“I am known as the Arika farmer in the village. I was the first one to cultivate Arika. People laughed at me and thought I was crazy. They used to say ‘with good land and water why are you thinking of growing this?! You should be growing groundnut!’ But I went ahead. At the end of it, it was I who went home laughing… because I made more than the ones who cultivated groundnut.”
Anjaneyappa (Anji) from Dubbarlapalli village, is one of the younger farmers, rather shy and quiet. He was busy de-stoning his land and he had already waited too long to do what had to be done when we went to chat with him. 35 years old and educated up to 12th class, he is one of those who decided to get back to land rather than go for further studies and an urban job. His four daughters all go to school. He owns 5 acres of land of which 3 acres are irrigated. It was in these 3 acres of irrigated bit that he chose to grow Arika (Kodo millet) in 1-1/2 acres. His brother went ahead and opted to cultivate groundnut the conventional way. But Anji decided to not only grow Arika but also grow it the organic way with the Timbaktu Collective team’s support and inputs.
“The Arika took a long time to grow. Initially the field looked rather empty with seemingly stray plants sprouting here and there. But I held on, though there were times when I felt a bit nervous, especially when I used to see the groundnuts thriving in my brother’s field. I thought ok it was just one season. Let’s see what happens.
I diligently continued my efforts – feeding the plants with home-prepared kashayams, and protecting the plants from pests and diseases with solutions of fermented manure, neem leaves and other stuff. Slowly, the plants took root and began to grow steadily and surely. I was surprised to see how they threw up the huge number of panicles. Normally, according to the Timbaktu Collective team these plants would grow 30-35 shoots. These plants were throwing up 80-90 shoots! Within a few months my field was dense with the Arika.
By the end of the cropping cycle, come harvest time, the plants were full of the grains. It was bountiful harvest. I sold all of the harvest to Dharani at a good rate.
At the end of it, I sat and calculated what I earned, what I spent. I had spent Rs. 6,950 most of it was labour expenses and some of it for transport. Since the agri-inputs were home-made, I didn’t have much expenses on that. I got a yield of 14 quintals of arika which I sold to Dharani for Rs. 42,000. The net income I got from this 1-1/2 acres was Rs.35,500.
Interestingly, my brother did not get similar net income from his groundnut crop, even though he had brought his entire 3 acres under groundnut. We took the trouble to calculate his income too. He had spent Rs. 36,000 – on seeds, labour, transport, fertilizers and pesticides. Most of his expenditure was on the seeds. He got a produce worth Rs. 42,000 and his net income was Rs. 7,000 only.
‘Now who earned more..?’, I asked my brother teasingly, ‘maybe you should grow Arika too!’
I plan to grow Arika next season too and also diversify and grow different crops.