UP: Unnao's first women-led SHG for Thai guava cultivation promises better incomes for farmers
Disappointed with the uncertainties in the market prices of traditional vegetables, a women-led self help group in Uttar Pradesh’s Unnao has switched to cultivating Thai guava. The exotic fruit is sold almost thrice the price of the locally grown guava and is promising a better livelihood for the rural women.
Sumit Yadav 3 Jan 2023 1:59 PM GMT
Basnoha (Unnao), Uttar Pradesh
Till four years ago, for 58-year-old Ramkumari Kushwaha, it was disheartening to see her ageing husband suffer losses despite toiling in the agricultural field throughout the year.
"He grew vegetables like tamaatar [tomato], baingan [brinjal], bandd gobhi [cabbage] but it was of no use because the laagat [input cost] was rising every year while the profits were on a decline," Kushwaha, a resident of Basnoha village in Uttar Pradesh's Unnao district, told Gaon Connection.
"It was then in 2018 that I decided to organise the women in my village and do farming in a way which is profitable and requires less labour. A total of 10 women came forward and we launched a swayam sahaayta samooh [self help group or SHG]. We named it as Chandrika Maa samooh," Kushwaha said.
The 10 women from the SHG, upon seeking advice from the district mission manager of the Uttar Pradesh State Rural Livelihood Mission [SRLM], decided to cultivate Thai guavas in September 2021, and almost a year later, their efforts have borne fruit and the women have begun making money from the sales.
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"It is the first self help group which is cultivating Thai guavas in the district. We are trying to rope in more women SHGs to do the same," Ashok Kumar, Unnao district mission manager of SRLM, told Gaon Connection. "These women have also been trained to market their produce in an efficient manner. They know how to make jams, jelly and other packageable products from guavas," he added.
Kumar has advised the women to cultivate Thai guava, as according to him cultivation of the fruits was the easiest livelihood intervention as these women hail from agricultural backgrounds.
Today, out of the total three bighas [almost quarter of an hectare] of the land owned by Ramkumari's husband, a bigha is dedicated to the cultivation of Thai guavas — a variety of the tropical fruit which have recently become popular in the urban markets. These fruits are not only bigger in size as compared to the indigenous varieties of guava but also fetch almost thrice the market price. Locally grown guavas are sold at a price of Rs 10- Rs 15 per kilogramme while the Thai guava fetches a wholesale price of Rs 40-Rs 45 per kilogramme.
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Ramkumari Kushwaha informed Gaon Connection that a sapling of Thai guava costs Rs 280 each and a total of Rs 80,000 have been spent on the planting alone. Also, the irrigation of the saplings cost Rs 40,000 which, as per Kushwaha, is economical.
"We irrigated the plants using tapak takneek [drip irrigation]. It not only saves water but also ensures that the plants receive optimum water content," she said.
Bhagwan Dei, a 60-year-old member of the SHG, proudly told Gaon Connection that 'chemical khaad' was not used in cultivating the Thai guavas.
"I, along with nine other friends, have worked in a bigha of land. As soon as the monsoon season ended in September 2021, we planted the guavas. Initially, we dug pits separated at a distance of eight feet from each other and added cow dung in those pits. There was no use of urea or chemicals," Dei said.
"The government got us the saplings from Madhya Pradesh. These trees are still mid-sized and are yet to grow fully but they have begun producing fruits for the last two months. A guava tree produces fruits for almost 20 years and a single tree produces 30 kilogrammes to 40 kilogrammes of fruits in a single season and it produces fruits twice a year," she added.
As per the farmer, Thai guava cultivated on an acre of land can be used to earn up to Rs 100,000 in a single harvest season and Rs 200,000 in a year as the tree blooms biannually.
Dei stated that for now, it will take another year for the trees in her orchard to reap optimum harvests.
Easy to produce, high market value
Horticulture expert Dheeraj Tiwari who works as a scientist at the Krishi Vigyan Kendra [farm science centre] in Unnao's Dhaura block told Gaon Connection that Thai guava can be cultivated on a wide variety of soils.
"It is a very profitable crop. Farmers have become very interested in the cultivation of Thai guavas in recent years. Also, it is not labour intensive like staple crops and requires little capital investment after the first year of cultivation. With these features, its acreage is set to grow multifold in the coming years," Tiwari said.
Meanwhile, Bhagwan Dei, the SHG member, echoed Tiwari's remarks. "We are just tired of doing back-breaking labour in cultivating crops like paddy and wheat. Farmers are realising the importance of crops like Thai guava now," she said.