Of how farmers can achieve self-sufficiency

When a majority of farmers are reeling under agrarian distress and are resorting to suicide owing to what they call “unprofitable agriculture”, here is a farmer who is making decent money by adopting traditional and multi-crop farming in his small piece of land.

Gunderaya Dhulugonda, a 52-year old farmer from Pattana village in Kalaburagi district, is the man who is attracting young farmers and farm enthusiasts by practising profitable agriculture with silk farming, sugarcane cultivation, forest farming, livestock farming and many more. Last year, he made a net profit of around ₹10 lakh from just 3.5 acres of land that he has inherited from his father.

Mr. Dhulugonda attributed the success chiefly to his reliance on his family’s labour, traditional farming methods with little or no costs on machines, fertilizers and pesticides and the elimination of middlemen while selling his produce to consumers.

He has cultivated sugarcane on one acre of land. The crop is not meant for sugar factories as is the case with most of the sugarcane growers. He and his wife, Shashikala, harvest the crop little by little on a daily basis, extract the sugarcane juice using a crushing machine and sell it directly to the people at Pattana Cross on Kalaburagi-Aland Road, which is very close to his farm. Last year, he earned over ₹5 lakh by selling sugarcane juice alone. Another ₹1.5 lakh came from silk farming that he had undertaken on one acre of land.

Mr. Dhulugonda has undertaken forest farming on one acre of land where he has planted a number of long-term crops which include 32 sapota trees, 200 teak trees, 200 custard apple trees, 30 purging croton plants, six Indian gooseberry plants and five java plum (Jamun) plants. Many of them, including sapota and custard apple, which are around 10 years old, are already giving returns. The teak plants are five years old and have another 10 years to yield returns. Now, Mr. Dhulugonda is planning to plant 56 sweet tamarind plants in the same stretch this year.

The remaining portion of his land is full of many crops and plants which include ginger, turmeric, mint, a variety of vegetables, curry plant, lemon plants, a jackfruit tree and guava plants. The farmer himself harvests all these crops and sells them directly to consumers along with sugarcane juice at Pattana Cross.

Mr. Dhulugonda has also undertaken livestock farming around his small farmhouse. There are 30 chicken, eight sheep and seven cows.

“Now, we are planning to take up beekeeping from next year,” Ms. Shashikala said.

Mr. Dhulugonda, who has passed SSLC, believes neither in over mechanisation nor in the use of chemical-based fertilizers and pesticides. He does not own even a tractor. He cultivates the entire stretch of land with the help of a single bullock. He himself prepares vermi-compost using the dung generated from the livestock and uses it as fertilizer.

For irrigating his land, Mr. Dhulugonda has constructed a big farm pond measuring 50 m in length, 40 m in width and 38 ft in depth. There is another big well in the field.

“I never faced any water scarcity for irrigating my land in the last many years. Instead of announcing freebies for farmers, the government should chalk out a programme for constructing ponds, tanks and lakes in every village, improving road connectivity and providing unlimited electricity. These measures will help farmers take up cultivation and transport their crops to the market in a better way. The construction of water storage facilities will also help raise the groundwater table,” Mr. Dhulugonda told The Hindu, standing on the banks of his farm pond.

Mr. Dhulugonda is not heavily dependent on farm workers. Apart from him and his wife, there is only one another person who toils in the field on a permanent basis. He employs more workers only when it is absolutely necessary.

“For the last 20 years, I have not taken any loans for farming. I am self-sufficient. Recently, I bought one acre of land with my savings and I want to build a home and school for poor and destitute children,” Mr. Dhulugonda said.

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