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Young Turks grow pulses

Dr G Shankar of Rallis India meets a group of young farmers who are rewriting farming traditions and providing hope for the future

In all walks of life, older generations have always found reasons to voice concern or dissatisfaction with the attitudes displayed by younger generations. They feel the current generation is not prepared to shoulder large responsibilities or does not want to do the work their fathers and grandfathers have. The business of farming is no exception. All over India, farming families and communities have seen their youngsters migrating to larger towns seeking white collar jobs, as they fail to see opportunities in farming.

In the house of Gurulingappa, a farmer in Bidar district, the situation is slightly different. Gurulingappa himself is convinced his son should not take up farming, as it is increasingly a losing proposition. Over the years, farming has been affected by rising costs and lower revenues, becoming less and less profitable. Gurulingappa worries deeply about his son’s future. “If he continues to be a farmer like me, no one will even come forward with a marriage alliance,” he says.

Young farmers use new sources of information to improve farming.jpegConcerns and attitudes like this portend any number of long-term repercussions for a country like India, with its strong agrarian roots and social traditions linked to the land. If Indian agriculture has to remain a viable proposition for the two-thirds of the country’s population that is dependent on it for a livelihood, a solution must be found.

Out in Kumta village of Udgir taluk in Latur district, Maharashtra, there is a group of young farmers who are working to demonstrate that change is not just necessary, but beneficial.
These youngsters have different ideas about farming. They are either post graduates or have left university midway, seeing greener pastures in the fields that their elders had tilled. Mahesh has a master's degree in chemistry, as does his fellow farmer and friend, Anant Patil. Shivaji Venkat Kendre has an MA in Hindi; Ravindra quit a diploma course in pharmacy, deciding to dispense pesticides in his fields rather than pharmaceutical drugs to customers.

These youngsters have formed a group called Evergreen Krishi Vigyan Mandel in Kumta. The group regularly meets on Mondays to discuss the status of the crop in their village and plan activities to improve the crop and overall yields. They consult scientists, department officials and company executives for knowledge and share this with their elders and other farmers.

One of their recent experiments has been setting up drip irrigation in their fields for pigeonpea crops with the help of Jain Irrigation. Till then, drip irrigation in pulses was unheard of in Kumta.

Says Mohan, one of the group’s more enthusiastic members, “I was the first to come back to farming, straight from university. Seeing my success, all my other friends have joined the bandwagon. Believe me, there is so much that can be done today in agriculture, thanks to the improvement in information flow. We use the internet extensively to know more about pulses and other crops. Representatives from agro industries also provide us with lots of information.”

When we spoke to them about Gurulingappa’s experiments in pigeonpea, the young farmers showed a lot of interest and have decided to meet him as early as possible. When asked how they would use what they learn, they said they would filter the information to take what seemed practical and achievable to them.

“We want to do something different in pulses to achieve the best of yields” says Mahesh.

After years of being cultivated using set traditional methods, there now seems to be a lot of new breakthroughs occurring in pulses cultivation. Little wonder then that in this village, the elders all praise the youth — the youth are showing the way to a better future.

Dr G Shankar is general manager (customer relations) at Rallis India Ltd.

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