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Friday, January 28, 2022

The ‘dragon’ woman of Behar Jaswan

It is only this year that Sood has been able to take her message of medicinal farming to the common farmer with the help of the district administration.

Written by Rajesh Chander Sharma | Una |
December 6, 2021 6:10:06 am
Reeva Sood's efforts have already borne fruit.

The ground under Behar Jaswan Panchayat was actually prepared for medicinal plants by Reeva Sood, who loves to be called a woman agro entrepreneur. In her heart she carries love for medicinal farming and Himachal Pradesh — based in Delhi, she came all the way to do medicinal farming in the hilly state — and in her eyes she carries a dream of turning this area into a dragon valley. Dragon is an exotic fruit. She has planted 3,000 saplings of this fruit here.

“I could have bought land on the outskirts of Delhi and done farming there. But I decided to come here because Himachal is a good place and Himachalis are good people. As for dragon, it holds a bright future for the farmer,” she says.

Her efforts have already borne fruit. “Even though it is the mandate of the horticulture department, my departments will provide every possible help to local farmers to go in for cultivation of dragon fruit. It is a pilot project which will run in Una district. The project will be promoted with convergence of funds, mainly of MGNREGS,” says Rural Development and Agriculture Minister Virender Kanwar.

Before the dream, there was a nightmare. Sood’s husband, a renowned urologist, was diagnosed with cancer in 2014. A battle between life and death ensued. Ultimately, life won, he won. It is then that they thought of doing something for society, and that something had to be chemical-free as chemical causes cancer. So they decided to do farming. For that, they needed land.

Sood’s sasural is in Kangra district and her inlaws’ property is yet to be divided. That is why they zeroed in on land at Behar Jaswan Panchayat in 2018. But what they were shown they weren’t sold. “When we went to take possession, people dug up the land. We soon realised we have been taken for a ride. But I didn’t run away,” she says.

She stayed back and ploughed a lonely furrow on rock-solid soil for three years, putting up seven polyhouses in the process and producing chamatkar. “As a blessing in disguise, I got land which was virgin and chemical-free,” she says.

It is only this year that Sood has been able to take her message of medicinal farming to the common farmer with the help of the district administration. While DC Sharma calls her “the driving force of the medicinal plant project”, Dr Chandan acknowledges her contribution in reviving an endangered species called Sarpgandha. “Due to her efforts, we have been able to bring 50 acres in Himachal, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh under Sarpgandha cultivation,” says Dr Chandan.

Apart from Sarpgandha, she also cultivates Ashwagandha, Moringa, Kalmegh, Shatavari, lemon grass, vetiver grass and stevia. She has grown black wheat and the summer variety of apple as well. All this is chemical-free as she uses desi fertiliser made with the help of cow products. She has kept abandoned cows. Earlier, there were four. Now there are only two as the other two have passed away.

Mention green revolution, and her face goes red. “The green revolution brought into our life chemicals, which destroyed our health, our fields and our environment. It is high time we went back to our old ways of farming,” she says.

Sood had contracted Covid last year. Soon after recovering, she landed in Himachal in June to see her plants, her “progeny”. “They were drying up. So I had to rush back. They reciprocate emotions. They care for me, I care for them. When I am in Delhi, I spend four hours daily on video calls to monitor my plants here,” says the 63-year-old.

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