Return of native crops

Return of native crops

Around his field is a dense forest. Most of the crops in the vicinity of the village are raided by wild animals that stray out of the forest.

Protecting crops from these attacks is a big challenge for this farmer in the Kollegal region of Chamarajnagar district. And yet, S Puttaraju does not worry and is not going to give up farming either. He owns only two acres of land and his crops are rain-fed. Though he owns a small patch, crop diversity on his land is vast.

Bailur is a tiny village in Kollegal taluk. Most farmers here grow hybrid maize and earn an average income. Puttaraju, however, follows a different path. Other farmers in the region have now decided to follow in the footsteps of Puttaraju, who has not only taken up chemical-free farming, but also conserves rare traditional varieties of seeds.

However, it was not always thus. In the initial days, Puttaraju used a lot of chemical fertilisers. After selling his produce in the market, he realised he was hardly making any profits because of the expenditure involved.

It was around this time that the State government decided to implement its organic farming policy. One village in each taluk was picked to implement the organic farming policy. In Kollegal taluk, the village chosen was Bailur. “It was a huge challenge to convince farmers to shift from chemical farming to organic methods of cultivation.

But there were some enthusiastic farmers and Puttaraju was highly interested in organic methods,” recalls C Guruswamy, convener of Sahaja Samrudha, an organic farmers’ association which was the implementing agency of the organic village scheme. Puttaraju owned cattle, and vermicomposting was not difficult for him.

Also, he attended trainings and workshops related to compost production, traditional seeds, water harvesting, preparation of bio-pesticides, etc. To harvest rain water, he has constructed bunds and farm ponds. Tonnes of compost are easily available on his field.

Finger millet is the main crop in his field. Along with this, he sows amaranthus, redgram, mustard and little millets among others. Puttaraju has been conserving more than 15 varieties of finger millets and distributes the same among other farmers. His wife Shivanagamma is an expert in selecting seeds. He sells quality seeds to farmers all over the State.

Puttaraju has also tried to create a separate market for chemical-free produce. Along with other farmers, he has formed the ‘Kollegal Savayava Krishikara Okkuta’ and sells their products in Bangalore and Mysore.

As a resource person on seed production, he has travelled extensively. “When he participated in a workshop held at Gharwal of Uttarakhand, farmers there were all praise for his knowledge about seed selection and production. For a farmer who owns a two-acre rain-fed farm, Puttaraju has shown the way,” says G Krishnaprasad, Director of Sahaja Samrudha.

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