In the Parali taluka of Maharashtra’s Beed district, a perennially drought-stricken region of Marathwada, farmer Sandip Gitte has become a successful pioneer.

Conventionally, he would cultivate soybeans, grams, and other arid crops common to the region. “However, a guiding session on organic farming and its success on fruit crops convinced me to try growing papaya on one acre of land,” he says.

In 2019, Sandip planted 1,000 papaya saplings and invested Rs 1.5 lakh on the crop and other expenses.

“I also planted watermelon as a complementary crop. This meant fertiliser, water and other resources were used only once, thus reducing the overall cost,” Sandip adds.

The double crop also helped Sandip to increase his income exponentially. He says in seven months of the harvest, he earned Rs 3 lakh from the crop.

“I immediately extended the crop on another acre of land with the earnings and two acres has helped me earn an income of Rs 11 lakh,” he says.

He adds that 20 tonnes of papaya was produced and he sold it in different parts of the state.

Soon, Sandip’s success became the talk of the village. This encouraged at least 80 farmers to switch to cultivating papaya with other fruit varieties.

“A total of about 150 acres of land is used for fruit plantations now. Papaya is cultivated in about 40 acres of land and the remaining land is used to cultivate other fruit varieties like custard apple, guava, sweet lime, lemon, and mango,” he informs.

Currently, he has expanded papaya cultivation on 20 acres of land, earning up to Rs 4 lakh per acre, he notes.

Sandip believes such experiments could help bring hope and reduce the rate of farmer suicides in the infamous Marathwada region.