Restoring past glory
Blending the organic farming methods of old with the scientific practices and market sense of the present time in the form of regulatory farming is the way forward to making Telangana agriculture more profitable
WWhen Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao reinforces time and again the essential nature of regulatory farming in the State, it connects people like me to the bygone era and the past memories come alive.
The wonderful village atmosphere pervading and prevailing then, with agriculture playing a pivotal and predominant role was simply great. The implements associated with farming, skilled people with expertise to take up works related to agriculture in time and those villagers despite being illiterate but having knowledge and wisdom to predict the suitability of crop for a particular soil and season for more profitability were all gifts sent by divine providence.
In India and more so in the Telangana, agriculture dates back to thousands of years. The agriculture sector underwent a significant change in the last century responding to the ever-changing technological advancements as well as the expansion of the global market. The use of human and natural resources and organic manures were replaced by machines, chemical fertilisers and pesticides. Notwithstanding the fact that yield of the crops increased multi-fold due to technology, the climatic equilibrium took a beating and health hazards became the order of the day. The returns on the increased yield made investments on fertilisers a necessity.
Recalling and recollecting the village rural atmosphere of half-a-century ago, several sweet memories will haunt the old-timers. The rich and green paddy fields, flower gardens decked up with jasmine, mango groves, maize orchards, red chilli fields, the spacious open well, jowar fields, the cucumber creepers, the plough, the temporary uppish platform (Machan), oxen, cows, goats, heaps of dry grass, well at the house, lemon and banana trees adjoining the well, the churning of butter and buttermilk at the backyard of the house, eating the fresh butter, eating overnight cooked rice with yoghurt and mixed mango pickle in the morning, placing the cots outside the house in the evening after cleaning the ground with water, sleeping on the cot and looking at the vast sky up, and a host of these pictures emerge.
The agriculture operations normally started at the beginning of the summer with transporting family cattle manure to the farmlands. In addition, manure used to be bought from those who had no land of their own. A lot of cattle, particularly the sheep were also kept on the fields day and night for the manure collection. The manure thus collected used to be organic in nature. Added to this, the silt taken out from the tanks was also transported to the farmlands.
The transportation of manure used to start early in the morning and would continue till midday. The same exercise would start in the evenings and continue until late in the night. During the full moon, the activity used to take place in the nights also. This would continue till the first rain of the monsoon.
After the onset of monsoon, there would be some change in agriculture activity. Seedling to raise paddy nurseries, tilling of the soil with ploughs and the works on the field used to be in tune with the nature of rains. Groundnut and red gram used to be the intercrops. Paddy used to be cultivated when there was adequate water in the tanks. Later they used to go for Jowar.
Generally, women used to transplant paddy saplings. They used to do the work with tremendous enthusiasm by singing songs and cracking jokes among them. After the transplantation, water used to be supplied in phases. Sometimes farmers used to go in the nights to water their fields by turns. After paddy plants reached a specific height, weed was removed. After three or four months, when the crop was ripe, crops used to be harvested, collected and brought home. Labour wages were paid in the form of paddy.
Groundnut farming was a little bit different. It used to start with preparing the seed. Farmers used to call labour home and ask them to take out the seeds from the groundnut harvested last year. Some of these works used to be outsourced to the labour who used to work from their homes. Paddy used to be given as their wage. While picking up the seeds some of the groundnuts would break into pieces, which were used to make edible oil. Groundnut used to be a major crop.
Seedling groundnut seeds in combination with red gram using the plough was a high skill job and few people were able to do it. Groundnut crop would come for harvesting first and the red gram would come two months later. Once the groundnut plants reached a certain height, they were skilfully tamed by the plough, which again is an art by itself.
Only a few farmers had the required knowhow to measure the crop. The entire produce used to be measured with great precision and stored in special enclosures in the house. Paddy used to be sold at a proper time in the markets. A fascinating fact is that paddy-heaps, which were worth lakhs of rupees in value, used to be kept in open fields by farmers without worrying about theft. Some farmers used to go for red chilli and some for the tobacco cultivation. Some for maize, some for edible roots. Some even used to grow cauliflower, cabbage, etc. Mangoes groves were also part of the farm sector. Estates used to have wells. Drawing water from these open wells using oxen was a skilled exercise.
A portion of the yield used to be kept aside for use as seeds next year. Very little chemical fertilisers or pesticides would be used those days. When its use became prevalent, keeping aside a portion of the yield as seeds was also given up.
As CM KCR had been insisting, the good old days for farming practices need to be revived by reverting to organic farming based on the advice given by the Agriculture Extension Officers. There is no other choice but to go for regulatory farming if agriculture is to be made profitable.
The writer is the Chief
Public Relations Officer to the
Chief Minister of Telangana