Three years ago, when Metoda village near Rajkot was reeling under severe drought crisis, the farmers were distraught. The maintenance cost of cotton and groundnut they cultivated was too high and the market for their produce was declining. They were on the lookout for a crop that required less maintenance and less water, but gave more returns.
Rotary Club of Rajkot, D 3060, got into the act and with the help of two Ph D students of the Junagadh Agricultural University, researched on the possibility of cultivating turmeric to help the farmers. They found that the crop yields were high in these regions which had abundant sunlight and low humidity.
The club piloted turmeric farming among 120 members of their 4 RCCs in the village on 250 acres of land. Dr Bakshi, Chairman and Managing Director of maxEEma Biotech, Ahmedabad, trained them to use organic pesticides and fertilisers. At the end of nine months, the farmers celebrated a rich harvest.
The RCC members spread the word among the farmers of the Saurashtra region, encouraging and guiding them to grow turmeric. “About 5,000 acres of land around Junagadh, Amreli, Morbi, Wankaner and Rajkot is all set for the crop this season,” says Club Secretary Sakina Bharmal. The club distributed rhizome seeds to the farmers well before the monsoon so they could reap a profitable harvest.
The Project-in-charge Rtn Harshad Adani is providing the inputs to help them with organic farming. No chemicals are used; only natural fertilisers such as cow dung, farm compost and pesticides such as buttermilk, neem paste and lemon paste, while drip irrigation takes care of the water needs of the crops.
The Rotarians help in marketing the produce by connecting the farmers with corporate agencies who can procure bulk quantities. “The Adani group has agreed to buy 5 tons annually and pay more than the market rate which is Rs 100 a kg,” says Sakina.
While only the Patel community was engaged in farming when the club started the project, today the success of turmeric farming the organic way — it means less maintenance, low water requirement, more returns — has now drawn in the non-Patel farmers too.
This 76-year old club has won RI’s significant achievement award for this project. n