In Malwa region farming has always been challenging, years back due to lack of water supply, less irrigative land and water-logging problem, and now because of the decreasing groundwater level. But where there's a will there's a way.
A young farmer of 28 from Ratta Khera village in Ferozepur district has not only adopted new form of farming but also motivated other farmers by providing free saplings to them.
Rattanjot Singh Sandhu, a product of the prestigious Punjab Public School, Nabha, stayed away from home for years. But the distance couldn't let the attachment with his land go away. "In keeping with our family tradition, all my cousins stayed in the hostel, but during vacations we did try our hand at farming. There is a saying in Punjab, 'Jatt te zameen da purana rishta hai' and here is the proof," says Rattan when asked about the reason behind his interest in farming.
Rattan did his engineering from Ferozepur so that he could strike a balance between studies and farming. He started farming with agro-forestry with a combination of poplar and turmeric, which was new to farmers in the region in 2005.
"Innovations have a challenging path, but once you succeed it gives a good feeling. It's immensely satisfying when the path shaped by you is followed by others," says Rattan when asked how challenging it was to start a new type of farming.
"I tried a combination of poplar and turmeric which had never been tried in our area before. The drawback of growing poplar was that its shade doesn't let any crop grow under it. After a lot of search and taking the help of farming officials I decided to utilise the space between the poplar trees by growing turmeric. This was successful," says Rattan.
"I started with six acres in 2005 which was increased to 11 acres, and this year it will go up to 18 acres. I am earning handsome profits. In one acre we can plant 250 to 300 poplars and each tree is sold for Rs 2,200 to 2,500 after five years which gives you around Rs 6 lakh from one acre, which is not possible with other crops. The money earned can be used for spreading the farming. Turmeric is a yearly crop which gives me a profit of Rs 20,000 to Rs 30,000 per acre after a year," says Rattan.
"For crop diversification, I have distributed free saplings of poplars to farmers around so that they adopt this form of farming rather than paddy and wheat," says Rattan when asked what efforts he is making to motivate crop diversification.
Rattan's effort is highly appreciated in the region, but it took him years. It requires a lot of hard work, spunk and dedication towards the new invention he created. "Today, maybe this combination is not new for other regions, but when I started it was new; even today it has not been extended to a vast area; but there is improvement in our region," says Rattan.
Last year, Rattan got married to an Australian citizen. When asked if his efforts to motivate crop diversification would continue, he says, "I am planning to buy land in Australia to extend farming. My wife is supportive and she knows how close I am to nature. I will manage farming at both places."