Farming has been a challenge especially for the farmers in mountainous regions of Uttarakhand due to the immense water scarcity for irrigation of crops and the rampant animal menace. In the conventional way of making manure majority of the farming community was using semi-decomposed manure in their fields. As a result of this the land fertility doesn’t improve in accordance to the efforts of the farmers also leads to low yield which is also a cause a growing nutritional deficit within the people of the mountainous regions.
Upon realising the severity of this issue, I ensured that since the very beginning of my farming career in Khaldhar village (Rawari) of Dwarahat Block, Uttarakhand, I would practice advanced and innovative method of agriculture. To make this possible I tried to gain as much information as I could using the help of various agriculture departments that were in close proximity of my village. By contacting line departments, I gathered information on various advanced techniques in agriculture and allied activities.
I made sure that I participated in numerous training programs and lectures organised by line departments and research institutes in my village to improve my knowledge regarding organic farming. It also taught me the use internet which in turn enabled me to prepare homemade traps for commonly found insects that harm the crops. I also learned about bio-pesticides that were effective against beetle bug and other pests that damage crops. As a result of my learning I built a fruit fly trap myself and also procured one from the market to stop the menace to cucumbers by the fruit flies. Along with that I also prepared a cow urine sprinkler which prevented other common bugs and pests that harm the crops.
(Fermented Cow Urine being used to ward off monkeys) (Homemade Trap for Fruit Flies)
In the process of farming I constructed a kitchen garden next to my home which spans an area of 2 nalis. Here I planted different varieties of tomatoes, 2 varieties of cucumbers, 2 varieties of brinjals, pumpkins, ridge gourd, bottle gourd, potatoes, onion and garlic. Apart from growing vegetable in the kitchen garden I also planted various fruits to reduce the dependence of my family on produce that was inorganically farmed and sold in the market. To further boost the nutritional status of my family I planted watermelons, strawberries, avla (Indian gooseberry) and kandhari pomegranate. In an attempt to increase the variety of produce that I grew on my farm I have also begun making murabba and tomato sauce from the surplus produce that I obtain from my kitchen garden to sell them locally and boost my income. To further make use of the farm residue such as that outer coverings of bottle gourd, I made a creative attempt of using them as pots in which I have planted strawberries.
(Mr. Bhandari with local variety of Bottle Gourd) (Mr. Chandan Singh Bhandari with Sikkim’s variety of Garlic)
(Strawberries planted in pots made out of Bottle Gourd Shells)
To diversify my agriculture practice, I arranged 2 cows for animal husbandry by making use of various government schemes that helped me obtain them under subsidies. In order to provide the animals with adequate shelter I contacted the village panchayat to get a cowshed made under the MNREGA programme. With the help of Lok Chetna Manch I was also able to procure 25 chicks for my poultry farm. To improve the nutritional content of the feed for the chicks and the cows, I have been mixing it with tomatoes, green vegetables, finger millet and barnyard millet. The older cow provides me with about 6 litres of milk each day, a surplus of which I sell to the neighbouring families. While the chicks and the other cow is still young; by the time the Kharif period ends, I would be able to get enough eggs and milk from them to enhance the nutritional status of my family and that of the community.
(Cows in Mr. Bhandari’s cowshed) (Chicks eating feed made by Mr. Bhandari)
Most of the farmland in mountain regions is scattered as such it becomes extremely difficult to keep a watch on the land and ward off wild, stray animals who are a chief cause of crop failure. To prevent this from happening on my kitchen garden and other scattered farm lands, I arranged for fences through government schemes like Ajeevika (ILSP) and adopted other traditional practices that helped me ward off animals from the farmland. By using cow urine and fermenting it for a span of 3-6 months I successfully warded off wild animals like monkey. To keep wild boars at bay I scattered some human hair around the boundary of the farmland thus preventing damage to the crops.
Unlike the common intensive income generating farming that focuses majorly on monoculture, I adopted for a farming practise that promoted agro-biodiversity through multi-cropping. In accordance to my efforts with regards to organic sustainable farming I arranged for vermicomposting, poly house, rain water harvesting tank and two power trailers (with the help of my SHG) from the Horticulture Department. Upon viewing my success many of my neighbouring farmers who previously practiced agriculture that was unsustainable and synthetic began transitioning to organic and sustainable form of agriculture. As farming is a community activity, many of my fellow farmers were able to make use of my rain water harvesting tank to make up for the water scarcity in the region.
(Rain water harvesting tank built with the help of Horticulture Department)
In hopes of improving the nutritional value of my produce and make it stand out further in the market I arranged seeds of radish, garlic and lady finger from Sikkim, and red & green chilli from the state of West Bengal. These plants stand higher in the table of nutritional index from the ones that are locally available thus helping improve the nutritional status of the entire community.
(Mr. Bhandari harvesting Sikkim seed radish)
In order to successfully tackle the water shortage in our region, I contacted Lok Chetna Manch which under the NMA II program provided me with capacity building training to better understand the issue of water management. Upon being trained, I along with my SHG are making attempts to obtain a solar water pump which would help us irrigate our farmlands using the water from the river runs at some distance from the village. However, this attempt has not come to fruition as of yet. In order to work around this, we contacted our local ex-MLA to get a pipeline laid down from the stream close to our village up to our farms. Currently the work is under progress.
Organic farming, multi-cropping and animal husbandry have greatly promoted agro-biodiversity in the agriculture that I have practised and the diet that my family intakes as well. It has hugely enhanced the nutritional status of my family and provided me with a sustainable, eco-friendly form of agriculture. The success of my endeavours has also influenced other fellow farmers to shift towards organic farming, adopt traditional & sustainable ways agriculture and also discuss all agricultural practices with each other. These issues include procurement of seeds, sharing techniques of preparing organic compost, providing knowledge of what crops varieties to grow in that particular season of farming and strategies of marketing the farm produce.