Effectively helping betel-growing communities in India

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betel leaf or Paan is widely consumed throughout India. It has been part of our culture since ancient times as betel leaves are needed for most religious occasions as well as for consumption. The traditional medicine system considers it a plant with medicinal value. The shade-loving betel vine is grown in various states of India like Orissa, West Bengal, Tripura, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and even southern India like Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.

The story of green gold

Betel leaves were once considered green gold by farmers because of its high demand and high economic value. Although it is labor and capital intensive work, it can generate significant income for farmers.

Betel cultivation was once a lucrative source of income, especially for the Chaurasia community. The Chaurasia community is traditionally engaged in the cultivation of betel leaf. Unfortunately, due to various issues such as climate change and lack of interest in new generation agriculture, betel farmers are unable to earn enough money for their livelihood.

The Akhil Bharatiya Adarsh ​​Chaurasia Mahasabha is an organization dedicated to helping the upliftment of the Chaurasia community, especially the agricultural segment.

Back to the fields

We spoke to Mr. Ramesh Chaurasiathe president of the organization on how they plan to help farmers increase their income and motivate young people to regain an interest in betel vine cultivation.

Mr. Ramesh Lakhulal Chaurasia said, “Betel farming can be a huge source of income for the rural farmer because there is a high margin in this area. We are trying to get more farmers interested in growing betel vine so that they are aware of the transformation it can bring to their lives. If farmers are trained by the right experts, they will be able to increase their production and their income. It is well known that betel cultivation is labor intensive and also requires investment. We are trying to raise awareness of the loan programs and grants offered by the government. We make farmers aware of crop insurance because betel vines are extremely delicate and are often affected by an unfavorable climate or attacks by pests/fungi. Our efforts continue and we are happy to see that we have had a positive impact on the lives of generational farming families who were about to leave their ancestral profession.

Requirements for growing betel leaves

Suitable soil can be sandy loam or heavy clay loam. It must be fertile and have good drainage because waterlogging causes the leaves to yellow and drop prematurely, causing great loss to the farmer. It needs heavy rainfall and shade to grow well. A humid climate suits the plant best.

Problems faced by betel growers in India

Lack of capital

The biggest problem facing betel producers is lack of funds. It is known that a substantial amount of money is needed to prepare the gardens, create an enclosed shade structure, buy enough bamboo, set up irrigation facilities, and employ skilled and unskilled labor. Most rural farmers do not have this money and end up borrowing at high interest rates. This state of indebtedness becomes a major problem for rural farmers who own small land.

Natural disasters and climate change

This has recently become one of the biggest problems facing betel farmers today. Climate patterns have completely changed in recent years. In the past 5 years alone, high-velocity storms in March and April have wreaked havoc on the structures under which betel vines grow. Another problem is that of incessant rainfall over a very short period of time. These unpredictable rainfalls cause waterlogging and as a result, the leaves of the betel vine fall off after turning yellow.

We asked Mr. Ramesh Lakhulal Chaurasia on possible solutions to these problems so that farmers do not struggle in the future. “We regularly organize seminars where we invite the best horticulturists to raise awareness among farmers about improving betel cultivation techniques and methods. Our team also tries to organize low cost irrigation systems so that farmers do not have to pay a large sum to irrigate their fields. We also train farmers in the application of methods such as multi-layered agriculture which protects the betel vine from pests and also allows for better water management. We are also educating farmers to receive loans at reduced interest rates from government banks. »

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