Cultivate a miracle | City News, The Indian Express

“Listen, don’t forget to bring Chamatkar when you get home. “

Ram Singh gives these instructions to the caller and disconnects the phone. Then, his eyes sparkling, he begins to think of his potentially bountiful potato crop for which he needs this Chamatkar, a chemical fertilizer.

The 59-year-old does not know that the chamatkar (miracle) has already reached his home. It can be seen, felt and smelled where he stands on his land of six canals in the village of Girgir under Behar Jaswan Panchayat in Una District, Himachal Pradesh.

This barren patch of land, close to his potato fields, was leveled and made suitable for cultivation in June of this year. Now Ashwagandha and Moringa plants are growing here. He didn’t spend a single penny on land leveling, labor costs, seed purchase, and planting. Everything was taken care of under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) as an initiative of the district administration to promote medicinal agriculture.

This is where the uniqueness lies. “Medicinal farming is done under MGNREGS at two locations in Himachal: one under Behar Jaswan Panchayat in Una district and the other in Kangra district. This is happening for the first time in the country. Previously, the cultivation of aromatic plants was done within the framework of MGNREGS in the Sundargarh district of Odisha, ”explains Dr Arun Chandan, regional director (north), National Medicinal Plants Board.

There is more to the story of Singh’s miracle. While wild animals damaged his Moringa plants two or three times, they did not destroy Ashwagandha plants at all. All the plants are free of chemicals because he used kenchua khaad, a desi fertilizer. Less irrigation and less hard work – that’s another plus. He irrigates his potatoes after five days and medicinal plants after 15 days if it is hot, or once a month if the weather is good. He admits he didn’t have to worry about the other maintenance work required for the plants.

If this is a win-win situation for Singh, why isn’t he so excited? Because he is doing medicinal farming for the first time and is worried about the outcome. “NREGA work lagi thi. Maine aur meri gharwali ne bhi kaam kiya. Paise nahin lage aur kaam bhi ho gaya. By aage pata nahin kya hoga (NREGA manpower was employed. My wife and I worked too. I did not spend any money and my task was also completed. But I don’t know what is happening. will pass in the future), ”Singh explains.

There are 20 other farmers who share Singh’s concerns. They also practice medicinal agriculture. One of them is Yashbir Sahota, who grows Ashwagandha and Moringa plants near his house. This land with two channels was once barren and adjoins the cemetery intended for children. He planted the saplings at the end of June and only watered them until the start of the rainy season. After the rains, the plants were left to fend for themselves. “Hamare yahan paani ki samasya hai. Maine paudhon ko paani barsat ke baad nahin diya. Phir bhi yeh achchhe se lag gaye hain (We have a water problem here. I did not give the plants water after the rainy season. Despite this, they achieved good growth) ”, explains the youngster. 28 years old.

Surender Paul, a resident of the village of Behar Bithal under Behar Jaswan Panchayat, went further. He not only watered the saplings soon after planting them, but also continued to give them water between showers in the rainy season until they took root. After that, he didn’t irrigate them at all. These plants grow on four canals that were once “my wasteland”.

Dr Chandan brings more clarity: “The soil here contains more sand; it’s sandy loam. The availability of water is an ongoing problem. In such a situation, herbal remedies are a good option as they can flower even in rainy conditions. In addition, they can survive the threat of monkeys and wild animals.

Paul, who is also a panch, proudly shows off a lush green moringa that was planted on his land by Deputy Commissioner Raghav Sharma, and talks about when these little trees were just seedlings and innovative ideas were just seeds. “The district administration told me to convince a few farmers to do medicinal farming. I prepared a total of 18 farmers but 17 of them withdrew at the last moment. Then I spoke to another group of farmers who accepted and volunteered for medicinal farming. Later, some of those who had retired earlier also returned, ”the 45-year-old explains.

Dr Amit Sharma, Additional Deputy Commissioner, recalls the initial phase. “We held workshops, talked to individual farmers and convinced them to go for crop diversification. We also organized their interaction with experts and their visit to a nursery. The Covid period helped highlight the importance of medicinal plants. This is how it all took off. Now even I am experimenting with some plants at my home in Dharamsala, ”he says.

What is happening in a cluster of villages here has something to do with Kangra. “Previously, I was assigned as an additional deputy commissioner in Kangra. I received a proposal on Medicinal Agriculture and got involved in this project. When I transferred to Una, I thought about doing something similar here, ”says DC Sharma.

When everything fell into place, the 21 farmers began intercropping Ashwagandha and Moringa. Sanjeev Thakur, deputy director and project manager of the District Rural Development Agency, said they received a total of 77,400 saplings – 62,950 from Ashwagandha and 14,450 from Moringa – under the project. Sanjeevani of the district administration in two villages of Behar Jaswan Panchayat. Each farmer was entitled to aid of Rs 1 lakh – 60% for labor and 40% for equipment – under the MGNREGS. The amount varied from farmer to farmer depending on the size of land chosen for cultivation. A total expenditure of Rs 14.33.365 has been incurred so far.

“Usually, the goal of MGNREGS is to generate salaried jobs. But our effort has been to generate a future source of income, ”Thakur explains.

Thakur has more interesting statistics to share: Thanks to this project, Behar Jaswan Panchayat generated 104% more person-days than last year. DC Sharma prepared comparative figures: “There is an AYUSH program that subsidizes medicinal plantations, but it only covers six plants notified in Una district, while we cover planting material, the costs of planting. land, farmers’ wages and all medicinal plants under MGNREGS. “

Unlike Singh, Sharma isn’t worried about the outcome. On the contrary, he is full of hope. “We have entered into a buyout agreement for farmers. We will not let them down. Also next fiscal year, they will be able to take advantage of the same benefits depending on their eligibility, ”says DC Sharma.

According to Thakur, they are moving towards the creation of added value and will “take charge of the farmer”. “We will integrate them into the National Rural Livelihood Mission and provide them with more financial benefits,” he said.

About Keneth T. Graves

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