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UP: In mango belt , farmers poised for a turnaround

Low landholdings and farm distress have forced farmers to look for crop diversification even in the famous mango belt of Uttar Pradesh.

lucknow Updated: Apr 22, 2019 14:47 IST
Saurabh Chauhan
Saurabh Chauhan
Hindustan Times, Lucknow
Mango belt,Uttar Pradesh,Farmers
Not all are able to break from traditional crop but a few have been inspired by a former Panchayat Pradhan who resorted to floriculture in Datli village of Malihabad,30 km from Lucknow.

Low landholdings and farm distress have forced farmers to look for crop diversification even in the famous mango belt of Uttar Pradesh.

Not all are able to break from traditional crop but a few have been inspired by a former Panchayat Pradhan who resorted to floriculture in Datli village of Malihabad,30 km from Lucknow.

Rakesh Bahadur Singh, former pradhan of Khadta Gram Panchayat, has a mango farm on more than 10 bigha of land in the middle of the village. In 2016, he planned a polyhouse amid suggestions from villagers to not cut some ageing as well as new mango trees. “I cleared almost half an acre land to start protected production of flowers,” said Singh who visits his farm daily from Lucknow and returns with flowers as per the orders received.

Polyhouse farming is a way of protected cultivation. It is a kind of greenhouse farming in which the temperature is maintained inside a covered structure to yield crops round the year. A polyethylene plastic sheet is used to cover the structure of bamboo. In that protected environment, vegetables and flowers are grown. This type of farming benefits farmers as they can grow off season vegetable which fetch better prices. Earlier there were naturally ventilated polyhouses while now motorised screens and ventilators are also available. In a polyhouse, crops are grown in controlled temperature to ensure less crop loss.

“One can earn Rs.1lakh to Rs2 lakh is by setting up a small polyhouse of 250 sq metres,” Singh said, adding, “Weather is not an issue for floriculture in a protected environment. Besides one has to put all effort in a small unit instead of the entire farm.”

“I have a polyhouse in half an acre and income from this is equal to what my entire mango farm of 10 bigha yields,” he said.

Now there are a few more such establishments coming up in the villages. “Nearly 6-7 farmers have now applied for polyhouse for protected cultivation of flowers and vegetables,” said Arjit Kumar, pradhan of Khadta Gram Panchayat.

Rakesh Bahadur Singh’s floriculture business had become an inspiration for some farmers who mustered the courage to invest some money and land, he said.

Mango production has been fluctuating over the years, especially due to the vagaries of weather as well as depleting water level. “Last year, mango crop was less since gusty winds caused fruit drop,” said a farmer of Ataura village of Malihabad, who has less than one bigha of land. He said, “Aam ki Kheti bas Bhagwaan bharose hai, time se barish kara de, mausam theek rakhe to sab theek. (Mango farming is entirely dependent on God. All is well if it rains timely and weather remains pleasant).”

Another farmer of Khadta village, Ram Rattan, who has applied for polyhouse, said, “The former pradhan has been earning profit out of it. We should also try as the government helps in setting up the polyhouse.”

Villagers here have around one bigha landholding on an average. A large number have less than a bigha of land .

Suraj Kumar, a farmer with one bigha landholding, said, “Farmers have to look beyond the traditional practices. Earlier mango trees were planted anywhere and required less water but now you need proper irrigation. Water level is depleting and in future, risk in normal farming will grow. Protected farming is an alternative as we do not have dearth of markets: Unnao, Malihabad and Lucknow.”

A block level horticulture official in Malihabad RN Pandey said farmers had been inquiring about protected farming. “We have received some applications and inquiries regarding protected farming. Farmers with small chunk of land in hand are planning to diversify the crop,” he said.

Malihabad has more than 40,000 hectares of land under mango farming and produces 15-18% of total mango crop of the state, as per government data.

First Published: Apr 22, 2019 14:47 IST