Aha!!! The day’s work at farm has ended. It’s time for me to sit back and enjoy a glass of mango shake made from mango plucked from our orchard and farm fresh milk produced in our dairy.
It’s 7 p.m here in India and as I sit down to pen my blog to share my experience in agriculture, I feel amazed at how passionate I have grown about farming in just four years of my stay at our farm based in rural part of North Indian State Uttar Pradesh.
In 2010, after completing MSc Business Economics and Finance from London, I returned to India and got married to Gaurav Chaudhary who has similar education background and settled with him at his 65 acre farm in village Tanda Vijaysi , Uttar Pradesh. Gaurav’s passion for farming and enthusiasm to grow agribusiness providing agro inputs and agriculture services to farmers impressed me and I also decided to involve myself completely in agriculture which I now feel is “unexplored treasure”.At our farm we practice Poplar based Agroforestry and Dairy Farming.
We have about 12000 Poplar trees and 1000 Eucalyptus trees on our farm. We follow best practices to raise Poplar plantations of high genetic potential and fetch very good price for every tree.
Large scale poplar plantations on farm land has the potential not only to improve tree cover and hence environment but also farmers’ financial health.
Poplar trees get ready for final harvest in 6 years which is one of the fastest timber growing systems on earth! Poplar is intercropped with Sugarcane for first two years and from third year onwards until its final harvest farmers intercrop it with wheat crop. Intercropping gives annual returns to farmers. These trees were promoted among farmers in North West India in 1980s by WIMCO Seedlings to meet its timber requirements.
Poplar based Agroforestry: Way out to meet Environmental challenges and improving the financial status of farmers in North West India.
In Nov 2011, I went to WIMCO Seedlings to buy Poplar saplings to plant at our farm. Interestingly General Manager of WIMCO Seedlings asked me to utilise my Economics background to compare profitability farmer gets from dominant crops in the region which are Sugarcane, Paddy – Wheat vis-a-vis Poplar based Agro forestry.
I did an economic analysis of Poplar based Agro forestry vis-a-vis crops from our farm maintained data on costs and sales and found much higher returns from agro forestry system of land use. The paper was also presented by me to farmers, researchers and scientists gathering at International Poplar Commission held in 2012 in India.
Though Poplar Plantation is widely adopted by farmers in North West India which has improved tree cover but there are problems which I observed and working upon to benefit environment and farmers’ economic status.
- Poplar Plantations are not raised properly and hence returns realised by farmers from low timber yields per tree are low. They are therefore not able to take high returns from trees
- Many a times farmers buy poplar saplings from unauthentic sellers as a result of which trees take poor growth or die in some time and hence farmers’ time and money are lost. This not only brings down their confidence in trees but they altogether stop planting trees.
- Clear cut policies to be framed by policy makers and government to ensure Poplar prices remain profitable for farmers. Poplar price fluctuations in some years have also withdrawn many farmers from planting trees.
- For many farmers waiting period of 6 years is too long and hence tree plantations have not reached their maximum coverage levels.
I have been awaring farmers in my village and nearby ten villages on right practices to raise good poplar plantations starting from land preparation, sapling plantation to yearly management of poplar trees so that farmers fetch best returns from upon tree harvest and therefore continue to plant trees on their farms. This I do by distributing pamphlets through our agro inputs counters at three places, regular interaction with farmers at our Progressive Farmers’ Association Meetings and at various other Farmers Meetings and Conferences.
As an educated youth pursuing farming, I also make efforts to reach out to Government, Policy makers, Agriculturalists to present challenges and opportunities that are there for farmers.
Dairy Farming: very compatible with agroforestry model
Again in my interaction with several farmers in my state for a survey that I presented at World Congress on Agroforestry 2014, I realised that in order to improve tree cover further and make farming more remunerative we need to find an avenue that will ensure farmers regular earnings and to that Dairy farming was an answer.
Interestingly, being involved in dairy, I realised that my fodder oats grew very well underneath Poplar trees. That was win win situation for me as now I don’t need to spare much open land to grow fodder for cows. This integration is tremendously beneficial. What an innovation!!!
I, along with my husband, formed Progressive Dairy Farmers’ Association Uttar Pradesh in 2012 and started working to encourage farmers to take up Dairy farming. Since then we have been conducting meetings every two months and call Dairy experts so that all farmers run dairy efficiently and take best possible returns from their milk sale.
The regular meetings have resulted in dairy expansion in the region and dairy is run not in traditional way but commercially wherein farmers are adopting modern dairy practices. Their engagement in dairy and daily returns from milk sale has tremendously improved tree cover on farms as waiting period of 6 years for tree harvest is not difficult now and yes farmers’ fodder requirement also comes from intercropping done in trees. Large quantity of cow manure is adding to soil fertility and producing needed electricity at farms.
Today we sell 500 litres of milk per day with monthly net earnings of USD 2500 from our Dairy Enterprise of 40 cows which we are expanding to in-house 100 cows by 2016. Cow Manure is utilised at our farm which has improved our soil health tremendously and lowered our agro inputs costs.
Poplar trees are harvested in cycles every alternate year and we generate USD 25,000 from 500 trees planted per hectare of land. The huge returns give us requisite capital for further investment in our Dairy Enterprise. The combination of Agro forestry and Dairy is not only very viable for farmers but very beneficial for our environment too.
Our farm has now become a demonstration farm which attracts stream of farmers, youth on regular basis who takes deep interest in our farm management practices. Through our efforts at farm not only have we gained tremendously but have been able to inspire lot of people to work in most neglected yet most important sector of our country.
Agriculture image among young people is changing who are now turning to farming as a viable career path. Agriculture is an enterprise, all we need to do is to identify right model for right region.
Blogpost and photos submitted by Nikki Chaudhary (India) – chaudharyfarms(at)gmail.com
The content, structure and grammar is at the discretion of the author only.
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