Agriculture

Farmer’s Notebook: Thinking Outside the Box to Increase Income

Thiruvengadam from Tamil Nadu has diversified from simply cultivating paddy to growing vegetables and selling saplings to increase his income.

Thiruvengadam in his farm. Credit: Prabhu M.J.

Thiruvengadam, a farmer in Tamil Nadu has greatly increased his income by adopting a proactive approach. Credit: M.J. Prabhu

There are two proven ways to earn income in agriculture related work – either you set up a tissue culture lab (which doesn’t require much space) or set up a nursery to supply seedlings.

Of course, along with these two enterprises, farmers can add vermicompost pits, manufacture and market one’s own bio inputs, etc. It is multiple activities like these which can increase the income revenue.

“Agriculture is not what it was a decade back – bleak and distressed – on the contrary, today, it is more green in terms of colour and income. People confuse agriculture to suicides and failures. The suicides are because of debt and interest. But if done carefully with a little planning, it can help any farmer to earn a good income,” says Thiruvengadam, a confident young farmer from Kamsalapuram village, Madhurantakkam, Tamil Nadu.

There are hundreds of schemes for farmers in the agriculture department, but a farmer seldom knows about them. At least 90% of the time, the agriculture officer seldom visits the villages under his jurisdiction nor does he meet the farmers to apprise them. This is the reality in many villages across the country. The farmer is expected take the initiative to go and introduce himself in the department. It will be better if they go as a group instead of a single person as a group’s voice is heard. They should get the mobile number of the concerned officials and invite them to their village. Constant pressure on friendly lines alone can move things for farmers from the agriculture department, according to him.

Like thousands of others in rural India, Thiruvengadam’s family is also an agrarian one, who engaged only in paddy cultivation by the conventional method, which yielded eight tons of paddy from their five acres of land with a net profit of Rs 40,000 a year.

“But that was not enough. I wanted to expand, learn and implement more,” he says. “With my informal education I could not get employment in any company. I had no choice except this and I was constantly thinking of ways by which I could increase income.”

Thiruvengadam attended many technical training programs and exposure trainings conducted by National Agro Foundation, started by late Dr C. Subramaniam, who was responsible for the first green revolution.

Farmer's Notebook.Through the foundation, he started to cultivate selected vegetables in 50 cents as trial with guidance. Enthused by better yield and income, he expanded vegetable cultivation by reducing the area under paddy. Other farmers in his village also got motivated by his farming practices and they also started to cultivate vegetables. Now the whole village cultivates multiple crops, especially vegetables instead of a single paddy crop. A vehicle comes from Koyambedu on a regular basis to procure the vegetables.

He started a farmers club, which has been provided with a retail outlet shop in Vaanavil Vaara sandhai by Krishi Vigyan Kendra, Kattupakkam, at Chennai. “Five shops have been allotted for Kamsalapuram farmers in Uzhavar sandai at Madhurantagam,” said Thiruvengadam.

“It is also out-of-the-box thinking which can help us sometimes. For example, I have been able to raise 50,000 tree seedlings in my nursery by making use of the 100 days labour employment scheme and supplied to the government seedlings to be planted along roadsides.”

He cultivates vegetables like brinjal, bhindi, bottle gourd, snake gourd, bitter gourd, ridge gourd, pumpkin, etc. from which he is getting 10 tons of vegetables per year. From his vermicompost unit he sells vermicompost for Rs 10 per kg after his own use. In addition to fish from his farm pond, he also gets fodder for his cattle from the bunds of pond. In his nursery, he produces vegetable seedlings, medicinal plants, fruit seedlings, fodder saplings, tree seedlings, including high value timbers. He has opened a new shop to sell seedlings which are produced from his nursery. From all his interventions, now he is getting a net profit of Rs 2,00,000 per year. From his agricultural income he has built a new house.

He has trained his two schoolgoing children to raise a kitchen garden in 2 cents of his backyard, which is now fully taken care of by his children.

Being the president of farmers club, Thiruvengadam convenes regular meetings and discusses with the farmers, their problems and needs in farming. Collecting their needs, he contacts the Departments of Agriculture to facilitate government schemes suitable to their requirement.

With the help of departments, 30 farmers follow SRI/machine transplanting in paddy. About 20 farmers have laid down a drip irrigation system. About ten farmers have purchased sprayers and five have bought power tillers under subsidy. Most of the farmers are receiving daily text messages on their mobiles on weather forecast and market price of vegetables. The club also runs a mini farm machinery centre and a library.

After the success of the farmers’ club, he has formed four farmers’ interest groups in his village attached with ‘Madhurantagam-Acharapakkam Farmers Producer Company’ formed by the National Agro Foundation and supported by the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development. He has also been selected as one of the directors by the Farmer Producer Companies.

As social service, he also runs a night school and yoga training centre for his villagers. With the help of the Lions Club, he has conducted health camps, tree planting camps, camp on segregation of degradable and non-degradable wastes and entrepreneur development trainings, etc. He is also doing consultancy services to interested farmers on vermicompost production, preparation of organic inputs.

Thiruvengadam can be reached at Kamsalapuram village, Madhurantakkam Block, Kanchipuram district, Tamil Nadu, Mobile:9843729166.