Aryan Kumar, 22, in Bettiah city of West Champaran district has left behind his family’s traditional cultivation practices of food-crop plantation and weather-dependent farming. The geography graduate, who took a week-long course offered by the Bihar government’s Agriculture Technology Management Agency (ATMA), has taken up cash crop farming that provides high yields, uses less water, and has lower risk than the traditional wheat, sugarcane, and paddy. He grows coriander, mushroom and capsicum, earning ₹10 to ₹12 lakh annually.
“I first started shade net farming of capsicum in 2021 on 7 katha of land [less than 1 acre]. We use fibre net, which helps control the sunlight according to the needs of the crops,” he says, adding that the company supplying the net also sells drip irrigation equipment for capsicum and sprinklers for coriander.
His initial expenditure in 2021 was ₹42,000, with ₹22 lakh provided as a subsidy by the government. He gets seeds from Excellence For Vegetable – Horticulture Farm in Chandi town, Nalanda district. The State’s agriculture department provides subsidies up to 90% on cash crop farming for the purchase of equipment.
He does two rounds of coriander farming a year, and a single batch of capsicum, scheduled to begin in October. Each time, he produces 70 quintals of capsicum, which grows across five months. Similarly, 2 quintals of coriander leaves are produced per katha, which means 28 quintals annually.
Mr. Kumar said, “The first time the government provides seeds of both vegetables free of cost. I purchase capsicum seeds at ₹3 per piece and 4,000 pieces are used for farming, which ultimately produces 70 quintals of capsicum. Similarly, I purchase 3 kg of coriander leaves at the cost of ₹300 per kg.” He sells the produce in the local market in Bettiah, coriander leaves at ₹250 per kg and capsicum at ₹50 per kg.
Now, Mr. Kumar has formed a Farmer Producer Organisation (FPO) that operates through WhatsApp groups. They motivate each other, share knowledge, and help each other with supply chain issues. Inspired by him, at least 10 more villagers have opted for coriander and capsicum farming.
Sampat Kumar, one of them who plans to start next month, said, “We never thought that so much profit could be generated with such a low investment. In traditional farming, there is a lot of risk and it requires much, much more hard work. With coriander farming and capsicum, the profit is assured.”
Mr. Kumar himself is the proud owner of a new one-storey house in Karmava village, Majhaulia block, where he lives with his parents. He remembers the initial days of worry after graduating from Maharani Janki Kunwar College, Bettiah, and looking for government employment, with no success.
Mr. Kumar also started oyster mushroom farming, which has attracted around 100 farmers in Bettiah to adopt it. He grows mushrooms in about 140 sq metres, and produces 6 quintals every year, selling it for ₹150 per kg.
“Initially when he started mushroom farming, most people laughed at him because there was no market in the village. After two years, you now find mushrooms growing in many houses, because it gives good profit with low investment, just ₹3,000 for every quintal,” Pramod Prasa, a neighbour, said.
Dilip Kumar, who is considering farming capsicum and coriander on a large scale, dreams of selling produce in Patna for a higher profit. “We will all share the transportation cost,” he said.
Sobha Kumari, Mr. Kumar’s mother, said he has made her proud by achieving a lot at a young age. “He works so hard for the family. I just pray for his success,” she said. Her daughter, Mr. Kumar’s sister, is pursuing a degree in agriculture in Basti district, Uttar Pradesh.