Baijnath Mahto at his vegetable nursery in Matatu village of Ormanjhi block, 26km from capital Ranchi. Picture by Arti S. Sahuliyar
Prosperity is the crop of great perseverance.
Baijnath Mahto of Matatu village in Ranchi for one will agree. The 42-year-old commerce graduate from Marwari College, undeterred by unemployment and calamities natural and manmade for years, harnessed two innovative farming techniques to reap gems of his harvest in 365 days flat.
Today, the progressive farmer is a role model for everyone of his ilk in not just Matatu, but the entire Ormanjhi block under which the nondescript village, 26km from the state capital, rests.
Baijnath’s struggle began two years ago when the construction of a dam inundated their village and triggered mass exodus. But, the father of two did not let his determination drown. He decided to take up vegetable cultivation in saturated soil, which most farmers believed had become unsuitable for rich harvest.
And, lady luck smiled on him when he was exposed to plastic mulching and drip irrigation at a self-sponsored training at VNR Seeds in Raipur, Chhattisgarh, last year.
“Heavy rain and dam work left our village flooded. My farmer brothers abandoned their homes for dry ground, but I stayed put with my wife and two sons,” Baijnath said.
They had three acres of land and some money that he had scrimped and saved to begin what can now be called a revolution. “I sowed vegetables, particularly the Swarna Shyamali brinjal, and used plastic mulching in conjunction with drip irrigation. The techniques helped me raise a healthy vegetable nursery and reap rich dividends,” said the proud farmer and Matatu’s torchbearer.
Mulch is a layer of organic or inorganic material applied to the soil surface to conserve moisture, improve fertility and reduce weed growth. In plastic mulching, crops grow through slits or holes in thin sheeting. Certain plastic mulches also act as a barrier to keep methyl bromide, both a powerful fumigant and ozone depleter, in the soil.
Drip or micro irrigation, on the other hand, is localised watering of crops. Water is allowed to trickle to the roots through a network of valves, pipes, tubing and emitters.
Having aced both techniques, Baijnath also met 30 per cent of his manure requirement through recycling his own farm residues. At present, he grows a wide range of fruits and vegetables, including tomato, sweet corn, muskmelon, cucumber, chilli and capsicum, at his expanded six-acre nursery with at least three crops in the same plastic mulch.
Baijnath, who never received a job despite being a graduate, today has a net annual worth of more than Rs 20 lakh. While his fellow farmers send their children to government primary schools, Baijnath’s sons — Abhishek Kumar (13) and Gyan Shankar (8) — study at Mount Carmel School, a private English-medium cradle in Ormanjhi.
“Abhishek is in Class VII and Gyan in Class IV. I want them to become engineers,” said the doting father who offers his family a cosy house and the comfort of a four-wheeler.
Wife Sulochna Devi (35) could not hide her pride. “Mere pati bahut sangharsh kiye jab sara gaon dum gaya tha. Abhi jaakar sab kuch thik hua hain inke mehnat se (My husband had struggled a lot when the entire village had given up. Today, destiny has looked up, thanks to his hard work),” she said.
What scheme can the state launch for such farmers??