Foster farmer: This man is playing his part in stopping distress migration from rural Uttarakhand

Sudhir Kumar Sundriyal helps people in Pauri district earn livelihoods in villages so that they do not have to migrate to big cities 

By Raju Sajwan
Published: Tuesday 03 January 2023

Twice A year, Sudhir Kumar Sundriyal collects all the crops grown on his land in Dabra village and sorts them into two batches.

The first batch consists of fruits and vegetables, pulses, wheat and paddy for him and his wife, Hemalatha, to use at home.

The second batch comprises of crops such as apple, lemon, walnut and cardamom, along with seeds and saplings worth Rs 1.5-Rs2 lakh, to be distributed for free to farmers in Dabra and other nearby villages in Uttarakhand’s hilly Pauri district.

While distributing his produce and saplings to the more than 100 farmers, who are part of his Feel Good Agro Developers group, Sundriyal also shares some tips on growing the produce further for their own benefit.

If the crop grows well and people earn good incomes, they will not have to leave their homes in search of work, he says.

Sundriyal established this model of growing and distributing crops eight years ago, after returning to his ancestral house in Dabra village.

Like several people from rural areas, he had moved in search of income to the National Capital Region, where he worked in a media organisation for two decades.

“I used to miss the village. I was worried about my crumbling ancestral house and barren fields. I realised that if work was available in the villages, people would not have to leave,” he says.

Hence, in 2014, Sundriyal went to some agricultural institutes in Uttarakhand to learn about suitable farming and horticulture. This helped him see some success in his farm at Dabra.

“We grow so much that we do not see any dearth in food,” says Sundriyal. Other people in the area began to approach him to learn his techniques.

“Pauri is a mountainous region with uneven terrain. Tractors and big machines cannot be used here and terrace farming is not convenient. Hence I advised people on farming in this terrain, and asked them to attempt gardening as well,” he says.

To encourage more people to try cultivation, Sundriyal established Feel Good Charitable Trust in January 2015, through which he distributes saplings and plants and helps farmers borrow small equipment through a machinery bank. For this, he gets financial support from two non-profits, Uttaranchal Association of North America and Save Indian Farmers.

“Four years ago, Sundriyal gave me 300 lemons for sowing. Of them, about 100 plants are producing fruit. This year, I have seen 20-25 kg fruit; next year I hope to get greater yield. If more farmers are inspired, I am sure they will stop leaving villages,” says Shailesh Pokhriyal, a farmer from Gehunlad village in Pauri district.

Feel Good has also undertaken other initiatives. Irrigation is a major concern, and so the non-profit has built reservoirs in the district and farmers are conducting water conservation campaigns.

Further, Sundriyal and Hemalatha help raise funds for 60 children’s education in Pauri district. “These campaigns are proving to be effective in convincing people to stay in the region and build their lives here,” he says.

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This was first published in the 1-15 January, 2023 print edition of Down To Earth

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