A land that lay vacant and barren 12 years ago is a lush green three-acre property that Laxmikant Hibare (41) is extremely proud of today. A resident of Kalaburagi, in Karnataka, Laxmikant calls himself a progressive farmer.
By way of using organic agricultural methods, his farm has close to 850 sandalwood and red sanders trees, 800 drumstick trees, 225 Java plum trees, 49 Lucknow guava plants, 225 Thai Mosambi trees, 225 Grapefruit (red orange) trees and even 125 Mahogany plants.
Laxmikant’s journey of turning what was once barren land into lush green farmland is one of undeterred willpower.
Trudging on a difficult path
Laxmikant was able to complete his class 10 examination but he had to drop out later for financial reasons. “Soon after class 10 I took up various odd jobs to make ends meet. It was a difficult time growing up. I managed to get a job as a typist while simultaneously working on trying to cultivate the land,” he says.
Originally from Maharashtra, Laxmikant’s father moved to Karnataka many years ago to settle down. “My father had a total of seven acres of land, of which only about three acres was fertile and cultivable. As the years went by, the land was divided between my father and his brother, and what remained with my family was barren land,” he shares. It was in 2009 that Laxmikant decided to try and work on the barren land that was part of his family’s share.
“People mocked me and were certain that nothing good could come out of working on a barren piece of land. Since they had not seen anything grown on it for years, they assumed nothing would,” says Laxmikant. But it was his undeterred dedication that helped him make a difference.
“I went back to the basics – I started off by levelling the land. The process took close to a fortnight but that helped lay a good foundation for what I wanted to achieve,” he says. Simultaneously, he also started working on providing the soil with the much-needed nutrients and fertilisers. “It is at this point that I understood the importance of using organic fertilisers. While the initial results with using chemical fertilisers was great, it needed a lot of monetary input and the yield also started to decrease with the quality dipping significantly,” says Laxmikant.
“Moving to organic fertilisers is amongst the best decisions I took for the development of the land,” he says. Laxmikant consulted the officials at Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVK), especially the Principal Scientist Dr Raju Teggali, who he says helped him through various stages. “It was on their advice that I learnt all about forest farming and started growing crops following their instructions,” he adds. Forest farming is the cultivation of high-value specialty crops under a forest canopy that is intentionally modified or maintained to provide shade levels and habitat that favour growth and enhance production levels.
He purchased close to 3,000 saplings from the Agricultural Department, Forestry Department and KVK to begin with.
These included sandalwood, amla, mahogany, moringa and various citrus fruit trees. There is ample space between the trees, and seasonal fruits and vegetables are grown in between the trees. “The sandalwood trees that line the farmland are an investment I have made for the future. The seasonal vegetables and fruits earn me a good return for now,” he says.
‘Necessity is the mother of all inventions’
“With our region [in Karnataka] being prone to severe water scarcity, I knew I had to find alternate methods for irrigation on the field. I wanted to ensure that I had good yields with having to use minimum water for the same,” says Laxmikant. Drip irrigation is what Laxmikant chose to work with on the field. Over the years, he has also managed to revive one pond on the field and has also constructed borewells across it.
The importance of finding ways of conserving water struck Laxmikant rather early on in his agricultural journey. In 2011, the region went through a rather stark drought period, and it was some of the methods that Laxmikant had started implementing in the field that helped him survive that period. “Necessity is the mother of all inventions is a phrase I had heard but only later I realised what it meant,” says Laxmikant.
During the drought period, Laxmikant used all available plastic bottles as a source of irrigation for the crops in the field. “I collected as many empty bottles as I could and filled them with water. I would make a small hole on the cap and invert the bottle into the fields at equal distances. This was a great way of ensuring the soil remained moist for a long time,” he says. While this process was tedious and one that took a long time to set-up, the end result made it worthwhile.
In an attempt to make his own organic manure, he goes around collecting waste from in and around the village. “I meticulously segregate the waste and use whatever I feel can be made into compost. This helps ensure that the soil quality remains good and that the crops are only being fed organic manure,” he says.
A quest to keep learning
“While I am an agriculturist, I feel that to augment one’s income, a farmer must try and learn and do other things as well,” he says, adding, “Agriculture depends a lot on the vagaries of the monsoon, and keeping that in mind I also started managing a nursery, rearing poultry while also beekeeping. These are additional sources of income for my family.”
Laxmikant also has a rather innovative way of reaching the customers and selling his produce. He says, “I find it easier to directly sell to the customer. This way, the middleman is completely eliminated and I get a sense of what customers are actually looking for. I am part of a few WhatsApp groups where customers directly deal with the farmer to buy the produce.” Laxmikant serves close to 1000 customers via WhatsApp and says that some stores in and around the village also stock up on his fruits and vegetable produce.
In diversifying and growing various seasonal crops, Laxmikant has been able to retain a steady income. “The Lucknow Guava, when in season, earns me close to Rs 80,000 and the moringa crop, close to Rs 1.5 lakhs a season,” he says.
“I got into farming because it was the need of the hour but now I try to get school children to work on the farm and experience this. It is very important that the next generation shows interest in this and take it forward,” says Laxmikant, whose daughter, Shrishti Hibare, can often be found lending a helping hand on the farm. “It makes me very happy to see her and other kids showing interest in agriculture,” he signs off.
He is the recipient of several awards and recognitions, including Vijaya Karnataka Superstar Award in 2019, Kannada Rakshnavedic Negila Yogi Award in 2020 and Pakwada Award presented by Bank of Baroda in 2020.
If you would like to reach out to Laxmikant Hibare, you can email him at – firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Edited by Yoshita Rao)