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Farming the old-fashioned way in Araku Valley

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With the onset of the southwest monsoon, farming is picking up momentum in Araku, nearly 120 km from Visakhapatnam, and other tribal areas of the Eastern Ghats, a region that remains in harmony with nature. Using their age-old cultivation practices, tribespeople here grow various crops, mainly paddy, sweet potato, ragi (finger millet) and pulses. Without chemical fertilizers, pesticides or tractors, they uphold traditional organic farming using manure and plough the fields using cattle. Entire families have been in the fields from mid-June. Ploughing and sowing turn the tribal area into a beehive of activity. In small groups, the people take up farming on a large scale to a perfect rhythm — a grand spectacle for tourists who flock to the region.

Children are left at home to take care of their younger siblings when other members are busy with farming work. Even school and college students take to the fields. The farmers here use indigenously made tools such as spades, sickles, axes and sieves.

Most farmers in Visakhapatnam, Vizianagaram and Srikakulam in Andhra Pradesh and the neighbouring hilly regions of Odisha have landholdings of just two to four acres. They resort to mixed farming, making use of perennial hill streams and rain-fed irrigation. Soil fertility is high as chemicals are not used. A minimum of three crops is cultivated in a season. However, per-acre yield is less.

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