For all those who doubt these figures, a visit to Ramesh Chander Dagar’s farmland is a must. It will change the way you perceive agriculture and farming. Located in Akbarpur Barota village of Sonipat District in Haryana, India, the farmland is like the laboratory of an agricultural scientist. As a result of his research Dagar has arrived at the calculation above.
1 lakh Indian Rupees = Rs100,000
1 lakh Indian Rupees = € 1,830 = $2,300
100 Indian Rupees = € 1.83 = $2.30
Rs = Indian Rupee
€ = Euro
$ = US dollar
“I am a simple farmer, who has studied only up to 10th standard. I used to keep hearing claims by the government that small land holdings are not viable for agriculture, which set me thinking. About four years back, I set aside a part of my agriculture field (1 ha) and started experimenting. Today I am confident that 1 ha land can give a minimum income of Rs 10 lakh (1,000,000 Indian Rupees) per annum,” says Dagar.
Dagar follows integrated organic farming. “Organic farming does not mean just not using pesticides. It is a whole lot of other things, such as beekeeping, dairy management, biogas production, water harvesting and composting. When a combination of these practices is followed, organic farming is sure to be successful, both ecologically and financially,” he adds. Dagar is already busy spreading the seeds of integrated organic farming in his home State. He has garnered support of other farmers and set up at state level, Haryana Kisan Welfare Club, with branches at each District. Close to 5,000 farmers are active members of this Club and are fast spreading the word around. Other Indian States such as Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat are already working towards replicating these clubs.
Learning by doing
Dagar started farming with only 1.6 ha land in 1971 and today owns close to 44 ha, all farmed by integrated organic methods. A clear understanding of three issues helped him succeed in life:
• How produce will be marketed
• What natural resources are available
• Maintaining the quality of produce.
Marketing is the most important feature, as most organic farmers fail when they are unable to sell their produce. “Before sowing any new crop, I used to first survey the market and understand the demand. It is only when I was 60% sure of the returns, that I used to take 40% risk,’ says Dagar. And in most cases it worked for his good.
In his 44 ha, Dagar grows organically almost all seasonal vegetables, fruits, paddy, wheat, mushrooms and flowers. He has also started growing exotic vegetables and fruits, like lettuce, baby corn and strawberry, for export. It is out of this 44 ha, that he has set aside one hectare for research purposes: Dagar’s ‘research lab’. “Through this 1 ha, I want to prove to all those who think that organic farming is not profitable. With a little bit of hard work and understanding of nature, any farmer can earn a minimum of Rs 10 lakh per annum. I do not understand why everyone is running after a job”.
Dagar’s Research Lab
Dagar’s 1 ha ‘research lab’ is a visual extravaganza. Composting is taking place at one end, flowers growing at the other end, a farm pond with fishes, biogas plant, and solar panels. And all these processes are interlinked through various agro-cycles that together create an annual income of around Rs 13 lakh. (See currency counter XXX) This income increases further if one takes into account energy saved due to use of biogas and solar power.
Let us understand the agro-cycle of vermicomposting. “99.9% of Indian farmers burn the left over of paddy crop, locally known as pawal. This pawal is an excellent raw material for vermicompost (compost made using earthworms). Using it, I am producing annually 300 tonnes of vermicompost, a part of which I use on my fields and the rest is sold at a rate of Rs 3 per kg,” says Dagar. Apart from vermicompost, Dagar also produces normal compost. Hence the total annual generation of compost is about 600 tonnes. Dagar aims to produce 1,000 tonnes by the end of 2004. All from a ‘waste’ resource. He claims vermicompost is the best because it helps maintain moisture in the soils and reduces water consumption by almost 25%. He is already providing 2 kg earthworms free of cost to farmers, who pledge to go in for organic farming. Dagar is also using pawal to grow mushrooms, which brings him close to 3 lakh per annum.
The most important part of integrated organic farming is beekeeping; which increases the output of crops by 10-30% because bees are very effective in natural pollination. Also the honey produced has great demand on the national and international market. As part of the experiment, Dagar has about 150 hives of bees, with each colony generating 35-40 kg honey. The total annual income from honey is Rs 4 lakh. “Beekeeping is a very profitable business, which even a landless farmer can do. And one farmer can benefit an area of 2-3 km, which is the normal range of bees,” says Dagar.
Source of income/Annual income in Indian Rupees
Total Approximately Rs 1,330,000 / €7,300 or $9,200
Dagar has also set up solar panels to provide power for pumps and to draw groundwater for irrigation. Extra power is used to recharge batteries of the household inverter. The farmland has a greenhouse spread over an area of 500 m2, which is used to grow expensive crops, and which fetches him Rs 100,000 per annum.
Dagar is not waiting for government help. He has taken on the cudgels of organic farming. “I keep experimenting with various crops in my field. For instance, right now I am trying to grow a Chinese plant, which is 300 times sweeter than sugar but is cholesterol free. If I am able to raise it successfully, then I will recommend it to others. Since this plant has medicinal value, it has a huge international market potential.” Way back in 1987, Dagar introduced baby corn in Sonipat on a mere half acre plot. Today, almost 485 ha land in Sonipat is under baby corn cultivation.
With success comes new challenges. And Dagar has his own. Firstly, it is the cost of organic food, which is priced higher than food grown using chemicals. Dagar has tried to address this issue by making use of a high premium on organic food. He has also tied up with voluntary organisations, which promote the marketing of organic food.
Whereas the issue of cost has been addressed to a large extent, the problem of certification remains. India lacks a streamlined procedure for the certification of organic foods. Also one kind of certificate is not valid for all countries. “Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority is the nodal agency which addresses the issue of certification. It has about 10 companies registered under it, out of which only one is an Indian firm. A one day visit by a company official costs close to Rs 15,000. Which Indian farmer has so much money to spend?”
Ramesh Chander Dagar is a living example of what local knowledge can achieve. Through his experiments he has shown the benefits of organic farming. He is modern India’s agricultural scientist, both in action and in spirit.
With thanks to D M Nair, Editorial Executive of Down to Earth, New Delhi, India for permission to reprint this article (reporter Nidhi Jamwal) published in Alternative Technology Vol 31 (3).
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