Rural women ditch traditional farming methods to tackle wild animal menace and water logging in flood prone areas
Upset with water logging in flood prone areas and regular wild animal attacks by porcupine and Nilgai, women in Basti district of Uttar Pradesh have switched to the trellis system where vegetables are grown on a raised structure, a couple of feet above the ground, which is expected to increase their earnings.
Shivani Gupta 16 April 2022 6:46 AM GMT
Ranjeeta had cultivated potato on her one biswa land last year. The produce was bountiful but a large chunk of it was destroyed overnight by porcupine that invaded her field. "One fourth of my potato produce was destroyed by saahi (porcupine). We are fed up with these regular animal attacks on our crops. I have suffered huge losses," the 30-year-old farmer from Ekmah village told Gaon Connection.
Baby Pandey, another small farmer from Ranjeeta's village in Basti district of Uttar Pradesh, who owns 10 biswa land, suffered crop loss worth Rs 15,000 when flood waters inundated her fields during the last year's floods in her region. [1 biswa= 0.012 hectare]
Either because of animal attacks or recurring floods, farmers in Basti district of Uttar Pradesh, are finding it difficult to cultivate their lands as every year they lose their harvest and suffer staggering losses.
To address this problem, a number of farmers have switched over from the traditional open farm methods of farming to the trellis system. Under trellis, farmers cultivate crops off the ground on a raised structure.
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"The trellis system is common in South India and Maharashtra as they have limited land, while farmers in North India have more agricultural lands and hence practice open farming methods. We are reaching out to farmers in Uttar Pradesh to help them understand techniques by which they can make farming profitable," Dibakar Mahapatra, manager (Basti office), Transform Rural India Foundation (TRIF), told Gaon Connection.
The grassroots organisation TRIF, in collaboration with National Rural Livelihood Mission (NRLM), is providing technical support to the farmers in Basti district. "We are training farmers in perspective building and telling them about the benefits of the trellis system through videos and request them to set up the system in a very small area and understand the benefits," Mahapatra added.
What is a trellis?
Trellis systems are used to keep the vegetables off the ground with vegetables hanging at least five-six feet above the farmland. The system not only helps prevent wild animals from destroying their produce — the only source of income for small farmers, but also waterlogging that rots the vegetables. Besides, the trellis system improves sunlight exposure, air movement, and spray penetration throughout the canopy.
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Trellis is set up using nylon and plastic netting, welded wire mesh, bamboo, wood — everything fabricated into horizontal trellis. Bamboo is mostly available with these households. It costs about Rs 30,000 to set up trellis in an acre, which yields about 400 kilos of produce (per acre). A farmer can earn upto Rs 160,000 with this investment in 75-80 days, claimed the TRIF manager.
"This system helps farmers because insects, pests, and wild animal attacks are less. Production rate increase. In this system, weed removal is also easier, which is difficult in open farms when crops are grown compactly," he said.
At present, 20 farmers, including Baby Pandey and Ranjeeta, in Bankati block of Basti have adopted the trellis system in the past one month.
"We have set up jhamar (trellis) in our field. Phail ke farta hai to acha hota hai fal, jameen me rehta hai to sad jata h, keeda kha jata hai. [When the vegetables grow on trellis, we will get good produce while when they grow on ground, they rot as pests damage them]" Baby told Gaon Connection.
"When flood waters would enter the field, our crops would be damaged. In this system of jhamar, vegetables hang up from above the flood waters. Soil soaks water in one or two hours. This system will ensure our vegetables are not damaged in flood water," said Baby, who hails from Sataura village of Basti. She has set up trellis using bamboo and wood which cost her Rs 1,500 on 10 biswa land.
Last month, Baby planted ladyfinger, bitter gourd, bottle gourd, sarputiya (Ridge gourd) in her farm using the trellis system.
"Last year we suffered losses worth fifteen thousand. This time, we expect the produce to be bountiful. We expect to get at least a hundred kilos of healthy vegetables from our land," she added.
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This initiative of trellis method is also focussed on empowering women in agriculture activities. "We are connecting these women through various activities such as krishi aajeevika (agriculture livelihood) and flower farming, so that these women are financially and socially empowered," Ram Prakash Tripathi, assistant development officer (Bankati block), NRLM, told Gaon Connection.
In the Bankati block, village women are associated with as many as 1,400 self help groups, with each group comprising at least 10 women. TRIF in collaboration with NRLM is reaching out to these women to boost their income through the trellis system.
"Earlier, we did nothing. Bas khana banao so jao. [We would only cook, eat, and sleep] But now we step out. We learn new things almost every day," Chandrakala, a self help group member and a farmer who hails from Singhorma village, told Gaon Connection.
"Villagers are coming to see our trellis system. Pehle housewife they ab madam ji ho gaye hain. [Earlier I was a housewife, now I am respectfully referred to as madam]," said the 30-year-old farmer gleefully.
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Of her eight bigha farmland, Chandrakala grows creepers such as bottle gourd and nenua (Ridge gourd) in one bigha, and sugarcane and wheat/paddy in the rest. "But I am planning to increase the vegetable production in my land," she added. [1 bigha = 0.25 hectare]
In two months, Chandrakala would be able to pluck fresh vegetables from her six feet tall jhamar, ready to bring her good income.
This story has been done in collaboration with Transform Rural India Foundation.