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Kishore Talukdar
Date of Publish: 2017-07-04

Assam farmers set sight on palm oil

 

Nine km off Dudhnoi town in western Assam’s Goalpara district, the female members of a self help group toil on a 15-bigha plot of land during the day while the male members stay awake the whole night to protect the plot from elephant depredation. The SHG-- Shramik Jyoti Got- has started cultivation of oil palm on this plot of land.

Shideheswar Rabha, Secretary of Shramik Jyoti Got, Shalpara said that these farmers are expecting to harvest the edible-oil yielding crop in July, 2018. These farmers among the first batch of farmers in the state to have taken a bold step of experimenting the cultivation of oil palm in the state.

“We have made all arrangements required for scientific farming practice like watering and regular post-plantation management,” he said. However, the cynosure of all eyes in the plot under oil palm cultivation is the intercropping system where different types of vegetables such as Tora plant, jute, pumpkin, ginger, sweet potato etc have been cultivated. “Our approach in the intercropping system is commercial. We want to sell the surplus produce that remains after consumption for meeting our nutritional requirement,” Manopi Rabha said.

Oil palm is the highest edible oil yielding crop which produces up to 3 to 6 tons of oil a hectare a year. India, being not self-dependent in edible oil-output, imports 11.14 million of vegetables oil. Over the past nine years the country imported 8.5 million tons of palm oil.

The oil palm farmers of Dudhnoi have demanded establishment of Oil Palm Processing Unit and Seed Garden in Goalpara to realise maximum benefit after harvesting the oil palm. The Rabha Hasong Autonomous Council ( RHAC) the Agriculture Department have also responded to the famers’ initiatives for oil palm cultivation in the two districts- Goalpara and Kamrup by initiating measures for setting up of an oil palm industrial unit. However, the required land for the unit is yet to be allocated.

Jibon Chandra Rabha, Executive Councilor of RHAC said: “Besides production it is equally important that we have a stable market. So to ensure the optimal economic return for the farmers we are mulling to set up an industry.’ In this regard a Memorandum of Unnderstanding has already been signed between union, state government and a Hyderabad-based company for development of Oil Palm plantations in Kamrup, Goalpara, and Bongaigaon districts including establishment of Oil Palm processing unit in and around Dudhnoi. “We are searching for suitable land measuring 35 hectare for establishment of Oil Palm Processing Unit and Seed Garden,” Jibon Chandra Rabha told nezine.com. In August, 2016, Company sent a letter to Director, Agriculture requesting for allocation of suitable land for this purpose. Replacement of low-yielding crops by high value crop is another objective of this project.

Manoranjan Das, Agriculture Sub divisional Officer, of the Dudhnoi Agriculture Subdivision, said: “we are “expecting to harvest the oil palm in the last part of July 2018. So, setting up of the processing unit is all-important as incentives to the farmers.” Since the initiation of farming in 2015 the areas under oil palm farming is expanding. In the coming year Agriculture department is to expand the areas by 1000 hectors in both the districts. The area to be expanded may be reduced if there is shortage of seedlings. Das says the climatic condition and congenial atmosphere is the most favourable for cultivation of this variety of crop.

Jibon Chandra Rabha says that RHAC wants to cash in on the available land resources in areas under the Council to uplift the economic status of the farmers. “Farming, we think, will be boon for our people. Only autonomy cannot be the panacea of our backwardness. Along with it creation of work culture is must to establish ourselves as a community second to none in agriculture development, first in State and later in country,” Rabha said. The council with the assistance of State Agriculture Department has started oil palm cultivation in RHAC areas for the first time in the state under the National Mission of Oil Seeds & Oil Palm (NMOOP) MM-ii 2014-15.

Rabha said that waste land has been selected for oil palm cultivation. Sapling is distributed after proper verification of the nature of land. “The intending self-help groups have to apply with land documents and Bank Account details before getting the nod from department for plantation,” he says and adds it will also help bring transparency into the entire process.

The project has so far covered over 1300 beneficiaries in both the districts of Kamrup and Goalpara, officials claim. A group of farmers will go to Andhra Pradesh to learn the technical know of proper scientific farming. The project has won the Chief Minster’s award for excellence in public administration in the category of Replication of Best Practices in the Country. “Our responsibility of making the project a success has increased after getting the award for excellence,” Ramen Singh Rabha, All Rabha Students’ Union president said, reflecting the hope nurtured by all sections of the people in RHAC areas about the revolutionary change they expect this ambitious project to usher in the state.

Kishore Talukdar

( Kishore Talukdar is an independent journalist based in Guwahati. His areas of interest include Development journalism and Environment journalism. He can be contacted at tdrkishore@gmail.com )

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