Of all the crops Kishore Chandra has cultivated, the demand for browntop millet is fetching him almost triple the amount of what he was earning until last season.
What does it mean to each one of us?
A question without an existing answer, a teacher whose guidance changed the course of our lives, or a simple idea you knew would catalyse change?
There are times in our lives that push us beyond the confines of comfort zones to do things that we may have never previously considered of being capable.
For Kishore Chandra, a native from Proddatur town of Kadapa district in Andhra Pradesh, inspiration came from television. After having worked in the education sector for about five years, what inspired this man to leave a secure job to pursue farming through the most ecologically sustainable manner was an episode of the renowned television series, Satyamev Jayate.
Aired on June 2012, this particular episode of the show shed light over the prevalence of chemically-induced farming practices, and how years of chemical abuse was not just affecting the environment but also, our health.
“Though I’d always been environmentally sensitive since childhood, this episode left me pondering over how we, as a society, have ended up implementing non-sustainable systems in almost every sector especially agriculture where the consequences would be directly seen in our health. The episode had ended, but I’d only gotten started,” says Kishore.
With the help of the Internet, Kishore began researching over different concerns in the agrarian sector and why usage of chemicals were so prevalent in India.
“Having studied political science during my graduation, I was able to grasp how the triad of politics, economics and trade played a significant role in rendering agrarian systems the way they are now. It wasn’t limited to just farming for that manner. I looked deeper and found how something as basic as drinking water was at stake owing to industrialisation and various other developmental changes,” recalls Kishore.
He further draws our attention to how the river passing by his town dried up two decades ago, when enterprises began popping up. “In addition to that, there were existing problems like sand mining and damming of the river. The situation became so grave that even borewells dried up. I wondered what development meant. Cumulative introspection further left me worried thinking about the future and what we would be leaving behind for the coming generations,” he shares.
By then, Kishore really wanted to do something to undo the damage done to the environment—and he thought farming was the way to go.
Kishore decided to pursue it properly and signed up for sustainable living programme at Bhoomi College in Bengaluru. Alongside, he also attended a permaculture course, keeping the sustainability in mind.
And in 2015, he set out to pursue farming. Fortunately, there was no dearth of land as his family already possessed some property, where they used to farm in the past. “However, these were grown using chemical fertilisers and pesticides and at some point, we put an end to it and later gave the land for lease. When I told my father my plan to pursue organic farming, he supported the decision wholeheartedly, and also joined me in the pursuit. Our aim was to aspire for a minimalist lifestyle,” Kishore says.
Because of years of chemical abuse on the land, it was imperative for Kishore to zero down on crops that could be grown in such adverse conditions.
“A lot of work went towards reviving the plot. Even then, the soil wasn’t fertile enough to cultivate water retentive crops that demanded high nutrients. On the other hand, millet crops could thrive in any type of climate without much maintenance. And if you add theie numerous health benefits, nothing could have been a better option than millets, and I decided to go with it,” says Kishore.
Across an area of 25 acres (which is a joint property and includes land owned by Kishore and his cousins), Kishore began cultivating 5-6 varieties of millets, including foxtail, barnyard, browntop and yellow sorghum, and has been doing so for the last four years.
Irrigation needs of the farm are met through rainwater harvesting, while only organically prepared manure and compost is used for the crops. Kishore has also implemented a live fence of about 450 Karounda trees around the plot, which has helped in groundwater retention to a certain extent.
On an average, he is able to harvest five quintals per acre every cycle.
To further encourage sustainable market practices, Kishore sells all of his harvest to Kadiri-based social enterprise, Earth 360 Eco Ventures Private Limited.
Not stopping at just production, Kishore has also been actively promoting millet and its value-added products in his town. Through awareness events and sessions, he also roped in Mysuru-based millet champion Dr Khadar Valli to speak to the people of his town about the health benefits of millets. Furthermore, he teamed up with Timbaktu Collective and hosted a three-day millet mela in 2016, that supported the efforts of 1,800 farmers from Dharani through their products.
Practising what he has been preaching, Kishore and his family have been following a millet-based diet for about two years now. He attributed his father, Dr PC Gurivi Reddy, of having been immensely supportive of his foray into organic farming.
Kishore shares that the initial three years had been a bit of a struggle as the returns were much lower as compared to the amount he had invested per acre.
However, things have begun to look up for Kishore. Of all the crops he has cultivated, the demand for browntop millet is fetching him almost triple the amount (Rs 9000 per quintal) of what he was earning until last season (Rs 3500 per quintal).
His next hope is that the yellow sorghum he has recently harvested would prove to bring in better returns. “The awareness about millets has certainly played a major role, as more and more people are becoming health conscious, and want to lead healthier lifestyles,” adds Kishore.
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Through farming that is conserving the environment and helping people lead healthier lives, Kishore Chandra is silently championing the cause of sustainability. The man plans to continue raising awareness on millets or sustainable living anytime soon.
If you wish to reach out to Kishore Chandra, you can mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org or call on 9490028642.
(Edited by Saiqua Sultan)