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Sow smart ideas, reap cash harvest
- Tribal woman experiments with cowpea to earn Rs 25000 in 3 months, 10 times of what she made annually

At first glance, you can’t say this mother of two of Hundru village, near Birsa Munda Airport on the capital outskirts, is a scientist.

But there’s more to Pratima Kachhap (45) than what meets the eye. She’s a farmer who recently discovered she could think out of the box and earn good money too.

Starting this January, Pratima, with 40 other women, spent four months at Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), Plandu, getting trained on how to raise seedlings of vegetables in pro-trays, a labour-cum-water saving technology that improves yield and is used nowadays to grow cucumbers, pumpkins, bottle gourds and sponge gourds.

Fresh from her training this May, Pratima was not just content with what they had learnt. She thought of experimenting.

Using the pro-tray method, she decided to grow cowpeas (commonly known as bodi). The legumes flourished and in three months earned her over Rs 25,000. In comparison, her earlier yield from the same 1,000sqm plot used to fetch her a paltry Rs 2,500 a year.

Flush with success, Pratima is a role model for other farmers in and around her village.

“I was trained at the centre in Plandu (Indian Council of Agricultural Research) for four months from January 2014 along with other 40 women on the pro-tray technology. Once I came back, I decided to try out growing bodi with this technique,” said the mother of two grown-up boys.

Raising cowpea seedlings of Swarna Mukut variety in pro-trays, she transplanted them to her field in 20 days and then grew the crop by covering the soil with plastic sheet in a process known as mulching.

Mujhe jyada mehnat nahi karna pada (I did not have to work hard),” she smiled, adding that mulching saved water and labour to control weeds.

On being asked how she felt about her innovation, she said: “Bahut achha. Plandu ke sahab bol rahe sab ko sikhane ke liye aur bodi ko ugane ke liye (Very good. Plandu scientists have requested me to teach others to grow cowpea).”

With technical support from the ICAR in Plandu, Ranchi, Pratima and her fellow farmers now know many progressive farming techniques that save time, money and labour but also give richer yields.

Only, Pratima can also think for herself.

Fruit scientist of Plandu Bikash Das praised her efforts. “Pratima also grew nenua (sponge gourd) of the Swarna Prabha variety, developed at ICAR, Plandu, Ranchi, in the same field so that the vacant space between two rows of the bodi could be used efficiently,” he said. “She really put her mind in farming.”

Das said the pro-tray technology was cheap. “Pro-trays are available in the market for Rs 16 apiece. In each, farmers can raise 100 small seedlings and transplant them within 20 days on their plots,” he said.

Das said they had adopted this village which comprises 100 tribal families, mostly farmers. This small village, which has wells and check dams, is also ideal for Plandu scientists to teach farmers drip irrigation to grow vegetables.