Moving towards agroecologically sustainable farming

Sandeep Narayan Jamjade is a farmer residing in Jalochi Village, Baramati, Pune. He is 37 years old with a family of 11. He started his farming venture when he was 24.    It took him years of trial and error to adopt various practical solutions leading to ecologically sustainable agricultural practices.

Though Sandeep’s ancestral family has been practicing farming for more than 40 years, he started doing full time farming after he lost his contractual job as a labour in the year 2007. He struggled for many years to make his ends meet with low yield of crops and poor quality of soil. Due to unavailability of proper guidance, his farming practices were mainly restricted to mono cropping of maize cultivation which yielded him approx. INR 1000/- per ton for 50 tons per season. Also, to add to it the nutritionally challenged soil wasn’t helping much, while,  majority of the income coming from his maize produce was getting invested in purchasing fertilisers, insecticides and pesticides for his farm, further depleting the existing nutrients from his land.

He had no idea as to how to improve the soil quality of his farms till he attended one of the free  seminars conducted by SankalpTaru Foundation after getting registered as one of its farmer beneficiaries in the year 2018. He was introduced to the organisation through his cousin who has been a farmer beneficiary since 2016.

Stabilizing his livelihood by incorporating farming practices of agroecological approach was not an overnight transformation for him, it took 3 years of self-education, guidance and awareness from his fellow farmers and SankalpTaru’s on-ground coordinator Gopal. Saplings of fruit bearing trees of guava and mango were planted during 2018, which he confesses came as a blessing for him and his family. Currently, he has more than 500 fruit trees on his farm which alone are giving him an annual return of Rs. 2 lakhs. Since the Foundation provided high quality grafted saplings, the yield started coming in 2 years. To ensure a 100% survival rate, the affected ones due to unfavourable climatic or soil conditions, were replaced.

In the course of a decade of practicing diverse farming practices, he is able to raise his annual income from Rs 35000 annually to Rs 3.9 lakhs by following agroforestry from the past 3 years. With the help of additional income coming along from his newly established mini fruit orchard, he gradually started to raise the standards of his livelihood and learn ways to optimally manage the resources at hand with his 2.5 acre land.

Gaining confidence from his improved economic conditions, he started planting vegetables like brinjal and chilly and then added fruit trees of Custard Apple, Coconut, Grapes, Sapota, Pomegranate, Papaya to scale up his profits. In order to replenish the lost levels of nitrogen, depleted by the cultivation of other crops, he planted peanuts as a cover crop that fertilized the soil by fixing nitrogen from the air, with the help of bacteria living in their root systems.

Eventually, he included dairy cows on his farm. He started cultivating pasture plants such as alfalfa also known as Lucerne, a protein rich leguminous plant to feed his cattle. This helped him run his dairy farm with low-cost input to raise his feedstock, further promoting his income. He learned the concept of cultivating pasture plants from his cousin in 2012 where he understood the importance of home-grown, high-quality pasture in reducing the cost of rearing cattle. Starting from a cow and 2 goats in 2019, he now has a total cattle stock of 2 cows, 3 goats, 5 sheep and 2 buffaloes. The death rate of the cattle have also decreased due to availability of nutritionally  high feedstock.

Furthermore, concerned about the quality of the soil, he has avoided the use of chemical pesticides since the beginning, instead, he uses organic pesticides made up of concoctions of medicinal plants such as ‘Dashparni Ark’. It is a broad-spectrum pesticide and can be used on a wide variety of indigenous crops, fruits and vegetables bearing plants. Due to the pungent aroma of this ark, the worms and insects are diverted away from the plants. He has also started  preparing his biological fertilizer and plant based pesticides by using plant extracts of Neem, Drumstick, Papaya. Karanja, Custard apple leaves, Aloe Vera, Garlic mixed with Buttermilk and Jaggery.

Another interesting example of ‘Greennovative’ technique that he incorporated to save his produce is via the technology of ‘Push and Pull’. This is done using flowers like Marigold or Chrysanthemums to pull the weeds and pests away from the main crops and Elephant grass is  used to pull these pests towards them.

He also used manure from his cattle and an organically made liquid solution known as ‘Jeevamrut slurry’ which is considered to be an excellent source of natural carbon biomass, phosphorous, potassium, nitrogen and a lot of other micronutrients required for organic farming and gardening.

He is an example to so many local farmers in his region, the benefits of agroecology that has been strengthening the sustainability of all parts of the food system, from the seed and soil, to the table including ecological knowledge and economic viability.

Many of his relatives and friends have spread the word of his practices in the entire village as the result of which other farmers of his locality come to his farm to learn about his sustainable farming practices which are helping him to raise his annual income, strengthen the food security of his family while serving to rejuvenate his land and the surrounding environment. He holds monthly informal workshops on his farm to share his knowledge regarding the social, economic and ecological benefits of agroecological farming.

This story was shared by Sankalptaru Foundation.(

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