Odisha’s Prakash Chandra Dehury (32) had studied a vocational course from the Industrial Training Institute (ITI), but lack of opportunities in his village, as well as limited pay, never let him earn a decent living. The Budhdani village native says he worked in a private company in Bengaluru till 2014, and quit to return home and care for his ailing parents. He searched for jobs in government and private sectors in the area, but in vain.
In the meantime, he began helping his father on the farm, growing bananas and other cereal crops. He began experimenting on his 2.5-acre farm by intercropping cowpeas, maize, turmeric, and mango. This experiment in turn earned him the Best Dryland Farmer Award from the central government in 2016. Since then, what was supposed to be a way to bide time has become a means for Prakash to carve his own path as a successful farmer. He has planted around 3,000 banana trees, earning lakhs of rupees.
A Maharashtrian variety in Odisha
Confident that he was on the right path with his initial success, Prakash started thinking about more ideas to increase income with farming. “While farmers here do grow bananas, the hilly terrain makes its cultivation a challenge. Most farmers, including my father, grow bananas on a small scale,” he says.
To gain more knowledge about growing the fruit, Prakash signed up for training with the government’s Horticulture Department, and studied the G-9, a high yield banana variety. “I procured the variety at 40 per cent subsidy from a Maharashtra-based company,” he adds.
By 2019, he started planting bananas. The COVID-19 lockdown helped him expedite the process, and focus entirely on the farm. He cultivated an impressive 3,086 banana trees, and as many locals began losing their jobs, he provided labour to 20 people through maintenance work on the farm.
In 2021, he began seeing the first harvest. “My father helps me sell them to individuals and in the market. We make an average daily earning of Rs 1,600, and even Rs 2,000 on a good day. We have earned Rs 1.20 lakh so far,” he adds. The farmer says that the G-9 banana variety is not common in the area, and has drawn curious farmers from across the village. “The plantation survived in the hilly area and withstood the weather conditions, despite how different they were Maharashtra’s. These bananas are bigger and have better shelf-life,” he adds.
A secure source of livelihood
Prakash says he expects to earn Rs 6 lakh by the end of the harvest. “The overall experience has been more rewarding than working as an employee in a private company,” he adds.
Apart from bananas, Prakash also sells vegetables, eggs and vermicompost to earn additional income. “I am planning to experiment with mango and lychee plants now,” he says. He encourages farmers to take up banana farming, owing to its lucrativeness. He also feels the government should support young farmers and increase job prospects in the agriculture sector.
“There are many people who lost employment during the pandemic. They can turn to farming, as it will benefit them. Working in cities or in the private sector is risky, and employees have become vulnerable. Farming could be a secure source of livelihood and a way to become financially stable,” he adds.
Edited by Divya Sethu