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Little hands grow green future

- F2F programme sows farming, business seeds in kids

Jorhat, Nov. 26: Assam hopes to witness a green revolution of a different kind in a decade or so if Farm2Food (F2F) Foundation’s “farmpreneur” programme for schoolchildren succeeds.

The scheme, launched last year by chief minister Tarun Gogoi’s son Gaurav, who is the founder secretary of Farm2Food Foundation, aims at nurturing future farmer entrepreneurs.

Nearly 400 schoolchildren from 20 schools in the district today displayed what they had cultivated organically with the aid of vermi-compost in an exhibition on the district library premises here.

The chief minister, who attended the exhibition, lauded the initiative. He also announced Rs 1 lakh in prizes for the three best schools — 50,000 for the best school, 30,000 for the first runners-up and 20,000 for the second runners-up —at a ceremony held at the district library.

Gaurav said more than 300 bank accounts for minors had been opened for the children in Classes IV to VIII, who were part of the Yuva Krishak Clubs in the schools.

“We are not only trying to encourage children to take to farming for a livelihood but are also trying to ensure that they earn a good profit, develop habits of thrift and be able to increase the turnover every year. What we are aiming for is sustainable agriculture,” he said.

The F2F will soon expand base to other districts.

Gaurav said the objective was also to instil a work culture as opposed to a culture of general strikes where everyone wanted the state to do everything for them. “Be the change,” he added.

He said the children were taught about decrease of soil fertility and the hazards of chemical fertilisers and pesticides.

All the vegetables displayed at the exhibition had been grown with vermi-compost, which the children had produced from waste in recycled thermocol fish-packaging boxes. One such packet of vermi-compost, named Mother Earth, was presented to the chief minister at a stall in the exhibition.

“These healthy food options will be procured by the schools and added to midday meals so that the meals become more nutritious,” Gogoi said.

Assam Agricultural University vice-chancellor K.M. Bujarbaruah hailed the initiative as a new agricultural dawn.

He said it augured well for the state as recent statistics had revealed that most of the farmers were above 50 years of age and that 43 per cent wanted to leave farming, which was a frightening thought.

Mariani MLA Rupjyoti Kurmi said he himself came from such a background and had once sold vegetables at the Cinnamara market.

“One should never feel ashamed to till the soil for it is this fertile land, which is our best asset. I would like that a law should be enacted to make farming compulsory for all. Be it an engineer or a deputy commissioner, he should do some gardening even if it is in the backyard of the house,” Kurmi said.

The chief minister said he himself had grown vegetables, including onions and potatoes, and there was no use cribbing about rising prices when one did nothing to improve one’s condition.

“Laying waste our fertile land is a crime,” he said.

Gogoi said the state would also do its bit to improve irrigation facilities and remove hurdles like storage and processing.