A dream doesn’t become a reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination and hard work.
– Colin Powell
Marathwada’s current drought cycle began in 2011, and except 2013, the rains have failed every single year since. The epicentre of this unrelenting drought is Beed, a district in Marathwada, which accounts for the single largest number of farmer suicides. Since 2012, 702 farmers in Beed have committed suicide out of a total of 2,450 farmer suicides in Marathwada.
However, Vishwanath Bobade, a farmer in Bahirwadi, a village in the same district, has achieved the unthinkable. He has earned ₹ 7 lakh from farming on a square piece of land that measures only 1 acre.
Vishwanath, who has studied up to Class 5, started with growing traditional crops such as lentil and pearl millet along with his elder brother on their ancestral farm.
After their father’s death, the brothers’ had to sell 6 acres of their land to build a house of their own, and they were left with only 4 acres. The investment kept increasing with every year. To meet their expenses, the brothers started working as farm labourers in farms belonging to other people.
Sadly, in 1992, two acres of their land were appropriated by the government to build new roads, and in 1998 when the brothers divided their shares, Vishwanath was left with only a one-acre piece of land.
He kept striving hard to earn more, but the traditional methods used for farming, coupled with the yearly droughts did not help, and his condition went from bad to worse.
Fed up with the situation, Vishwanath thought that it would be a good idea to re-examine his farming methods and make changes to them. With each experiment and experience, Vishwanath was able to increase his profits continuously, and hopes for more in the coming years.
Here is what he did –
Vishwanath realised that he would never be able to earn enough money if he only grew two crops a year, and he decided to give multi-cropping a try. He also figured out a way to grow more crops on just one acre of land by building a wire fence on his farm and planting creepers and climbers on them.
“I decided to grow ridge gourd and bitter gourd along with the traditional crops I was growing. This added two more crops to the list,” says Vishwanath.
The experiment yielded excellent results, and Vishwanath decided to grow more vegetables like cauliflower, cabbage and okra. In the first year itself, Vishwanath was able to earn almost ₹ 3 lakh. However, water scarcity was still an issue.
2. Building a continuous water system
Vishwanath used the profit he made during the first year to build a well near the Bindusara River that flows through his village. He then installed a pipeline to ensure that the water reached his farm and the plants were then watered through sprinklers.
This maintained the moisture of the farm even in peak summers. Once the water system was in place, Vishwanath decided to grow some more crops. “Once there was enough water for my farm, I started growing tomatoes and watermelons too,” he informs us.
3. Planned crops as per season
Vishwanath started planning the crops according to their planting and harvesting season. He now harvests at least 6-7 crops three times a year. He plants tomatoes, ridge gourd, bitter gourd and cauliflower or cabbage in May.
The harvesting season of these crops starts by the end of August. He plants okra and ridge gourd at the beginning of September, and by the end of January, all these crops are harvested. Finally, he plants watermelons and muskmelons in February.
“I have sold tomatoes worth ₹ 4 lakh in June, then ridge gourd for ₹ 1 lakh and in January this year I earned ₹ 2.5 lakh by selling watermelons. Cauliflowers have not given me much so I will try planting something else next year,” a visibly happy Vishwanath informs The Better India.
4. Use of new technology
Raised Bed method
Vishwanath has also picked up farming methods like raised-bed farming and mulching over the years, which has proved to be beneficial.
a) Raised-Bed Farming – In raised-bed farming method, the soil is formed in three-to-four-foot-wide beds, which can be of any length or shape.
The soil is raised approximately six inches above the surrounding soil and is enclosed by a frame made of wood, rock, or concrete blocks. The plants are spaced in geometric patterns, much closer together than in conventional row gardening.
According to Vishwanath, raised beds produce a variety of benefits. They extend the planting season, reduce the growth of weeds and since one does not walk on the raised beds, the soil is not compacted, and the roots have an easier time growing. The close plant spacing and the use of compost in the raised bed result in higher yields.
b) Mulching – Mulch is a protective layer of material that is spread on top of the soil to control or modify the effects of local climatic conditions. Applying mulch can optimise the usage of water to a greater extent.
Vishwanath grows tomatoes and ridge gourd on the raised bed and has also applied the mulching method on them.
He keeps a distance of at least 6 feet between the two beds and uses the space to grow crops like okra or cauliflower.
“In one acre one can grow almost 1000 crates of tomatoes and 30 tonnes of watermelons. Gourds which are harvested in winters have a good market rate,” he informs us.
5. Use of sprinklers
The complete watering and spreading of organic fertilizer and pesticides are done through sprinklers in Vishwanath’s farm. HTP pumps and spray guns are also used as per requirement and time. Vishwanath takes help of only two labourers at his farm.
His wife and he work day and night to take care of the plants and hence the cost of production is less, giving them better profits. Many farmers have taken inspiration and training from Vishwanath and adopted similar methods.
“I have invested ₹ 50,000 each season and the net profit this year is around ₹ 5 lakh. I am expecting better profits next year as I‘ve decided to turn fully organic, and this will cut down the production cost even more.
I would like to tell my farmer brothers that nothing is impossible if you keep an eye on the market and make use of all your resources. So, never lose hope!” he concludes.
If you are a farmer and wish to know more about this 1-acre farming model, do get in touch with Vishwanath on 9763372857. If you are a reader and wish to help a farmer then please help spread the knowledge by sharing this article.
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A Mechanical Engineer-turned-writer, Manabi finds solace in writing stories about unsung heroes. Nothing makes her happier than the impact emails from her readers. Other than writing, she loves listening to the stories told by her six year old daughter. Manabi can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also find her tweets @manabi5