The many benefits of tree-based farming

miscellany

The many benefits of tree-based farming

Like many other parts of the State, Haveri district has also been suffering from acute rain deficit for many years now. As a result, farmers have been hit the worst and acres of rainfed farmlands lie barren. However, despite the agro-climatic problems, some farmers, like the 43-year-old Irfan Gudusab Kamdolli, are still flourishing.

Five years ago, Irfan Gudusab

Kamdolli spent his life shuttling between his village Hirebendigeri in Haveri district, and cities like Goa, Hubballi and Karwar. Irfan stayed home only for six months a year and he was forced to migrate to other cities as farming work could not last beyond six months a year due to harsh weather conditions.

Irfan stayed home when there was work in the three-acre land; and went to the towns to work as a daily wage labourer. The earnings from agriculture were a meagre Rs 20,000 annually, and it was impossible for the family — wife, two children and aged parents — to scrape a living. With Irfan away for a good part of the year, his wife struggled to manage the household.

In his farmland, the circumstances were equally grim. Though Irfan opted for locally-grown crops like green gram, sorghum, red gram, finger millet, pearl millet and foxtail millet he or even his father had not considered mixed farming system. The non-availability of water for irrigation made farming much more
difficult for them.

In 2011, the agricultural programme officers of the Deshpande Foundation (DF) in Hubballi came across Irfan during an on-ground survey. The visit was part of the foundation’s work with the Bharatiya Agro Industries Foundation (BAIF) Research Foundation to promote sustainable farming. After interacting with the officers, Irfan decided to build a farm pond in his land to store water and facilitate irrigation of his crops.

With the foundation’s help, he built a 30x30x10 feet pond that has a capacity to store about four lakh litres of water. Irfan received training from BAIF, in tree-based farming system (TBFS), and ways to grow commercial crops such as mango, coconut and sapota that would fetch him better revenues along with food crops. This made him aware of the potential areas of improvement in farming such as crop selection, farming techniques as well as financial management.

“The teams from BAIF and DF supported me in implementing my learnings. For instance, I was guided on minute details such as the ideal distance between saplings, depth of pits to plant the seeds and so on,” he says. New crops such as green chilli, marigold, mango and coconut were cultivated along with the present ones.

The turnaround

Today, Irfan is able to grow many crops like mango and coconut, and crops like chilli, peanut, tomato, tamarind, corn, finger millet, chickpea, horse gram, guava and lemon through crop rotation method. Apart from these crops, Irfan has planted 600 trees on the borders of his farmland. Apart from being a live fence, the trees also act as wind-breakers. Their timber has high commercial value too.

Irfan changed his farm step by step and gradually, the biodiversity of the farm
enhanced and, with a mix of field, horticulture and commercial crops, the income has considerably improved. Today, his annual income from farming is around Rs 1,50,000, a substantial increase from Rs 20,000 he used to earn five years ago.

As the crop diversity and yield from the farm increased, life has become more comfortable for Irfan and his family as they could afford to buy basic necessities.

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