Papaya Cultivation, A Saving Grace for Marginal Farmers

Suraj is from the Bhil Tribe and lives in Pratapgarh, Rajasthan, where half of the population lives below the poverty line. His family owns a 1.5 bigha plot of land where they have traditionally grown maize, wheat and horse gram. Many of the households in this area depend on agriculture and livestock and are struggling to earn a living.  Erratic rainfall, poor soil quality, extreme heat and low water availability have placed a significant strain on farmers in this area, resulting in high levels of indebtedness and forcing farmers to migrate to the cities in search of seasonal work. We met Suraj in 2017 when he attended our Agricultural Training Programme. He learnt about conservation agriculture - in particular the benefits of minimum tillage, soil cover with straw, manure or cover crop, and crop rotation - and the benefits of setting up a kitchen garden. But although Suraj was eager to implement what he had learnt, his father was not interested in changing their agricultural practices, preferring to stay with their traditional farming practices. He pulled up the crops that Suraj had planted, destroying everything. After some time, Suraj was able to convince his father of the benefit of applying these innovative practices on their family farm. We connected Suraj with the KVK where he was able to purchase 30 papaya plants for a total of 600 INR. The following planting season he was able to plant papaya alongside their maize crops. Suraj has been able to sell the papaya at the market, earning an extra Rs. 4,000-8,000 each month to put towards his family's expenses. Depending on the season, he has also started growing peas, cucumber, brinjal, tomatoes and carrots, in addition to their traditional crops. Not only do these crops supplement Suraj's income but they also help ensure that the family has a nutritious diet. Suraj has become a model farmer in the area and an inspiration to other farmers.