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Kishore Talukdar
Date of Publish: 2017-12-25

Rags to riches: How a landless Assam farmer scripted his success story


It is a story of rags to riches. Jitumoni Kalita was only 11 years old when severe erosion caused by the river Brahmaputra left his parents landless and homeless. He grew up in penury but always believed that the greener pastures lay in farming in his own village.

In 1997, he decided to kick off experimental farming on a plot of just one katha ( 5 katha equal one bigha. 7.5 bigha equals one hectare) in his Bahjani village, about 12 km off Boko in Kamrup district. Jitumoni invested a paltry sum of Rs. 14 to buy seeds. “I bought seeds of Ladies finger for Rs 4 and of cowpea for Rs 10 and sowed on plot of one katha. The harvest was rewarding and fetched me Rs 5,010 including the input cost in 1997,” said the 41-year old farmer with a twinkle in his eye.

The remunerative return encouraged him to take 3 bigha plot land on lease in the following year. “There has been no looking back since then as high yields and remunerative return helped me expand my area of cultivation adding additional plot of land every year,” Jitumoni told NEZINE, his eyes. His farming practice has spanned 20 years now.

Today he owns 28 bigha of land where he cultivates an array of almost all seasonal crops including paddy, mustard, vegetables of all sorts like root and leafy vegentables. In March this year, he along with Chandan Kalita (39) of his village started papaya farming on a 10 bigha plot of land. They managed it properly to obtain maximum output. Watering, weeding, application of manure is done timely. Within two months (till December first week) he earned Rs 2.80 lakh.

“It is the success story Krishna Boro, who is called the pioneer of commercial papaya farming in Assam ( Please click this link for the story on Krishna Boro "Fruits of success" in NEZINE http://www.nezine.com/info/Fruits%20of%20success )has driven me to adopt this practice. We expect an estimated Rs 20 lakh from papaya this year,” he adds. They sold the fruits for Rs 45 a kilogram. They supply the ripe fruits to Guwahati markets every week. “However, our supply falls short of the demand in Guwahati,” they stated.

Besides, he has piggery units and ponds for pisciculture. Ponds are spread in an 8 bigha plot of land. Area under paddy farming is also about eight bigha. They apply organic manure like vermicompost and cow dung. “Soil health matters most to sustain long term farming practice. Soil heath deterioration is death knell for farmers. So, we prefer organic manure,” they added.

Meanwhile, with the stories of their success spreading far and wide farmers are making a beeline to their plot to learn and replicate their farming success. They share their knowledge with the farmers who flock to their garden. Agriculture Extension Assistant of Bongaon Agriculture Development Office, Ashwani Kumar Bharali said about 20 unemployed youth have come forward to cultivate papaya.

The youth are highly motivated after visiting the papaya garden and some of them have already started their venture in Jambari area.

“I am happy with my success, but I feel much happier when my success can motivate others. We must put our heart and soul into farming to make it a profitable venture,” Jitumoni said.

However, Jitumoni has grievances against a section of Agricultural officials for their lackadaisical attitude. “When we go to agriculture offices for seeking help we are kept waiting for hours. Agriculture office should be the place where the farmers can go and discuss their issues in threadbare. However, some officials are indifferent to farmers’ problems and issues,” Jitumoni and Chandan alleged. Referring to his recent loss in piggery caused by the death of litters, Jitumoni alleged that while the departmental help is crucial in the event of such distress, despite repeated pleas to a veterinarian, the latter did not come forward to help him.

Nripen Sarma, Sub divisional Agriculture Officer, Horticulture in Kamrup said papaya farming being a profitable venture has become popular over the past four years in Kamrup district. Gradual replacement of scattered farming by organized one has already started. In 2015-16, the area under papaya cultivation is 332 hector. Success has instilled confidence to the youth who are coming forward to cultivate this crop in a professional manner. The production of this crop has augmented after the introduction of hybrid variety like sweet red and red lady in 2015-16.

“In June, 2016, we have submitted a proposal to the government for providing free seed, fertilizer and management cost of farming of this variety to the farmer,” said Sarma while admitting that “department is yet to rise up to the expectation of farmers.”

Kishore Talukdar

All photographs used in this feature were taken by the author

( 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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