New Crop Trend Beats Climate Change

Enterprising Farmer in Raakh, Maharashtra switches crops and succeeds. Between increasing fluctuations in rainfall patterns and a falling water table, the agrarian village of Raakh in Pune district, Maharashtra, was heading towards a severe crisis. Farmers in the region cultivated wheat, rice and sugarcane – crops that require a substantial amount of water for a prolonged period of time to grow and yield. But in the past few years, productivity was at a new low and the farmers were at their wits end in trying to devise solutions to the situation they found themselves in. The stories of the suicides of farmers in the north of the state loomed over their heads.  In this a bleak scenario, farmer Vinayak Powar became an iconoclast and a guiding light. In 2011, Vinayak Powar who was a sugarcane farmer all his life, and whose father was a sugarcane farmer before him and so on, decided that since the ancestral crop was no longer a viable, sustainable proposition, he would no longer engage in trying to cultivate it. He called Kisan Call Center (the famer’s helpline) in his region and explained his situation to the expert at the other end. Together, they came up a unique solution – eggplant, a crop with substantial market value which requires low quantities of water and gives a quick yield. Vinayak had to go against the grain of hundreds of years of experience to plant his first season of eggplant. “I was the sceptical in the beginning but since sugarcane was not helping ends meet, I decided to give it a shot, as an experiment,” says Vinayak. In 3 months, he had a bumper produce. His fields were thriving with deep purple and Vinayak was overjoyed. “I realized that if one has to stay in the picture, he has to move ahead with the times,” he says. The neighboring farmers, who had been sceptical/fearful of Vinayak’s shift, now began to embrace his vision. “Visit Raakh now and you’ll see eggplant fields everywhere.” IndiaUnheard Community Correspondent Rohini Pawar who lives in the nearby village of Walhe and who is herself a farmer’s daughter, heard of Vinayak’s success from her friends and neighbours. “Maharashtra is state with the highest rate of farmer’s suicides in their country. I decided to produce a video on him because it a rare case where the farmer reached out to his support system, listened to the advice that was given to him and managed to successfully implement a new trend,” says Rohini, “He is a model farmer for our age of anxiety.” “Vinayak has forged a new beacon of hope for the climate and water hit farmers of Maharashtra. We need to listen to him and learn from his story.”

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