Off Season Vegetables Improving Rural Livelihoods

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Tamato collection for marketing 

Agriculture and livestock keeping are the main sources of livelihoods for all 528 families (100 in Jajurauli and 428 in Bans-Maitoli village) living in Bans Maitoli and Jajaurali villages of Bin block in Chandak-Aonlaghat micro watershed of Pithoragarh in Uttarakhand, India. In addition to traditional food crops such as wheat, rice, maize, potato, and pulses, farmers in these villages also cultivate seasonal vegetables such as tomatoes, capsicum, cabbage, peas, okra, brinjal, potato, ginger, onion, and garlic to earn cash income. 

Nearly 50 percent of the households in the area are engaged in cultivation of seasonal vegetables producing over 27,000 kg of different vegetables most of which is sold in local market. A household generally sells between 8-35 kg of different vegetables depending on the size of plot put under vegetable cultivation earning an income of around 6,190 rupees per year. 

However, farmers can earn even higher income by producing off-seasonal vegetables as the agroclimatic conditions of the area support cultivation of vegetables during the period when they are not produced in the plain areas.  

Common facility centre supported by KSL-India for collecting%2c grading%2c weighing and packing vegetables

Therefore, building on the farmers’ knowledge and skills and favourable agroclimatic conditions, the Kailash Sacred Landscape Conservation and Development Initiative (KSLCDI) is supporting the farming families particularly women and the poor in production of off-season vegetables to increase their income. The Initiative aims to enhance the capacity of farmers to increase production and profitability of vegetables by engaging them in vegetable production using organic inputs. Key interventions in include organizing the farmers into Self Help Groups (SHGs)/Joint Liability Groups (JLGs), establishing common collection and grading centres, facilitating the provision of high quality vegetable seeds, promotion of organic farming technologies — for example, vermicomposting and integrated pest management (IPM techniques), and facilitating access to information by farmers. The Initiative has, so far….

  • Adopted 9 existing Self Help Groups (SHGs) in Jajurali and six in Bans village (formed previously by an NGO called SWATI) for promoting collective farming approaches for better negotiation of prices; cooperatives will be developed to further strengthen these initiatives. 
  • Established common vegetable facility centres near the roadhead for collection, weighing and grading of the harvested vegetables, and sending them to market in Pithoragarh; SHGs are in charge of running these collection centres.
  • Building capacity of farmers through trainings on off-seasonal vegetable cultivation using organic techniques/inputs, and exposure visits to off-seasonal vegetable cultivation areas 
  • Accessed high quality seeds at subsidized costs from the Department of Horticulture to the farmers
  • Made provision of technically-effective agricultural equipment for off-season vegetable cultivation i.e. poly-tunnels for vegetable nurseries, poly-houses for vegetable production and vermicomposting unit. So far, 20 polytunnels and 20 polyhouses, 50 vermicomposting units provided to households belonging to 6 SHGs in Bans and 9 SHGs in Jajurali village 
  • Facilitated farmers to gain access to information on quality inputs, weather, market prices, among others through linkages with government institutions, NGOs and the private sector. 
  • Initiated process for organic certification through activating Uttarakhand Organic Commodity Board (UOCB) - UOCB provided information on the vegetable certification process to the SHGs, farmers, and CHEA staff.

Initial results are available and some farmers successfully cultivated and sold the off seasonal vegetables

A mobile vermi-composting unit

Success story of Darshan Singh

The Kailash Initiative carried out a pilot study into the use of hybrid seeds for off-season cultivation of vegetables. Darshan Singh - a progressive farmer from Bans village was keen to take part in the study. He had been practising agriculture using traditional methods that he learnt from his ancestors. His major challenge in cultivation of seasonal vegetables were pests and diseases, making his venture less profitable. 

Initiative engaged Darshan in this study by providing him hybrid vegetable seeds and other inputs such as environmentally safe pesticides, poly-tunnels, poly-houses and moveable vermi-beds. He was trained to produce organic compost, using green techniques and inputs e.g. organic manure and integrated pest management and sent on exposure visit to areas where off-season cultivation is carried out at a commercial level. 

Darshan benefited from this and increased his tomato growing area from half a nali to two nalis (0.01-0.02 ha). He hopes to harvest approximately 1000 kg of produce to sell in the Pithoragarh market by the end of the season. He has already sold three quintals for a total of INR 6000. He is also using his poly-house to cultivate chillies and capsicum.