The outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic has shaken the various livelihood opportunities all over the world. While modern avenues of career opportunities are shrinking and a process of reverse migration towards mountainous regions is underway, Mr. Jaman Singh stands out as a model of utmost inspiration. Mr. Singh who hails from Karchooli village in the Tarikhet block, Uttarakhand is someone who has for long understood the importance of nutritional based organic farming and livelihood generation through diversified agricultural activities. He used previously had a private job returned to his ancestral land in the mountains some 25 years ago to begin a career as a farmer invested in organic farming and other farming related activities like animal husbandry.
Mr. Jaman Singh weeding his capsicum field
Where sustenance in farming has been made synonymous to monoculture, Mr. Singh challenged this notion through a practise of farming that focused on agro-biodiversity. In spite of the challenging conditions presented by mountainous regions, Mr. Singh accumulated resources not only for the production of grains but also for fruits and animal husbandry. This way he was able to reduce his dependency on vegetables, fruits and other edible products from the market quite significantly. In a time when most of the large-scale agricultural production is done on soil that is fertilised by artificial fertilisers and sprayed with toxic pesticides, Mr. Singh through his organic farming is an example of a welcome, sustainable change in agricultural practices.
Mrs. Jaman Singh carrying fodder for the cattle
At present Mr. Singh has been able to obtain around 20 litres of milk from his two Sahiwal cows along with close to 12 eggs from his hens each day. This way he has been able to significantly improve the nutritional status of his family and neighbouring farmers along with adding an additional source of income generation to his list as well.
Mr. Jaman Singh with his hens
Mr. Jaman Singh rearing his cows
While this seems like a perfectly happy story, Mr. Singh has had to face his fair share of struggles. One of the major problems that farmers in mountainous regions face is that of water and Mr. Singh was no exception to this struggle. However, where many would give up and return to the very private jobs they left before coming back and take up farming, Mr. Singh faced his hurdles head on. To meet his irrigational requirements, he built tanks by digging holes in the ground and covered them using plastic sheets. The result of this was that at present he is successfully growing vegetables like potatoes, radishes, capsicums, brinjals, tomatoes, bitter gourds, bottle gourds, ridge gourds, pumpkins, peas, beans, gaderi, garlics, onions, cauliflower all using organic cow dung manure. Since Mr. Singh from the very start focused on farming that promoted agro-biodiversity, he has been able to utilise his farm land of area less than an acre quite efficiently. Moreover, as all the crops and vegetables that he grows have different sowing and cultivation periods, the farm land is never bereft of crops growing in it, in turn providing a constant source of income. Since crops grown using organic manure is far richer in nutritional value than the ones grown using synthetic and artificial fertilisers, Mr. Singh has ensured that his family reaps benefit of the farm produce, which is reflected in the nutritional rich diet that they now follow.
Mr. Jaman Singh collecting Bottle Gourd
Through years of experience in farming he has begun storing and preparing seeds which he then sells in the market for additional income. Mr. Singh understands the value of sticking to the roots, which reflects both in his farming and his initial decision to return to his ancestral land and become a farmer. However, there is another facet that reflects the importance that Mr. Jaman Singh gives to roots and tradition of the hills. Apart from commonly produced crops, Mr. Singh has ensured cultivation of traditional nutrition-based grains such as gahat, bhatt, urad etc. Mr. Singh’s success and dedication towards the cultivation of traditional mountainous crops has encouraged other neighbouring farmers to adopt similar practises and engage in multi cropping nutrition based organic farming. Watching Mr. Singh grow almost all kinds of Rabi and Kharif crops, which chiefly include finger millet, Jhungra, Barley, Ramdana in his scattered land holdings of less than an acre in size has become a source of inspiration for other farmers around him to understand the benefits of agro-biodiversity and the numerous benefits it includes especially in making the farmers self-reliant and their agriculture both income generating and sustainable.
- Compiled and Edited by Shreyas Joshi