Sundargarh: Not long ago, farmers in Budabahal village under Meghadega panchayat in Odisha’s Sundargarh district were cultivating one paddy crop in their arid and inhospitable patches of land and looking for employment elsewhere to sustain their families for the remaining year. However, introduction of vegetable farming under the state government’s Forestry Development Project-2 has changed the lives of the villagers for better.
Uncertainty loomed large over the lives of 102 families in this village till they took up ‘potola’ (pointed gourd) cultivation on small patches of land on the Hele river bed. Initially, they cultivated the vegetable in small amounts after the paddy season. However, seeing the rising profits from pointed gourd, they decided to make the vegetable their main crop. Precisely speaking, pointed gourd has proved to be a boon for these villagers some of whom are earning anything between Rs 1 lakh to Rs 2 lakh annually.
It may seem incredible but Dayathi, a farmer in Budabahal village, is earning a whopping Rs 60 lakh annually by cultivating pointed gourd on his 60 acre field. Earlier, Dayathi cultivated paddy once a year in his fertile land while he looked for manual labour elsewhere during the remaining time of the year. For most of the year, his land was fallow making it difficult for him to look after his family.
Four years ago, some people in his village took to pointed gourd (potol) cultivation on the river bed of Hele. In the very first year, he earned a handsome profit and this encouraged, Dayathi to cultivate the vegetable in his field measuring 60 acres. Now he is earning more than Rs 60 lakh a year and this year he is expecting a bumper crop.
Seeing the interest of the farmers in cultivating pointed gourd, the state government has been encouraging them to take up cultivation of this crop under the Forestry Development Project-2. The Agriculture Department of the Government of Odisha has provided loans to 14 self-help groups, while irrigation projects were developed with the help of the Horticulture Department. The farmers were also given various equipment and arrangements were made to sell their crops Seeds, fertilizer and solar-operated irrigation equipment have been provided to them along with facilities of cold storage and market to sell their products. Besides, vegetables like pointed gourd, long beans, chilli and different leafy vegetables are cultivated by them now.
Since 2020, vegetable farming in the region is being done under the WADI programme on over 3,000 acres of land with help from the district mineral fund (DMF). As of date, total of 1,718 farmers have associated themselves with this initiative.
In Budabahal village alone, 102 families have become successful pointed gourd ‘potal’ farmers due to the continuous efforts of their team leader Dakhambar Upadhyay. Recently, some of the farmers have also successfully taken to potato farming. Pointed gourd has no doubt proved to a boon for the farmers in Budabahal village.