The combined efforts of a family in Kashipur, a small village in Paonta Sahib, has proved that joint initiatives can be a catalyst for earning a livelihood through diversification of traditional farming.
Pooling their resources, three brothers, who had never earlier thought of farm diversification, have become successful entrepreneurs engaged in mushroom cultivation that is now paying huge dividends. They also feel delighted when other farmers in the area visit their home to see their endeavour.
The three - Ram Kumar Choudhary, Devraj and Chaman Lal - were engaged in traditional farming but a few years ago they decided to cultivate mushrooms jointly so as to make marketing and delivery of the products easier. They 6,000 bags of mushrooms stored in three halls covering an area of 3,600 square feet have netted them Rs 7 lakh to 9 lakh this year, which is equally distributed among them. Earlier they were earning only Rs 70,000 to Rs 80,000 annually through traditional farming.
As they knew availability of compost could be a major problem the brothers also set up a small mushroom compost plant in the village. "The compost is prepared on different levels of the unit for three weeks, then filled into bags and kept at an average temperature of 21-25 degrees Celsius for 15 to 20 days until the growth of mycelium reaches the maximum", said Ram.
"Earlier we we could ill afford luxuries but today we have motorbikes and now plan to buy an SUV jointly, said Devraj and Chaman.
The brothers noted that the horticulture department had played a key role in their success by encouraging them to go into mushroom cultivation and providing assistance. "They (the three brothers) embarked on their venture without thinking making a profit or loss. Gradually their business grew and today they excel in this area", said horticulture development officer SR Sharma.
He said Rs 20 lakh project of employing modern techniques in farming under the National Horticulture Mission has been approved. Initially, to help progressive farmers, the department had given them funds amounting to Rs 80,000 under the National Farmers Development Scheme, he added.
"Unfortunately, small mushroom cultivation as well as small poultry and dairy farming units are being charged commercial power rates, and the government should look into the matter. There is no scheme presently for promoting small mushroom cultivation units in the district", Ram, Devraj and Chaman said.