| Florists prepare marigold garlands in Jorhat. Telegraph picture |
Jorhat, March 12: The fortunes of a few erstwhile rice farmers of Hilikha Sanatan village in Titabar have bloomed since they took to flower cultivation.
Take, for instance, Kosheswar Kachari, who was eking out a living from the Rs 4,000-5,000 he earned from every rice crop till he shifted to horticulture. He earned Rs 55,000 from his first crop, selling tuberoses (rajnigandhas) at Rs 5 per stalk here and in Dibrugarh.
“I am very happy with the first crop. I sent my children to Titabar College and bought a scooter with the money I earned,” he said.
The demand for tuberoses is very high in India, with 80 per cent of the flowers supplied here usually coming from Calcutta.
The seeds of the turnaround were sown in 2005 when the horticulture department of Assam Agricultural University gave a demonstration to farmers in Kamrup, Tinsukia, Dibrugarh and Jorhat districts on how floriculture could increase their earnings manifold. According to AAU scientist Madhumita Choudhury Talukdar, “A 1,000 square metres, or roughly one bigha of land, is all that is required to earn Rs 75,000-80,000 per season. This was shown to farmers at Hajo, Jorhat and Dibrugarh. In 2010, a new demonstration was given to farmers where tuberoses could be grown using a new mulching material — black polythene — in which yield was much higher and quality much better. In winter, a lean season, the black polythene mulch helps retain the soil moisture, making it possible to cultivate the crops throughout the year.”
Madhumita envisions a future when all farmers of Hilikha Sanatan will shift to floriculture. “Earnings of a few villagers have increased manifold after taking to floriculture. We see a rosy future for the village,” she said.
Mulch is a material applied to the surface of the soil around a plant. It helps contain weed infestation, retains the soil moisture and also prohibits leaching out of nutrients during rain.
Earlier, the department had experimented with rice husk, water hyacinth leaves, dried banana leaves and wood shavings but black polythene proved to the best option.
Madhumita said in Hajo, a farmer who earned Rs 48,000 selling tuberoses bought a power tiller with the money.
A demonstration on growing marigold also proved fruitful for Kachari, who made an equal amount of money from that crop. On a plot of two kathas (553 sq metre), he could grow enough Marigolds to weave 2,500 garlands, which he sold at Rs 10 apiece.
“A number of farmers have now jumped onto the bandwagon. In Nagabat, a village neighbouring Hilikha Sanatan, a teacher has shown interest in growing tuberoses,” Madhumita said, adding that in Jorhat district alone, flowers worth between Rs 2 and 3 lakh were brought in from other states every year during puja and wedding seasons.
“With rice hardly being a profitable business anymore, it is encouraging to see farmers foraying into new grounds. Assam is a place where a variety of flowers can be grown in abundance owing to the climatic conditions. I would like to see Hilikha Sanatan transformed into a floriculture village,” she said.