A GLIMPSE OF RURAL आत्मानिभर्ता
It is often said that trying to find happiness in monetary items is an illusion. True happiness lies in the fruits of hardworking efforts. We experienced this firsthand when we met Shri Niranjanbhai, a humble and hardworking person in the village of Vaghpur. Located in the Aravalli district of Gujarat and Rajasthan border, Vaghpur is a village of about 96 households, with a population of 533.
Encountering Niranjanbhai’s transformational journey
Our acquaintance with Shri Niranjanbhai Hirabhai Khokar came through the organization, Development Support Centre (DSC), Meghraj during our Village Field Segment module of the Post Graduate Diploma in Rural Management course from Institute of Rural Management Anand (IRMA). During our visit to Vaghpur and subsequent discussion with him, we learnt about the implementation of natural farming methods and how it helped him become self-reliant. Shri Niranjanbhai, a middle-aged resident of Vaghpur village, also doubles up as a Local Resource Person (LRP), demonstrating and disseminating information about the work of DSC among his fellow village residents. Educated until high school, he possesses five bighas of land where he cultivates various crops to support his family of seven. Niranjanbhai talked about his previous occupation, regarding how he had to leave his construction activity work because of the manual labor taking a toll on his body (he used to hammer and break large stones into smaller ones which are further used in construction of houses and buildings). Later on, he took up farming activities and animal husbandry to sustain himself and his dependent family of his spouse, parents and three children.
His house is located beside a narrow stream which gets filled only during the monsoon. The area being a rain-fed region, water scarcity is a major issue that also calls for judicial use of water for all household activities as well as irrigation purposes. The stream had entirely dried up during the time we had visited. Being near a flowing stream, they often face problems of flooding during high rains causing crop losses too. What caught our attention is his willingness to explain his practices and hardworking nature.
Learning from field experience to become a Local Resource Person
The LEPNRM (Livelihood Enhancement through Participatory Natural Resource Management) project of DSC aims to impart holistic knowledge towards agricultural development by enhancing productivity, mitigating cost and taking up value addition activities. Niranjanbhai had tried natural farming in his farm on an experimental basis with support from DSC. The first trial was a loss-making venture because nobody in his area was doing natural farming and no prior knowledge was available to him. However, with his resilience and determination, he tried again. With encouragement and technical support from the staff of DSC he doubled his efforts and took it upon himself to manually remove the weeds, and even sleeping in the farm to protect the crops against predators. His persistence brought results and he could grow a number of crops such as Tomato, Watermelon, Okhra (Lady’s Finger), Green Chillies, Cluster Bean (Guvar) and Brinjal in his second attempt.
Niranjanbhai was chosen as a LRP to transfer knowledge in his community and to give a demonstration of growing crops in his field using natural farming techniques. From his total five bighas of land, he planted maize in one bigha, wheat in three bigha, and chickpea in one bigha. He also chose to grow various fruits and vegetables such as brinjal, ladies finger, chilli, watermelon. He was given four kgs of corn seeds, vermicompost, neem oil, azotobacter and other organic fertilizers to perform the experiment. He devised a method of drip irrigation where he made the water flow from a storage tank near his house through inclined pipes to his farm, about 1-1.5 km away. The tubes were connected to a device from where the water flow rate could be controlled by valves.
Niranjanbhai explained that no kind of fertiliser or pesticides were used during the process. Weeding and other methods to remove unwanted growth were done timely. Some part of the produce, fruits and vegetables were kept for his family’s consumption and the remaining part was sold off through a very basic marketing strategy of posting videos on social media platforms about his organic kitchen garden. He underlined the importance of hard work, dedication and patience that goes into undertaking this practice.
Aspirations based on innovative ideas
However, as we saw the results of his hard work, we realized the amount of chemically induced ripening of fruits and fertilizer loaded vegetables that we consume in metro cities. Also, during our conversations with him, we found out about his aspirations of starting pisciculture (the breeding, hatching, and rearing of fish under controlled conditions) in his area and a biogas bottling plant. Both the ideas were related to diversifying his incomes along with meeting the demand of fish consumers and providing biogas bottles at a cheaper rate than the LPG cylinders. Though he might not be in a good financial position to work on his neatly designed short term goals, he seems to be very content and happy with his achievements so far. He is proud of the fact that he only needs to buy sugar, salt and tea powder from shops, while rest of the food requirements are met by what he grows on the farm. He is keen to teach other farmers so that they can also contribute to soil fertility, while growing nutritious and safe produce for themselves and other consumers.
Arnab Hui, Rahul Raj S and Shubham Vaijinath Kulkarni are participants of the 41st batch of Institute of Rural Management Anand (IRMA). They wrote this article based on their field experience during the Village Fieldwork Segment of the PGDM (RM) programme of IRMA.