Bhogdabari, a village near Boko in Assam’s Kamrup district is also known as Omita gaon (papaya village). When 37-year-old Krishna Boro began growing papaya plants on his half a Bigha of land, little did he know that within three years, it would change the way his village looked. 14 farmers joined him in his endeavour, and commercial success came to them soon enough as they had a turnover of Rs 80,000 within two years. As Rajkumar Rabha (36) and Rajib Boro (30) teamed up with Krishna, they started looking for more land. Finally, they cultivated the fruit on a 20 bigha plot of land at Bhogdabari near Boko in Kamrup. From 6 bighas alone, they have so far realized over Rs 10 lakh. Today, they cultivate the fruit on 61 bighas of land.
Growing by Leaps and Bounds
‘We expect to earn Rs 3 lakhs within the next three months from the same 6 bigha plot,’ Krishna Boro assures me and adds they will start harvesting on the remaining plots in November and December. Following scientific methods of tilling, they plant 400 saplings on one bigha. ‘With the yield and consequent economic return, we are happy but much happier for being able to motivate fellow farmers in Boko,’ says Krishna.
American explorer Christopher Columbus called this tropical fruit ‘the fruit of angels’ but for the farmers of Boko, it is the fruit of success which has transformed their fate. So high is the demand that they need not go to the market to sell their produce as bulk buyers, including women, come from Guwahati in hordes to buy their produce. Also, buyers from various parts of Lower Assam including BTAD come to the farming site. ‘Our farming camp turns into a marketing hub with the arrival of buyers but we often cannot meet the high demand,’ says a famer. Despite papayas being perishable in nature, they hardly suffer any post harvesting loss because of the timely arrival of buyers. However, the farmers rue that buyers are unwilling to believe that the fruit for sale is naturally ripe as many farmers use chemicals to ripen fruits. This is because they prefer selling ripe fruits as per kg of raw fruit fetches them Rs 10 while the same amount of ripe fruit brings them Rs 40.
Farming Can be Sustainable
The famers had previously tried their hands at other vegetables like strawberry, broccoli, cauliflower, pumpkin and bottle guard including banana of malbhog variety but papaya farming has fetched them premier returns. Nawab Indad Ali, District Agriculture Officer, Kamrup explains, ‘The soil is suitable for papaya cultivation and the area is not vulnerable to floods which makes it ideal for papaya cultivation’. Upbeat over the success of the local famers, Ali has organized the farmers for pocket cultivation to expand the farming area. ‘A plant produces 25 kg papaya in a year which fetches Rs 1000 for the growers, including Rs 300 input cost,’ Ali says. The cost benefit ratio is an encouraging 30:70.
The department is trying to link the famers creating a Farmer Producer Organization. FPO is an important initiative undertaken by the Ministry of Agriculture to promote and strengthen member-based institutions of farmers. According to the concept of FPO, farmers can constitute groups at the State, cluster and village level and register themselves under the Indian Company Act. Activities of FPO include supply of inputs like seed, fertilizer and machinery, training, networking, financial and technical advice. Three FPOs has already been set up in Kamrup: one such FPO is engaged in cultivating pineapples at Boko where 1000 families from Gamerimura to Pantan work on the hilly slopes to grow the fruit. ‘Now, with the extension of the area under papaya cultivation up to three villages, a FPO for papaya will be set up at Boko,’ shares Ali. Dhananjay Rajkumar Rabha, a farmer involved with papaya cultivation, had been running after a government job for six years. ‘Now, I am no longer interested in a white collar job. Why should I bother when I can work on my own field and feed my family?’.
Written By: Kishore Talukdar
This article first appeared in the August 2016 Issue of Eclectic Northeast