Timely practices of mulching, watering and pruning have allowed the Kachares to thrive on "barren" ground
TELANGWADI village in the Solapur district of western Maharashtra is located on undulating and rocky terrain and receives little rainfall. Farmers who are lucky enough to have irrigation cultivate inferior cereals like jowar, bajra and maize and fruits like pomegranates.
This barren area is the setting for the success story of Vishwasrao Kachare, who, over 10 years ago, walked out of home after his father objected to his idea of adopting modern farming techniques like drip irrigation. Says Kachare, "I wanted to stand on my own feet when my father refused to consider my suggestion." Today, he owns a 28-ha organic fruit farm, a house and a tractor and earns lakhs of rupees every year.
Kachare and his wife Shila started with dairying and poultry. In 1985, he bought a 10-ha plot in his village and began cultivating pomegranate and vegetable crops on one ha, using fertilisers and pesticides.
The shift to organic farming resulted from the endeavour to save water. When cultivation was taken up on an additional two ha, Kachare used mulch and pitcher irrigation to save water. He observed earthworms feeding on the mulch and noticed also that their excreta enriched the soil. Earthworm manure contains calcium, phosphorus and nutrients that are essential for plants.
Because of the availability of earthworm manure, Kachare stopped using fertilisers. The Kachares also decided to experiment -- growing plants at various distances and gauging growth patterns, canopy and fruit-bearing capacities. Trenches were made and a drip system was set up.
Their experiments with tomato, which was intercropped with ladies' fingers, proved successful. The tomato yield in the first year was 162 tonnes per ha and 180 tonnes the following year, bringing in earnings of Rs 2.25 lakh.
Similarly, in 1987, ber (jujube) was transplanted on a 2-ha plot on which was applied farmyard manure obtained from nearby villages. Within 10 months, the ber trees fructified. In 1989, 4 ha were brought under pomegranate, intercropped with mango and sapota (cheeku or sapodilla plum). And in 1991, about 9 ha were cultivated with watermelon and yielded 112.5 tonnes per ha. Kachare explains that previously, only 3 quintals of jowar could be harvested from the same plot.
The major expense was water, on which the Kachares spent huge amounts. During an acute water shortage in 1992, 10 borewells -- each about 215 metres deep -- were dug, but the water was insufficient. Several tankers had to be hired to bring water from distant places.
The Kachares invested Rs 34 lakh on three dug wells but feel the amount is justified because the water stored in the dug wells percolates to the tube wells and raises the water table. Besides, Shila explains, rain water is conserved in the trenches and the drip system helps water percolation.
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