Over a coffee farm
An individual promises to make Orissa the coffee hub of India
Koraput, circa 1987 the landscape comprised gorges, ravines, gullies and rocks. Breathing life into the hostile terrain, Pradeep Kumar Mohanty, a botanist-turned farmer, ventured into organized coffee plantation in the district two decades ago. The effort has transformed sleepy tribal hamlets such as Sundhiput and Nuaput and several others in the district into active agricultural zones. But coffee plantations had existed even before Mohanty made his mark. In the early 1960s, Orissa government's soil conservation department tried out the crop but the initiative lacked professional approach. Local residents give credit to Mohanty for filling up this gap in coffee cultivation practices in the region.
Today, about 72 hectares (ha) of his verdant plantation on the foothills of Deomali range in the Eastern Ghats, producing about 45 tonnes of coffee annually, say local people, represents "Koraput coffee". The lush green silver oaks and albizzia trees provide shade to the coffee plants and add to the beauty of the landscape that includes check dams and storm drains.
Affectionately addressed as 'coffee budha' (coffee patriarch) by the local people, Mohanty, inspired by stories of foreign planters, left his doctoral thesis at the Central Rice Research Institute, Cuttack, midway in 1982 to begin tour of the entire state to locate land for his "dream project". He found his destination in Sundhiput. With no roads and electricity, Mohanty operated from a borrowed portable tent trying to convince the non-tribal locals to sell him fallow tracts since there were several restrictions on sale of land that belonged to tribals. Initially he managed to get about 10 ha in 1987. Then he bought more land in the adjacent Nuaput village and involved tribals and non-tribals in his pursuit.
|It was very tough in the initial years. But I knew what to do with the hostile terrain. Through scientific plantations, I was able to convert the adversities to advantages|
|--Pradeep Kumar Mohanty|
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