Waterlogging has always been viewed as destructive by farmers in much of Punjabs Malwa region,but one village stands out as an exception. Farmers of Channu,situated next to the chief ministers village of Badal,thrive when their fields are waterlogged. What they cultivate these days is fish,having taken that up after repeated destruction of their traditional crops by waterlogging,known locally as sem.
They owe the shift to one family,a farmer and his two sons,who set the example after having suffered along with the rest. And the government has set about showcasing the familys efforts to the rest of a region so prone to the repeating problem.
Every year,we used to sow wheat and paddy like the others did,but the yield would be very low because of sem,which would destroy our paddy during the monsoons, says Shivkaran Singh,the elder son,who took the initiative.
The only option we knew was to try again, he says. Then in 2009,I came in contact with experts from the fisheries department and took training. My father Shivraj Singh,my younger brother and I started fish farming. We began with 50,000 finger-sized varieties of mrigal,carp,catla on one acre. By September 2010,after taking all expenditure into account,we had earned Rs 80,000 from one acre.
The family now cultivates fish on 10 acres. Since 2010,they have been earning twice a year,and they need not run around to market their produce either. Traders from Ludhiana and Jalandhar arrive on call and buy the stock.
Impressed with their success,the agriculture department has chosen their farm as a field farmer school (FFS),whether other farmers can be guided into taking up this option.
Waterlogging is a major problem in Malwa,but Shivkaran used it to his strength rather than fretting about it, says Dr Karan Singh,deputy director in the fisheries department. After noticing the success Shivraj had from fish farming,a number of villagers from Channu followed his example. And we would like more to do so. The idea behind this FFS was to give first-hand knowledge to the farmers. We have observed that farmers are more inclined to believe what their fellow farmers say rather than what experts tell them.
Shivraj Singh is happy that the days of water-intensive paddy are behind them. I use water from the canals and the water needs to be changed once a week, he says. There is no labour problem either.One only needs to provide the fish their feed twice a day.
So far,the family has been buying fresh finger-sized samples after selling off every lot of full-grown fish. Father and sons now plan to breed the next generation at home itself.