January 30, 2009 11:09:37 pm
It wasn’t the whiff of money but faith in the small,inconspicuous plant in his courtyard that nudged Kailash Nath Singh,now 87,to venture into something unheard of more than a decade ago.
When Organic India,then Indo-Israel Trading Corporation (IITC),asked him to take up organic cultivation (without the use of chemicals and fertilisers) of tulsi or Indian Basil,Kailash,bogged down by low yield from his farm and debts,was wary.
Although the idea of cultivating tulsi sounded strange initially,I nonetheless accepted the offer. My scepticism changed to confidence once I saw how the firm operated, Kailash says.
The risk taken by the 75-year-old did pay rich dividends. And as Kailashs income rose,many farmers eagerly followed in his footsteps.
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Now,over 10,000 farmers in the drought-hit districts of Bundelkhand,besides Azamgarh and Mau districts in the eastern UP,are cultivating tulsi as a cash crop in addition to their routine agricultural practices. They are producing more than 2,000 tonnes of tulsi annually from over 1,000 acres of land.
Motivating the farmers wasnt difficult after my success story and when farmers came to know of the firms approach,says Kailash. The Lucknow-based firm decided to bear the cost of production as also the risks of crop failure and market volatility. Farmers were to only tend and harvest the crop. In short,each one contributes according to his ability. For the past ten years,in fact,the farmers have been paid even when the produce wasnt good enough due to adverse climatic conditions or pest attack.
What more,their produce fetches them eight times more than the market value. If the rate of tulsi is Rs 10 to Rs 15 per kilo in the market,the firm buys it for,say,Rs 80 to Rs 90 per kilo.
For Organic India,too,the benefits are equally large. This is because these farmers are producing pure organic tulsi,which fulfills the specifications of international market, said Krishan Guptaa,the CEO and Managing Director of Organic India.
The production cost for the farmers,too,has gone down as they do not need to spend in chemical fertilisers. They do not have to worry about selling their produce either. The company not only provides them with organic manure but also reaches the field to buy the produce. The farmers have crop security because the company is a guaranteed buyer of their produce.
The crop season is from January to June when the farmers are assisted by field managers and technical managers of the company for best yield, adds Guptaa.
Meanwhile,the tulsi growers of UP have another task at hand these days to supply one million saplings of tulsi for planting around Taj Mahal to check pollution. They have already handed more than 20,000 saplings on Republic Day to the district administration of Agra.
An agriculture festival called the Tulsi Mahotsav that celebrates the wonder herb Tulsi (holy basil) is held in Azamgarh district of Uttar Pradesh every year. Organised by Organic India with its Tulsi farmers,the festival is held at the onset of winter. It seeks to honour Tulsi and pay tribute to Tulsi farmers who have converted the ravaged soil into fields of prosperity. This is the only festival in the world which celebrates the queen of herbs.
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