By Jincy Chacko
At a time when farming and agriculture’s share in the nation’s economy is declining due to high growth rates in industrial and services sector, several smallholder farmers are an exception to the present trends by practicing progressive farming methods that are remunerative and innovative. Ratan Singh, resident of village Goojarwas in Alwar, Rajasthan, and a smallholder orchard farmer, has been able to put together a secure future with his newly developed idea of orchard farming and intercropping of seasonal vegetables. Alwar district in Rajasthan is a water-scarce region, falling in the “dark zone,” where the groundwater table recedes below levels that cannot be regained. With water availability so critical to agriculture and two-thirds of the state’s population being agrarian; agricultural development is adversely affected in the region.
Despite these challenges, Ratan Singh is a farmer with a difference. A BSc in biology with a passion for photography is what additionally describes him. Being a risk taker and open to new ideas, he quit his job to dedicate his life to farming. He stands apart in the farming community of his village for his brilliance, belief in innovation, and his desire to learn new things and replicate them. Information was what he needed, and he was all set to take it forward. The Mosaic India Pvt. Ltd. and Sehgal Foundation partnership project, Krishi Jyoti, helped him with information on best agricultural practices for different vegetables. Under this project, he understood how he could grow multiple vegetables even in his small landholding of one acre even with a limited quantity of water available for irrigation.
With the facilitation of drip irrigation and mulching methods to help prevent soil degradation, Ratan Singh was able to intercrop green chili and pomegranate with a minimal need for water. Being a lone farmer practicing horticulture and intercropping, he showed great courage to go against what is usually practiced in his village.
“I feel confident of better times ahead. I believe that my land can provide for my family way more than I could have earned in my previous profession. Krishi Jyoti educated me on ways and means to get better yield by adding a few more components. I learned the correct use of fertilizers and which kind should be used for which plantation and in what quantity,” shares Ratan. He says that by the end of next year, he will begin his own home delivery service of different kinds of vegetables: broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, tomatoes, radish, carrot, spinach, turnip, etc.
Having planned his future in farming, Ratan Singh is ensuring that his one-acre land is used to its full capacity with horticulture and intercropping of vegetables. He is sure of promising returns by beginning his own door-to-door delivery service of vegetables and fruits, doubling his income.
The farmers in village Goojarwas are highly dependent on interspersed rains for irrigating their fields; but for Ratan Singh, that isn’t a matter of concern anymore. He irrigates his field with the required optimum amount of water using the newly adopted micro-irrigation practice called drip irrigation, which prevents water from evaporation by covering the base of the plants, a process understood as “mulching.”
Ratan Singh not only proved himself to be an initiator; he has also successfully promoted himself from being an enlightened farmer. His orchard has become a model for his fellow villagers and a hope to those who refuse to take risks and adopt new mechanisms. All this makes Ratan Singh a farmer to look up to in his region.
(Jincy Chacko is communications associate at S M Sehgal Foundation)