per cent of the ear­lier quan­tity of water to ir­ri­gate the seven acres. A train­ing stint at Dan­ti­wada Univer­sity taught him ways to add new high­yield­ing va­ri­eties of crops. GGRC laid the drip ir­ri­ga­tion net­work at his farm for Rs 1.50 lakh. With sub­sidy, he had to pay only Rs 37,500.

Ganesh was one of the first farm­ers to adopt drip ir­ri­ga­tion. He was also one of the first to cul­ti­vate pomegranates af­ter the fruit was in­tro­duced in the dis­trict by an NGO. “I now save more than 40 per cent of ground­wa­ter, yet grow much more,” Ganesh says.

Di­pak Chaud­hary is an­other ben­e­fi­ciary of drip ir­ri­ga­tion. The 30-yearold farmer owns 14 acres of land in Cha­ni­ana vil­lage. In 2004, his an­nual in­come was Rs 1 lakh. This changed in 2011. He earned Rs 18 lakh in 2011 with a new crop pat­tern. This year, he is grow­ing pa­payas for the first time and hopes to earn Rs 12 lakh.

Go­lap vil­lage, on the Gu­jaratPak­istan bor­der, has also ben­e­fited from Banaskan­tha’s agro rev­o­lu­tion story. Here, it is not the drip or sprin­kler meth­ods that have worked but shal­low borewell pro­gramme. Nagjib­hai Ratha Ra­jput, 60, is an ex­am­ple of the vil­lage’s quan­tum leap. His in­come from his 10 acres is Rs 3 lakh, up from Rs 25,000 in 2004. Ra­jput also added cumin, cas­tor and mus­tard to his ear­lier favoured crops, mil­let and pulses.

With one suc­cess story af­ter an­other, Gu­jarat’s green rev­o­lu­tion shows no signs of slow­ing down.

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