Ganesh Patil, a farmer in Buldhana, has faced two years of consecutive poor crop production. The cotton cultivator on Sunday travelled 500 km to reach Mumbai to join a novel ‘Texathon’, where 50 other farmers from Vidarbha and Marathwada had come to understand the use of agro-textiles for improved cotton yield.
“Farmers never went to a school that taught farming or use of technology in improving crop yield. We can only discuss our cultivation problems with other farmers and bring out traditional solutions,” Patil said. In a day-long session at Sasmira Institute in Worli, attached with the Ministry of Textiles, farmers were taught techniques to protect crop from harsh weather conditions.
A virtual reality model in a classroom set-up showed them ways to protect cotton crop from hail storm, insects, and heavy rain. Sitting on a classroom bench, Patil learnt simple innovations to set up hail net, insect net, and harvest net at low cost.
“I took a loan of Rs 1 lakh and so did my wife. But with the cost of cotton dipping in the market, I have already faced a loss of Rs 1.7 lakh last year,” Patil said. Farmers like him, he says, have been troubled with poor production in last two years and falling rates of cotton. “We got a loan waiver this time by the chief minister. But how many times will that happen if our crop fails again?”
On Sunday, over 2,000 people, including industrialists and farmers, participated in a 10-km marathon, calling it Texathon. Several farmers, in their dhotis, ran for 3.5 km from Indu Mills, one of the first cotton mills in the city, to Century Bazaar.
In addition, Sasmira Institute and NGO Goonj collected 15 kg of old clothes for economically backward families in rural regions.“Texathon aimed to bring two energies together making this a memorable event for textile fraternity,” said Kavita Gupta, textile commissioner of India.
Farmer Deepak Ware specially came from Buldhana to learn techniques of reducing cost of investment in farming.
“We are hoping that through agro-textiles, we will learn how to increase crop production. Right now, my cultivation is entirely dependent on good monsoon,” said Ware, who owns a 10-acre land.
According to Manish Daga, managing director of Cotton Guru, a cotton advisory company, training cotton farmers on hybrid varieties, textile industry and its demands will help in improving yield and cotton production in India.
“These farmers will spread the training they receive here to other farmers in their villages. Several farmers keep switching from one crop to another once there is a crop failure. Through technological aid, we hope they can sustain cultivation of cotton,” he said.
Commodity expert Suresh Kotak said it was also important to stop adulteration in cotton in global markets. “India’s cotton rates are lower than other countries due to mixing,” he said, adding that farmers must be trained to understand role of micronutrients in soil. “Magnesium levels must be checked regularly in soil and added when required. India has the capacity to export good-quality cotton if we focus on high yield,” he said.