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My dear farming friends: In “Please ponder the link between chemical pesticides and suicides”, I discussed the root cause of suicides in Vidarbha. Since then, I have received a number of mails and WhatsApp messages requesting me to share some successful case studies in the same region.

I had to refresh my memory and do a lot of homework to find a good case where a farmer has been able to do something worthwhile and also be a role model for others.

No doubt, the names Vidharba or Wardha immediately evoke memories of farmers’ suicides. But, visiting the region proved one thing clearly and that is that not all of Vidarbha is a graveyard of dead farmers.

Called as national shame due to the gross indifference of the government, it is true that the region recorded the highest suicide rates among farmers. The then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh reacted late in visiting the region but responded immediately on television channels to the share market slump during the period.

But still a sizeable number of ryots continued to farm their lands and were able to overcome the crises by using natural inputs and trying different crops and cultivation techniques.

Purushottam Jagannath Mahajan, a farmer like us, is today a guiding force for many who wish to build a new life.

It is a well known fact that chemical fertilizers are costly and, in some regions, perennially in short supply. The farmer explored available alternatives and learned to make liquid manure from compost. He constructed a simple four-chamber system using brick and mortar to store cow dung.

Water is mixed with the dung in one of the chambers and the slurry is released in the subsequent chambers. After some days the mixture is released along with flowing water into the fields.

Since the slurry is black in colour and helps the crops to grow well, he named it black liquid manure.

Mahajan advocates the use of sanjeevak or jeevamrut, fermented liquid manure made from cow dung and urine. Amrutpani, another soil tonic, can be used instead of jeevamrut. About 200 litres of any one of them can be mixed with irrigating water. A minimum of three applications are necessary.

One of the main reasons for crop failure and debt accumulation on the part of the farmers is mono-cropping supported by chemicals. Many farmers cultivated only cotton. Be it two or five acres, the dream of earning big money in a short time lured many towards cotton. They did not bother to inquire about the suitability of the crop for their area, whether water was available or not etc.

When the crops died so did the farmers: the main reason being spiraling debt, as usurious moneylenders charged exorbitant interest rates. “Several farmers thought that they could get back their money by growing cotton again in the second cycle but failed. I thought about this and introduced combinations of multi-crops,” says Mahajan.

Mahajan would grow maize, cowpea or sorghum in one row, red gram in two rows and cotton in four rows in one acre. In addition, he would grow various types of vegetables, pulses, fruits, spices, and medicinal plants.

Initially, he faced many hurdles. Ultimately it turned out to be a very satisfying and profitable venture for Mahajan.

All a farmer requires is three cows to get his source of dung and urine. The milk from the cows feeds his family and the crop residue from his fields feeds the animals. There is no rocket science here. One compliments the other.

Today Mahajan is a standing example for others on how to succeed in farming in that region.

Those interested can contact Mahajan at Karanji Bhoge, Deoli taluk, Wardha, mobile: 9552955897 and 9922354663.For those of our friends who are still struggling with debt, I am sure Mahajan’s example will inspire them to try natural farming.

Till we see each other in our next discussion, it’s bye for now.

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