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Two Maharashtra farmers to lecture at Harvard

delhi Updated: Nov 19, 2010 01:43 IST
Zia Haq

After former railway minister Lalu Prasad, it is the turn of two Indian farmers to take the lectern at Harvard and give its audience yet another insight into India's rising economy.

Hemchandra Patil (40) and Rajendra H Patil (50) — who built decent farm fortunes from scratch in Maharashtra's Jalgoan district — will tell their stories at a food security symposium at Kennedy School of Government, Harvard on November 21.

Ray A Goldberg, Harvard's George M Moffet Professor Emeritus of Agriculture, will be among those listening.

Goldberg believes their stories could answer critical questions, including why some farmers succeed while others don't.

For industry perspectives, Harvard has also invited an Indian company working with small growers, the Mumbai-based Jain Irrigation Systems Limited, which has pioneered a water-saving irrigation technique.

Hemchandra grows onions, Rajendra bananas.

They were once "marginal" farmers — owning just an acre or less of land. About 80% of India's farmers fall in this category. Now, each has more than 20 hectares and robust earnings.

Here's what the Patils did differently: They got a formal education. They shifted to drip irrigation, a watering technique that's being subsidized by both the government and private sector. And they went for contract farming for assured prices.

What will they tell their Ivy League audience?

"Agriculture has enough power to bring prosperity if done rightly," said Rajendra.