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Gujarat Reaps a Rich Harvest

Author: Uday Mahurkar
Publication: India Toady
Date: May 7, 2012
URL:  http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/gujarat-reaps-a-rich-harvest/1/186352.html
Introduction: New agricultural techniques have changed the lives of farmers in arid Banaskantha

Till a few years ago, Ganesh Patel had very little to do with pomegranates. But in 2011, the 60-year-old farmer from Gujarat produced 20 tonnes of pomegranate worth Rs.15 lakh on 35 acres of land in Kumbhalmer village in the arid Banaskantha district bordering Pakistan. In six years, Ganesh has taken his land holding from 10 to 35 acres. Shankar Mansa, 35, has a similar tale to tell. A tribal farmer from Banaskantha's Virampur village, Mansa's income from his seven-acre farm increased from Rs.11,000 in 2008 to Rs.92,000 in 2011 after he added new high-yield crops such as fennel, chilli and cotton to his normal crop of maize and wheat, and switched to the drip irrigation technique. This also helped in producing more fodder for his two cows and a buffalo, increasing his dairy income from Rs.18,000 to Rs.41,000.

Ganesh and Mansa are among thousands of farmers from Banaskantha who are part of a unique agricultural revolution. Less than a decade ago, the district, 70 per cent of whose area is either totally arid and saline or partially arid and rocky, was one of the most backward districts of western India. Today, with over 70,000 acres of land covered under drip and sprinkler irrigation, it tops the country in the use of this technique.

The switch to micro-irrigation was accompanied by the cultivation of horticulture crops such as pomegranate, papaya and other high-yielding varieties. The results are evident. In 2011, Banaskantha produced pomegranates worth Rs.90 crore from 10 lakh trees and papayas worth Rs.50 crore from 14 lakh trees. Even the production of potato, isabgol and oil seeds, common crops in Banaskantha for years, has seen a four-fold rise in production value in the past eight years, from Rs.125 crore then to Rs.500 crore now. Today, Banaskantha is the highest producer of potato in the country at 6.15 lakh metric tonnes worth Rs.190 crore annually.

Gujarat Green Revolution Company (GGRC), a company formed in 2003 as the brainchild of Chief Minister Narendra Modi, has played a major role in this revolution, making it possible for farmers to adopt drip and sprinkler irrigation methods by offering aggressive subsidies on capital cost.

The success story began nine years ago when GGRC was formed with a seed capital of Rs.1,500 crore and a plan to propagate micro-irrigation methods. GGRC offers 50 per cent subsidy on cost on adoption of drip and sprinkler techniques. This subsidy was 75 per cent for tribal farmers. It was subsequently revised to 85 per cent.

Hasmukh Patel's voluntary organisation, Sarvodaya Kendra, has played a vital role in taking the green revolution forward. Patel went door to door and held public meetings to inform farmers about GGRC's schemes. "What Banaskantha is witnessing is an agricultural miracle brought about by the dynamism of both the farmers and the state government. This revolution is touching the smallest of farmers. The way things stand, the district will continue its agricultural leap for many more years to come," he says.

Shankar Mansa's rise is an example of how poor tribal farmers are benefiting by adopting modern irrigation methods. Before he switched to drip irrigation in 2008, Mansa could irrigate just four of his seven acres of land. His borewell used to yield water for one hour every seven hours due to low groundwater reserves. Now he only needs 60 per cent of the earlier quantity of water to irrigate the seven acres. A training stint at Dantiwada University taught him ways to add new high-yielding varieties of crops. GGRC laid the drip irrigation network at his farm for Rs.1.50 lakh. With subsidy, he had to pay only Rs.37,500.

Ganesh was one of the first farmers to adopt drip irrigation. He was also one of the first to cultivate pomegranates after the fruit was introduced in the district by an NGO. "I now save more than 40 per cent of groundwater, yet grow much more," Ganesh says.

Dipak Chaudhary is another beneficiary of drip irrigation. The 30-year-old farmer owns 14 acres of land in Chaniana village. In 2004, his annual income was Rs.1 lakh. This changed in 2011. He earned Rs.18 lakh in 2011 with a new crop pattern. This year, he is growing papayas for the first time and hopes to earn Rs.12 lakh.

Golap village, on the Gujarat-Pakistan border, has also benefited from Banaskantha's agro revolution story. Here, it is not the drip or sprinkler methods that have worked but shallow borewell programme. Nagjibhai Ratha Rajput, 60, is an example of the village's quantum leap. His income from his 10 acres is Rs.3 lakh, up from Rs.25,000 in 2004. Rajput also added cumin, castor and mustard to his earlier favoured crops, millet and pulses.

With one success story after another, Gujarat's green revolution shows no signs of slowing down.
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