A tribal farmer in Maharashtra, Ramesh Bhiva Bangar is reaping phenomenal earnings by cultivating strawberries – a fruit that he had by no means even tasted earlier.
Positioned practically 90 km from Pune, the tribal hamlet of Kopre in Junnar is battling the depletion of its pure water reserves. The residents now depend on water tankers to fulfil their each day water necessities. Consequently, cultivating conventional crops, equivalent to paddy and wheat, has turn into a formidable problem for farmers on this water-scarce area.
Apparently, a shift to a brand new crop has introduced constructive outcomes for one of many forward-thinking farmers within the village. Final September, Ramesh Bhiva Bangar turned to cultivating strawberries — a fruit that he had by no means tasted till he cultivated some on his farm!
Inside a few months, he went from incomes Rs 4,000 to Rs 2 lakh per season. His success has turn into exemplary for tons of of farmers and agricultural officers who flock to his farm every single day.
In dialog with The Higher India, the tribal farmer reveals how he harvested phenomenal earnings.
My father feared I would finish my life
Born and introduced up within the tribal-dominated Kopra village of Maharashtra, Ramesh may solely research until Class 10. After finishing his education in 2006, he joined an area faculty as a peon. After working within the faculty for 2 years, he took up odd jobs like driving a pickup automobile earlier than turning to his household work of farming.
The household owns 22 acres of land however utilises solely two to a few acres for cultivation owing to a scarcity of irrigation assets. So after cultivating paddy in Kharif season, Ramesh could be compelled to maneuver out to close by villages for each day jobs that might earn him Rs 350 a day.
“I needed to spice up our family earnings with out leaving my village. Additionally, I didn’t need to slog like my father and grandfather, realizing that my laborious work wouldn’t yield good earnings,” he shares.
However Ramesh didn’t know a means round it till he met his maternal uncle final yr. “He urged I go for a brand new form of crop like strawberry provided that my hilly village has Mahabaleshwar-like climate, which is appropriate for rising strawberries,” provides the 35-year-old farmer.
In a bid to organize the sphere for a brand new crop, he borrowed Rs 50,000 from his uncle and purchased 4,800 saplings that price him Rs 10 every. He returned to the village and began ploughing the sphere.
“My father was very uncertain of my determination. He was apprehensive that I’d fail to domesticate this new crop. And if I failed, then how would I repay the mortgage quantity? He feared that I would flip to taking my life like different farmers within the drought-prone areas,” he says.
However with out dropping any hope, Ramesh ready the beds, planted all 4,800 saplings in 10 guntha land [40 gunthas make 1 acre], and utilized straw mulch over small strawberry crops to retain the soil moisture.
Each tenth day as he irrigated his crop, native individuals mocked him. “I didn’t take any coaching from anybody. So, each time I’d inform folks that I used to be cultivating strawberries, they’d mock me and label me mad and loopy,” he says.
In the meantime, as an alternative of counting on any chemical fertilisers, he used cow dung, buttermilk, and curd that, he says, act pretty much as good fertilisers and fungicides.
Greater than a month glided by, however there was no fruit. “Everybody doubted me, however I hoped to see no less than one fruit in my discipline,” he says.
Tasting strawberries and success for the primary time
Ramesh lastly laid eyes on the primary strawberry on his farm after 45 days (November-end).
“My pleasure knew no bounds. I supplied the primary fruit to my son. He was so glad that he ran to his associates, proudly flaunting the strawberry whereas telling them how his papa had grown a brand new form of fruit. Irrespective of how a lot I earn, that happiness was priceless for me. Cultivating strawberries grew to become a proud second of my life,” he shares with pleasure.
“And this was additionally the primary time in my life that I tasted strawberries. Earlier, I couldn’t afford to purchase this unique fruit alone,” he provides.
Day by day, Ramesh harvests no less than 20 kg of the fruit and sells it to the native market. Priced between Rs 30 and Rs 50, he manages to earn Rs 3,000 a day. At present, he has additionally discovered consumers from close by villages in Junnar and the Pune district.
“The primary day, once I took my produce to the market, individuals checked out me unusually and threw a number of questions at me. As I come from a small tribal village and I used to be new available in the market, no one knew me,” he says.
“However seeing me succeed previously couple of months, they now come to me and inquire about my method and the way I achieved success. Now, once I go to the market, they vacate area for me and name me seth ji [a wealthy merchant]. However this doesn’t fascinate me,” he shares.
“Strawberries have helped me set up an id for myself and a possibility to make my household proud. That is all that issues,” provides Ramesh, who now goals to increase strawberry cultivation to 4 occasions the current farmland.
Edited by Pranita Bhat; All pictures: Ramesh Bhiva Bangar.