Friday, April 17, 2009

THE HINDU:Somala Devi got Best Farmer Award

Self-help is the best help: that should be every farmer’s motto


Farmers should start their own marketing and form co-operatives

— Photo: By Special Arrangement

Inspiring role: Somala Devi has been conferred the best farmer award by the University of Agricultural Sciences, Bangalore.

Self reliance seems imperative for any farm related activity. Whether the farm is big or small, it really does not matter as long as it is self reliant.

“What I mean by self reliance is that a farmer should not depend on any external sources for seeds, manures or other items. Everything must be available in the farm itself,” says Mrs. A.L. Somala Devi a farmer from Mandya district in Karnataka.

Wrong perception

“A general opinion prevails among many farmers that more water means more yield. It is not true. In fact, more than 70 per cent of the irrigated water, especially through flood irrigation, evaporates. Only a small quantity reaches the root zone of the plants and is utilised,” she says.

Economical use of water with proper planning is essential to get a good yield. Especially during the summer months, farmers must go in for optimum use of water and conserve as much as possible.

Outstanding farmer

The University of Agricultural Sciences, Bangalore, recently conferred the Best Farm Woman award (district level) on her.

When one walks around her farm one is able to observe a number of bunds in the fields.

The bunds serve two purposes. One, they act as effective check dams and prevent water from running off; two, they prevent the surface soil from getting washed away by the running water.

In addition, she has also dug some small ponds in her farm to store rainwater. She raises coconut, arecanut, sugarcane, paddy, mulberry, ragi and napier grass. Cows and sheep are also reared in her farm.

“I am a strong believer in traditional farming. I do not use chemicals, which spoil the land. The soil is like a mother’s womb and must be nourished and taken care of,” she says.

Mulching dry leaves in the fields is a regular practice which she says, “prevents moisture evaporation and controls weed growth.”

Vegetable garden

Vegetables are grown in a small patch. Waste water from the kitchen irrigates the vegetable garden.

“I am surprised when I hear people speaking of malnutrition or increasing food production. If farmers in every village in the country grow some vegetables in their land then the concept of food security for the farmers’ family can be solved. The excess vegetables can also be sold, thus fetching the farmer some extra money.”

Sense of pride

The farmer says with a sense of pride that she does not visit the market for buying vegetables. All her kitchen needs are met from her vegetable garden.

“My suggestion to farmers is that they should grow different crops, trees and rear animals in the farm. Do not practise monoculture (growing only one crop), because if any pest or disease attacks the crop then you will have to face huge losses.”

How does she manage any pest attack?

She says: “As long as farmers know the medicinal value and methods of using neem, basil, parthenium leaves, or cow’s urine as pest repellents, the problem can easily be tackled.

“When there are so many low cost methods and bio-pesticides available, which can be made easily in the farm and are effective, a farmer need not borrow at high interest rates for growing crops.”

“Today’s agriculture has two main problems,” she says. “One pertains to lowering the input cost and the other marketing. If these two are solved then our farmers will succeed,” she says with a smile.

Co-operative farming

Instead of depending on some unknown middlemen to exploit the farmers it would be better if farmers organise themselves into small groups and start some sort of cooperative farming and marketing on their own.

For more information readers can contact Mrs. A.L Somala Devi, No 145-Hemmanahalli, Athgoor, Hobali, Maddur taluk, Mandya district, Karnataka:571428, mobile:9845746046.

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