Drip by drip, farmers grow more in Rajasthan’s vegetable basket

August 27th, 2008 - 1:23 pm ICT by IANS  

Chomu (Rajasthan), Aug 27 (IANS) Farmers in this vegetable-growing oasis amid Rajasthan’s semi-desert scrubland are improving yields from their farms, thanks to drip irrigation and financial help from a soft drinks major.Young and old, the farmers keep thronging the Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVK - agriculture science centre) at sub-divisional headquarters town Chomu, 40 km from state capital Jaipur, to learn new tricks to grow more and better vegetables.

Their interest is vital, for Chomu sub-division grows about 95 percent of the vegetables grown in Jaipur district, which in turn accounts for about 90 percent of the vegetables grown in Rajasthan, says N.K. Gupta, a scientist at the KVK. The farmers of Chomu even export their produce to the Middle East.

Chomu may be an oasis because it sits on an aquifer, but rapid evaporation in the desert heat means water scarcity remains the biggest challenge to the farmers here. Add to that overdrawing from the aquifer, and the farmers are looking at disaster without better water management.

That is exactly what they are being taught at the KVK, where at any time no fewer than 30 farmers - both young and experienced - can be seen upgrading their know-how.

The use of sprinkle and drip irrigation techniques - where water is sprinkled or dripped to the plants’ roots instead being wasted by flooding the fields - is the most important part of the education.

The state government gives 70 percent financial support for putting in place a drip irrigation system - a network of valves, pipes, tubing, and outlets.

Now beverage major Coca-Cola India is chipping in with financial aid. The company has helped 15 farmers install drip or sprinkle irrigation facilities.

“Meticulous use of water, and how to preserve the nature’s most precious gift is a thrust area for us,” Deepak Jolly, Coca-Cola India vice president for public affairs and communications, told IANS.

“It is our corporate social responsibility to help farmers to opt for drip irrigation, and ensure optimum utilisation of water,” he added.

For the past five years, Prahalad Sharma, a farmer with around four hectares of land in Bhilpura village, has been visiting the KVK and has learnt how to get higher yields of tomatoes, aubergine and watermelons.

“KVK-Chomu has proved a boon for the area’s vegetable and fruit growers. You find a host of inquisitive visitors to the centre every day,” Sharma told IANS, explaining how he learnt about the importance of timing while watering his crop, drip irrigation, new seeds and use of fertiliser for higher yield.

“Since cultivation is our mainstay, we need to learn how to increase output. It has become more important in view of increasing input costs,” said Rakesh Kumar, a young farmer of Naopura village.

The KVK has so far trained over 125 young farmers from the surrounding villages how to improve for quality vegetable cultivation.

“We have a year-long training programme for young farmers. We enrol 25 applicants in each batch, and make them undergo a total training programme,” Gupta told IANS.

“Farmers from around 100 villages are being covered by the KVK, and they grow vegetables in an area of over 1,000 hectares.”

Mangal Chand Yadav of Sandsar village, some 57 km from Jaipur, grows tomatoes and chillies on a half-hectare plot. It’s the only source of income for his five-member family.

“It has been only a year since I opted for drip irrigation. But I can feel the difference already. My yield has gone up,” said a smiling Yadav. His plot produced 140 quintals of tomatoes this year, up from 122 quintals last year.

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