Vidya Sagar Patil still remembers the reactions of his neighbours when he decided to plant cashew on his family’s land at Malchapur four years ago.
“They thought I was mad. Some were blunt enough to tell me to my face, while others just gave me a weird look. After a while I stopped reasoning it out with them and went about my work,” says the farmer.
Today, Mr. Patil sells his produce in markets across the country. His story has inspired 15 other farmers to convert wasteland into lush cashew fields.
Most of the 200-acre land near the village is used to mine lateritic bricks and no crops are grown there.
Mr. Patil was inspired by a fact he read in a newspaper early on, that cashew grew well in red soil. The land around the village being mostly red laterite, he decided to experiment. With a group of Malchapur residents, he went on a tour to coastal Maharashtra where cashew is grown.
“We also toured cashew-based industries in Goa. We were convinced we could benefit from this move, and brought back a lorry-load of cashew saplings,” the farmer said.
They got the first crop after two years. “We sold half a lorry of cashew kernels to buyers in Maharashtra. Our yield doubled in the third year. We are hoping that our harvest will increase even further this October,” said Prem Sagar Patil, who planted cashew on 3.5 acres.
According to him, farmers will be able to get back their investment of around Rs. 1.5 lakh per acre in four years. Resource persons from the College of Horticulture helped them manage the farm.
“We started out by ourselves, but the college helped us out whenever we faced problems,” says Sharanappa Patil, another farmer.
The government is also willing to lend a helping hand, according to Ujjwal Kumar Ghosh, zilla panchayat Chief Executive Officer.
“We are considering setting up a processing plant with contribution from farmers,” he told The Hindu .
The Chief Executive Officer added that he was also examining requests from farmers for watershed development near cashew farms, installation of solar–powered fences and subsidies for sprinklers and micro-irrigation equipment. “We have cashew on over 150 acres in the district now.”
Considering the fact that three of the five taluks in Bidar have red lateritic soil, we will try to expand the crop’s coverage, Mr. Ghosh said.