Lessons from a farmer

Agriculture

Lessons from a  farmer

Model Farm :  Areca trees on Mayya’s farm. Photos by Ronald Anil Fernandes

When he quit the teaching profession about 10 years ago, he did not imagine he would earn fame thanks to farming, especially at a time when people think twice before taking up agriculture activities.

In fact, at a time when most farmers gave up agriculture because of several problems that include severe shortage of farm labourers, Prabhakar Mayya, then a 30-year-old teacher took to agriculture in a tiny village of Nada in Belthangady taluk of Dakshina Kannada district, has not only succeeded in reaping yield from a once barren land, but also has been a role model for other farmers in the region.

Believe it or not, he ventured into farming with just five kilograms of ginger and five kilograms of elephant yam (that would have cost him less than Rs 200 then) 10 years ago and he reaped 25 kg in the next year. In the fourth year, he reaped a whopping 5,000 kgs of ginger and elephant yam! However, by that time, he had also planted cucumber, cow-peas beans, brinjals and many other vegetables, besides planting jasmine saplings. With the money he received from ginger yield, he dug a borewell and also planted more vegetables like gherkins, yard-long beans, pumpkin and urad dal. It was followed by a plantation of betel leaves. About five years ago, Mayya reaped 40 quintals of cucumber, 50 kgs of urad, 500 kgs of gherkins and about 700 banana clusters.

A model farmer

Today, after 10 years, Mayya has tried his hand at almost all kinds of agriculture activities. Be it arecanut, coconut, banana, paddy, pepper vines, betel leaf vines, cocoa, teakwood, jasmine, vegetables, cattle, azolla pond (to feed cattle), fish pond, bee keeping, vermi-compost, gobar gas...the list is exhaustive. You name it and perhaps
Mayya has it. Amazingly, he has grown all these on just six acres of land.

The common problem farmers face today is an acute shortage of labourers. But Mayya’s innovative ideas have helped him manage farm activities with very few workers. Pointing to the roots of arecanut plants, he said he does not dig or heap compost at the base of the tree (as is usually done). Instead, he dumps the compost between two trees. “The mother-root which helps the tree grow is not at the bottom of the tree, but at a distance of four to five feet,” he says and adds that by doing so, one can get a better yield. At the same time, Mayya does not dig pits to plant arecanut saplings. Instead, he digs trenches and plants the saplings in the trenches. “This method is called ‘contour method’ which is popular in North Eastern states,” he said.

Bee-keeping, fish pond

Besides, Mayya also has honeybee boxes and a fish pond with a variety of fishes like Catla, Rohu and Common Carp. “Many people have taken up fishing from the pond,” he says.

One of the reasons for better yield on Mayya’s farm is perhaps the quality manure which is generated on his farm. Be it vermi-compost (for areca, paddy field) or azolla (for the cattle), Mayya arranges for the manure himself. “I needed more than Rs 60,000 just to purchase manure from the market for my plantations,” he says and points at two huge vermi-compost tanks with different species of earthworms.

Similarly, he also has a pond for azolla. After feeding azolla to cows, Mayya said there was thick cream in the milk. “However, only a limited quantity should be given to cows, lest the cows fall ill,” he cautions.

Apart from this, he also has a gobar gas facility. “The cow dung generated from seven cows is enough to produce gobar gas which the family uses for cooking,” he says.

Mayya lives in a joint family. While his eldest brother serves as a priest in a temple nearby, his other two brothers work as cooks. All of them help Mayya after they are done with their work.

His brothers’ wives also help him out, by milking the cows and extending help in regular farm activities, because of which Mayya never feels the shortage of labourers. In fact, the entire family with nine members involves itself in carrying out all the activities on the farm.

Training centre

Following Mayya’s successful venture, the District Agriculture Training Centre held a ‘Kshethrotsava’ at Mayya’s home wherein about 100 farmers took part and learnt the innovative methods adopted by Mayya. Besides, six training sessions of three-day as well as five-day duration have been held at Mayya’s home as part of ‘Agriculture Training and Management’ with help from the Zilla Panchayat and Agriculture Department.

Training on cultivation of azolla and paddy transplantation were part of the activities.
“Because they believe in the adage of ‘seeing is believing,’ we organise hands-on training in our fields,” Mayya explains.

Agriculture Department Deputy Director Putra G T, who heads the District Agriculture Training Centre at Belthangady, said farmers like Prabhakar Mayya have been a model for other farmers through their innovative methods adopted keeping in mind short-term as well as long-term returns.

Mayya has been awarded the ‘Best Arecanut Farmer’ award (taluk-level) for 2009-10 and ‘Best Farmer Award’ in September 2010, instituted by Gandhi Krishi Vignana Kendra (GKVK), Agriculture University, Bangalore.

Farmers like Prabhakar Mayya come as a ray of hope for Karnataka, in creating another ‘green revolution,’ which is the need of the hour.

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