Haji Mohammed Increases Family Income with Crop Diversification
Haji Mohammed, a farmer from Agon, is a victim of polio. He works hard and has managed to lead a reasonably normal life. He is now raising six children and owns 18 acres of land. The family leases out 9 acres at low cost and has mortgaged 5 acres. Mohammed cultivates the remaining 4 acres with his wife, who is partially blind. Their two children, aged 12 and 16 years, also help with the farming. Mohammed uses traditional agricultural methods, which require a lot of work and generate low crop yield.
Sehgal Foundation approached Mohammed to observe his farming methods. He was growing sorghum, pearl millet, and onion. These three crops take six months to produce yield and the land must lie fallow for six months after harvest. Mohammed was barely making ends meet. Sehgal Foundation intervened and taught him more productive agricultural practices. They encouraged him to use raised plant nursery beds, to intercrop, and to diversify the vegetables grown.
Mohammed had faith in the new methods, but decided to test them out first on just one acre of land. He began by growing chilies on one half and eggplants on the other. The Foundation taught him how to use compost and fertilizer. Mohammed was concerned by the cost of the products, so used a smaller amount than was recommended.
After three months, the chili plants began to produce yield. Vegetables are a cash crop, so the eggplants provided Mohammed with a daily income. During the first harvest he earned Rs. 200/day, the Rs. 300/day with the next, and Rs. 500/day with the third. The profit covered his day-to-day expenses and the cost of producing on the other three acres. After the first yield, Mohammad said he saw the benefit of the raised nursery beds. Heavy rains would have ruined the crops without them. After the first season, Mohammed made a net profit of Rs. 40,000 from the chili crops. This money enabled him to pay off part of his land mortgage.
Mohammed attributes his newfound farming success to Sehgal Foundation’s guidance and technical assistance. After his success with chilies and eggplants, he approached the Foundation for assistance in growing green peppers (capsicum). He is also interested in starting to produce other high value vegetables. Mohammed says that he is happier growing vegetables on his 4 acres of land than he would be cultivating commercial crops over 100 acres. Despite his enthusiasm for cultivating new crops, Mohammed says that chilies will always be part of his farming. Chilies offer sweet memories of his first success with vegetables.
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