Rural farmers need help with numerous problems, from the unavailability of good quality seeds and saplings to being unaware about improved farming techniques and weather uncertainty. Farmers in the Lohaghat region in Champawat district, Uttarakhand, engage in vegetable cultivation, as they fetch better returns than staple food crops from their fragmented lands. Existing planting materials from markets, or government centers, like KVK, are insufficient to meet the farmers’ demand. Hence, recognizing the struggle of local farmers to access healthy and disease-free seedlings in the vicinity, the horticulture nursery activity came into existence to help meet the demand in the village.
S M Sehgal Foundation through the Focused Development Project (FDP) supported by HDFC Bank under Parivartan project, mobilized local farmer communities and formed one Farmer Interest Group (FIG) in each village in the fifty-village project area. During FIG meetings, the need for good quality planting material and skill development training was recognized as a livelihood initiative.
In village Kolidhek, Lohaghat, a modern horticultural nursery was established in an area of.25 acres in January 2023. It is envisioned as one of the business entities of Champawat Monal Farmer Producer Company (FPC) formed for the farmers as part of the project.
The project began with a comprehensive field survey and analysis to identify a suitable location for the nursery. Soil analysis was conducted to ensure optimal environmental conditions for plant growth along with accessibility for the farmers and the primary market. Beneficiaries are selected on the need-based criteria decided by the implementation team.
The project has provided financial support, technical assistance, and necessary resources to establish the nursery. The nursery infrastructure includes a poly house, shade net, farm pond, compost pit, and irrigation systems to allow efficient plant cultivation. To further facilitate high-value horticulture plant production, good-quality seeds, fertilizers, and necessary implements are also provided to the farmers. Regular monitoring and advisory services are provided to the caretakers by the Sehgal Foundation team to ensure proper growth of the nursery plants and meet the market demand.
Reeta is a member of the Parivartan Farmer Interest Group. She belongs to a marginalized farmer family living in Kolidhek village. Her family of six members survives on a meager monthly income of less than Rs. 10,000/- from their small grocery shop and farming. The family consists of her husband, elderly parents, and two unemployed sons. Their agriculture depends solely on rainfall, restricting crop diversity and economic conditions. Reeta showed keen interest in horticulture nursery activity through the FIG meeting. After establishing the Modern Horticulture Nursery in Kolidhek, the Sehgal Foundation team organized hands-on training in nursery management. Training included planting material preparation, nursery bed preparation, compost preparation, use of fertilizer and pesticides, IPM, bookkeeping, etc.
She was appointed caretaker of the nursery by Champawat Monal FPC with a monthly honorarium of Rs. 4,000/-, which has empowered her financially and socially. The technical knowledge received under the project has enabled her to optimize her land utilization, conserve resources, and learn modern horticultural techniques, which she is now applying to her cultivation practices and educating other farmers of her village. Financial independence has also helped her contribute to the family income and living conditions, providing her with a sense of empowerment.
The reputation for providing healthy and vigorous planting material through the Nursery attracts the attention of neighboring farmers. Farmers started approaching the nursery for their horticultural needs, which increased income for the beneficiaries involved and generated employment opportunities for them as the nursery expanded. The nursery plans to produce and supply a wide range of fruit plants and vegetable seedlings to farmers in the region.
The transformative potential of a livelihood horticulture nursery is empowering farmers, diversifying their income sources, and enhancing agricultural practices. The nursery created employment opportunities and had a positive ripple effect on the community.
(Authors: Neha Tolia and Ajit Nainwal are from the Champawat project team, S M Sehgal Foundation)