Amidst the lush green paddy and sugarcane crops in Mandya, Bore Gowda of Shivalli village comes across as an individual with his own mind ploughing a lone furrow.
Though surrounded by commercial but water-guzzling crops, he appears content cultivating millets that has limited demand in the market and whose consumption is dwindling even in traditional rural societies.
“Having experienced the impact of agricultural crisis with mounting cost of cultivation and declining income, I decided to opt for millets to tide over the economic crisis and earmarked a small portion of my 10-acre land for it,” said Mr. Gowda
He was introduced to millets and their myriad benefits, including nutritional value, by Sahaja Samruddha, an NGO promoting organic farming, besides dry crops.
Though a good monsoon was forecast, Mr. Gowda decided to experiment with millet and has not regretted his decision. As it turned out, the monsoon played truant and the State government has refused to release water from the KRS. “But since millets are dry crops, it sustained on the available moisture and Mr. Gowda reaped a rich harvest,” said Krishnaprasad of Sahaja Samruddha.
A similar experience was narrated by B. Puttaswamy of Hale Boodhnuru in Mandya district. “I decided to set aside 4 acres of my land to cultivate brown top millet and did not expect much owing to severe summer and depleting moisture. To my surprise, the crops were robust and withstood the severity of drought and yielded a rich harvest,” said Mr. Puttaswamy.
What about the cost of cultivation? “It was near-zero as I only paid for the seeds that were liberally strewn across the field. I did not use an ounce of fertilizer or insecticide and the residual moisture in the field sufficed to give a rich harvest and enabled me to earn nearly Rs. 30,000 in three months,” said Mr. Puttaswamy. “We are convinced that Mandya farmers will benefit if they shift to dry-land farming to tide over the water crisis,” said both the farmers.
These are just two of the success stories with dry crop farming that Sahaja Samruddha intends to take to the broader community of farmers reeling under drought in south Karnataka region.
Meanwhile, efforts are on at various levels to bring millets back as a regular diet in view of their health benefits. Brown top millet is reckoned to have good dietary fibre as also the other varieties, including finger millet, fox tail millet, kodo millet and proso millet. Mr. Krishnaprasad said these crops are easy to cultivate under harsh conditions. But more important, farmers can be assured of nutritious food for their families, besides earning a decent income.