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Jalna ushers in mangoes and a revolution

Farmers turn exporters by swapping traditional crops like jowar and bajra for king of fruit, sweet lime, reports Sunita Aron.

india Updated: Feb 05, 2007 05:20 IST

It is far removed from the air-conditioned conference hall of a corporate house where suave, tech-savvy managers dissect a project.

Instead, engaged in a threadbare discussion in the open fields of Akola village in Jalna district of Aurangabad, is a large group of farmers that has just inspected a farm. Some point out the lacunas, others project a bumper mango crop.

While enjoying a sumptuous meal (working lunch?) they decide the venue for their next meeting. The monthly meetings are held every month, a day after Ekadashi. On Feb 15 they will discuss the exports in the pipeline.

A silent green revolution is sweeping Jalna district where farmers have dumped traditional crop like jowar and bajra for the king of fruit, the kesaria mango, and sweet lime. And they dream to be exporters.

With the first batch of mango crop getting ready in May 2007, talks are already on with Japan, the UK, China and Hong Kong.

The certification process for the UK is complete. And if all goes well, Marathwada would soon create history by producing the first generation exporters from an unorganised sector of small farmers.

Guiding the farmers – from planting to marketing – is Dr Bhagwanrao Kapse, head of horticulture department at Aurangabad’s Badnapur agriculture college.

His four-year stint at Pune’s Maharashtra Agricultural Marketing Board gave him contacts that are coming handy in exploring the export market and clinching deals.

Jalna’s very own green revolution started in October 2000 when Kapse decided to return to academics.

“I came in contact with important people in Pune but I was bothered by what I saw: a new breed of feudal lords growing in the country. One day the farmer in me woke up and I decided to help others with technology.”

Initially, it was not easy. Farmers — 98 per cent of them small farmers – were reluctant to experiment with the new crop. Kapse recalls a programme on jaggery production in Jalna in 2000. “I told farmers I would give them free guidance if they grew mangoes in 300 acres.”

But it was only in May 2001 that the movement took off. Today hundreds of farmers are growing non-traditional crop in 15,000 acres in ten villages of Jalna.

Initially mango was grown in 450 acres belonging to 70 big and small farmers in Jiradgaon village.

Life has changed for Lakshman Sande of Akola, a school drop-out. Sande was running after a job since a long time. “All those people I had approached for a job are now running after me. They want to learn lessons in planting sweet lime with the right technology,” he says.

Vilasrao of Jiradgaon village, another proud beneficiary, adds: "I am happy I took the initiative at the time when people were raising all sorts of doubts. Now government officials visit our inaccessible village.

And now as they wait for their first crop of fifty tonnes, they have already decided to export 33 per cent of crop (first grade), sell 40 per cent (second grade) in the Indian market and process the remaining 20 per cent.

The produce will be sent to Latur for processing till they set up their own processing and cold storage plant. The expected yield: five tonnes per acre.

About 50,000 farmers from Vidarbha, Akola, Dhulia and Buldhana have visited Jiradgaon. Akola has followed suit, with farmers pooling small farms to grow sweet lime in 200 acres.

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First Published: Feb 05, 2007 05:20 IST