Multi-cropping, protected farming, and solar irrigation — Kushal Kisan Scheme transforming the lives of farmers in Jharkhand

Introduced in the state in 2016, Kushal Kisan is an initiative that has helped farmers adopt best agricultural practices, increase their produce and earn more revenue. Over 25,000 Kushal Kisan (trained farmers) are there across Jharkhand.

Manoj ChoudharyManoj Choudhary   4 July 2022 7:05 AM GMT

Multi-cropping, protected farming, and solar irrigation — Kushal Kisan Scheme transforming the lives of farmers in Jharkhand

As part of the Kushal Kisan programme, several farmers have taken up multi-cropping and are earning huge profits. All photos: Manoj Choudhary

Ranchi/Ramgarh, Jharkhand

Advanced farming techniques have made Haricharan Oraon, a happy farmer. Ever since he adopted 'protected farming' the farmer from Dhurleta village in Ranchi has seen considerable rise in profits.

"In protected farming we do farming under a net. The net keeps saplings safe from heavy rainfall, hailstones, insects, monkeys and other animals," he explained to Gaon Connection. Keeping the crops safe from damage has increased his production in the nursery as well as in the agricultural plots. "The net can be used for five years," Haricharan added.

Adoption of protected farming is the outcome of the Kushal Kisan Abhiyaan by Transform Rural India Foundation (TRIF), a non-profit, which introduced it in Jharkhand in 2016. Kushal Kisan is an initiative that has helped farmers adopt best agricultural practices, increase their produce and earn more revenue.

TRIF in association with the state government is also helping villagers become agri entrepreneurs. It provides training, market linkages between the farmers and the market and financial support by enabling them to access loans.

Over 25,000 Kushal Kisan (trained farmers) are there across Jharkhand.

In protected farming, farmers practice farming under a net, which keeps saplings safe from heavy rainfall, insects, animal attack.

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"TRIF ensures livelihood improvement to farmers. It ensures quality seeds to them either free of cost or at a very reasonable rate. It also provides farmers a 45-day training capsule and helps them draft business plans," Bapi Gorai, state manager of TRIF in Jharkhand, pointed out to Gaon Connection.

"While working in association with the government we provide technical support to farmers and conduct surveys in the agriculture sector to enhance farming in the state. We motivate young people to adopt farming as a profession and show them how scientific methods of agriculture can lead to, huge income," Gorai added.

Observing the benefits Haricharan enjoyed due to the changes he made in his farming techniques, fellow villagers are now following suit. Many women in his Dhurleta village have become agri-entrepreneurs, as well as several young people who have come into farming after receiving engineering degrees.

Saving time, effort and money

For many women farmers, the protected farming system has saved them valuable time. "The net takes care of keeping our crops safe. We do not have to worry about it. This has not just saved us valuable time, freeing us to do other things, it has also ensured an increased income," Poonam Oroan from Dhurleta village, told Gaon Connection.

"Earlier, I earned about Rs 25,000 a year from an acre of land. And I just had one paddy crop. But with the net, my income has doubled and I grow three crops of seasonal vegetables a year," she said happily.

Sarojni Oraon, another farmer from the Dhurleta village said that altogether 10 farmers in her village have adopted the protected farming system. Most of them have bought the protected net on loan and their increased income has helped them easily repay the loan. A net for 10 dismil (100 dismil make up an acre) of land costs the farmer Rs 70,000. Farmers are buying those with the help from agri-firms and the village level committees.

Other than growing crops, farmers are also making herbal pesticides with cow urine, leaf, neem seeds and other natural farming products, under the brand name Bahulabi Jaivik Tonic, and Ramban Jaivik Kit Nashak. This has not just increased their income but also made the use of herbal pesticides prevalent. Each five-litre bottle of herbal pesticide costs Rs 15.

Also Read: Rural women ditch traditional farming methods to tackle wild animal menace and water logging in flood prone areas

Farmers are also making herbal pesticides under the brand name Bahulabi Jaivik Tonic and Ramban Jaivik Kit Nashak.

Nursery times

Kushal Kisan has brought about other positive changes in agriculture in the area. Villagers have started their own nursery as well.

"In a 1.5 dismil plot (100 dismil make up an acre) that I use as a nursery, I grow vegetables and other saplings. My one time expenditure was Rs 5,000 to start the nursery, and I get an income of Rs 40,000 from it for each season that is of about three to four months," Haricharan of Dhurleta village in Ranchi said.

Villagers have started their own nursery as well.

In the neighbouring district of Ramgarh, Sabita Murmu, a female agri entrepreneur in Hesapora village, has reaped great benefits from the Kushal Kisan programme. "Till a couple of years ago I was barely able to make Rs 50,000 annually through farming on my one acre of land. My husband bought a tractor on loan but we were finding it difficult to repay that loan," Sabita told Gaon Connection.

But in 2020, she began a low-cost nursery along with fruit farming, and her income increased dramatically to over three lakh rupees annually, she said. "Due to farming in a protected nursery my income has increased. I repaid the tractor loan and my children are getting a better education. My husband who was working as a driver has given that job up and farms full time," she smiled.

Sabita now trains other farmers on better cropping practices.

Multi-cropping benefits

As part of the Kushal Kisan programme, several farmers have taken up multi-cropping and are earning huge profits.

Koleshwar Bediya of Chokarbera in Ramgarh is known for his tomatoes and vegetables. It is also no secret that his income has jumped from Rs 1.25 lakh to Rs l0 lakh annually, thanks largely to multi-cropping. With the help of drip irrigation, mulching and advanced methods of farming, Bediya gets a huge output and sells around 1.5 quintal vegetables a day for 40 days in one season.

"If I get better transportation and marketing facilities, my income will increase even more," Koleshwar told Gaon Connection.

Like Koleshwar, another farmer, Nageshwar Bediya from Nawadih village, does multi- cropping. He grows guava, okra and ginger, besides other vegetables from a single plot.

"I get one-and-a-half quintals of pumpkins in a day. I get another one-and-a-half quintals of cucumber every day for an entire season. One time farming ensures a profit of Rs 60,000 from one product and annual profit goes upto Rs 8 lakh," Nageshwar told Gaon Connection.

Kapil Dev Mahto, a young civil engineer, is now an agri entrepreneur. He ensures the farmers get the best quality seeds, pesticides and price for their produce through Ajivika Krishi Upaj Sangrahan Kendra, under Kushal Kisan in Hupu, Ramgarh district. The kendra ensures the farmers get the best price possible for their produce, and provides them with seeds, etc., at a reasonable price. "I am hopeful that improved and scientific methods of agriculture will bring more income to the farmers and those directly or indirectly associated with agriculture," he told Gaon Connection.

Also Read: Farmers in Bahraich, Uttar Pradesh adopt 'Berkeley compost' to grow vegetables

With the help of drip irrigation, mulching and advanced methods of farming, farmers get a huge output.

Solar Irrigation Transforms Farming

In Ramgarh district of Jharkhand, cultivation had almost ground to a halt due to scarcity of water. Almost all of the farming is rainfed. But, solar irrigation has brought great changes.

Two years ago, in 2020, irrigation through solar water pumps was introduced by TRIF. TRIF and the state government jointly provide these solar units to farmers free of cost.

Running on solar energy, these water pumps extract groundwater, which is used for irrigating the crops.The solar panel units including the pumps were installed free of cost. The village committees run them charging the member farmers a nominal amount to maintain the solar equipment and pay a salary to those who maintain it. Altogether, 495 such solar units have been provided to farmers in Jharkhand.

"Nearly 30 acres of land lay useless in the village for over two decades. But through solar irrigation, 20 acres have been revived and hopefully more land will go under cultivation," Rijhu Nath Mahto of Hupu village in Ramgarh, told Gaon Connection.

According to data collected from the Gola block in Ramgarh, where the solar irrigation project is underway under TRIF guidelines, solar panels were installed at 76 sites. Nearly 1,400 farmers have been positively impacted by this, as 1,277 acres of land is under irrigation now.

The farmers are charged a one time fee of Rs 50 for four days of irrigation.

Farmers have formed village level committees to collect nominal irrigation charges from each beneficiary. The farmers are charged a one time fee of Rs 50 for four days of irrigation. There are 495 such committees in over 400 villages where the solar irrigation project is working. The amount is being used for maintenance and other solar panel related expenditure. It is mostly women who are members of the committee and they look after the financial affairs of the solar services.

"While there is water in the Bhairavi river that flows through Gola block, it is way too expensive to use it as there were no irrigation facilities available to the farmers," Bhagwat Mahto, another farmer from Hupu village, told Gaon Connection. Running diesel generators was not an option and farmers preferred to avoid cultivation altogether, he added.

According to Bhagwat, solar irrigation has transformed the lives of the farmers who are now earning in lakhs since 2020. This has also put a stop to migration of the farmers who left Hupu to find work elsewhere.

"They are returning to the village and farming again. They harvest crops four times a year and they are able to sell their produce to other parts of Jharkhand and even other states," Bhagwat said.

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