Babu More shows students how to take care of potted plantsPUNE: Babu More, a zilla parishad schoolteacher in the tribal area of Khomarpada in Palghar district, joined the primary school in December 2013 only to realize that over 90% of the agrarian families were seasonal migrants and about 20% took their children with them when they headed back home. Consequentially, most children dropped out of school.
More, realized that the main reason for the migration was single-crop farming and decided to help the villagers earn a living within the village. Over six years, More has managed to completely stop migration and help 100 farmers from 10 villages by introducing crop rotation.
“The area gets good rainfall hence people here were only cultivating paddy and they would migrate to cities in search of work at brick kilns or construction sites in December-January. Some parents took their children along with them and the children found it hard to adjust to new surroundings, which in turn affected their education,” said More (33).
More knew that preaching about agriculture to hardened farmers wouldn’t help. So he decided to practice before preaching. “There was half a guntha land near our school. Along with two teachers, students tilled the land and sowed vegetables. We started getting a good crop of onion, potato, spinach, ginger, fenugreek and tomato. The produce was used to prepare the midday meal,” said More.
In 2016, he called a meeting of about 35-40 parents and convinced them about the benefits of crop rotation. Reluctantly, they agreed. “That year we grew onion, cucumber, some legumes and brinjal. They got good money for it and more people started doing it. This caught the eye of the local NGO Akshardhara Foundation in 2019-20,” said More.
Soon, with help from the foundation, More convinced 40 families from various villages to take up crop rotation. “The foundation helped 18 parents. But, last year, the onion sapling cost around Rs40,000 per acre, which was a huge input cost. A villager, Kiran Gahala, gave us his land for free along with water. The crop was so good that the farmers were able to sell it between Rs15-25 per kg while the market rate was Rs8-10,” said More. The Suhrid Foundation also helped out in the initiative.
The farmers also cultivated okra, chilli and cluster beans.
More’s course has not been devoid of problems. “During the lockdown, there was no power for almost eight days and I watered the land manually till 2am. I also helped a farmer dig deeper into his well when the water level dropped to save his watermelon crop. Once, a scorion bit me,” he said.
“If we can make our farmers self-sufficient, we can solve more than half the country’s problems. What is the point of my education, if I am not able to help others in need?” he said.
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