Farmers in Hukkeri taluk have understood the benefits of pesticide-free farming and are sharing this traditional knowledge with other farmers in Belagavi district. Basavaraj Kapsi grows sugarcane, mangoes, vegetables, groundnut and turmeric on his ten-acre farm at Hukkeri. His family has owned the farm for over a century. During his grandfather’s time, the farm always produced a healthy yield without pesticides; however, when pesticides became freely available in the open market some 15 years after Independence, many farmers resorted to the potent chemicals hoping for a fuller harvest.
Basavaraj says his father liberally used chemical mix in the soil and also in sprays from 1960. Having inherited the farm in 1980, with its yield steadily dropping and reading media reports on the harmful effects of chemical farming, Basavaraj dabbled with the idea of going back to his grandfather’s methods. He says, “Chemicals not only destroy the yield—steadily killing the fertility of the soil—but also harm those who consume the yield. There is a misconception that organic farming is not lucrative business. I earn more now than what I used to some 25 years ago.”
Pointing to the trees that flank the freshly tilled fields, he says, “When it came to eliminating bugs and increasing soil fertility, leaves from the trees like Gleditsia and other home remedies became my first choice. I have experimented and developed a few solvents that protect crops naturally. I recently created a tonic called Dashaparani, which includes ten types of leaves, garlic, green chilli, cow dung and urine. It has proven effective in curbing leaf-eating insects.” The farmer has revisited traditional bug-control methods that were in vogue during his grandfather’s time and plans to document them for other farmers.
Karnataka Government promotes organic farming by encouraging the farming community to get together, train and impart knowledge by forming peer groups. “Some years ago, the idea of forming an organic farmer’s collective struck me and it gradually grew to include around 30 farmers from nearby villages. The State Government approached us to help convert pesticide farms into organic ones. As of today, we have two projects which are underway at Naganur and Hukkeri.”
The farmer’s collective has evolved a marketing wing and helps the organic produce to access markets in Bengaluru, Mysuru and Belagavi. “We were sceptical at first about organic farming, especially about the yield and whether we would be able to recover monetarily. There was a period of lull for about three years when the soil was being treated with biomass. But in three years, the yield improved a lot. I can say for sure that organic farmers have a better yield than those using pesticides. It is noted that farmers who alternate between pesticides and organic methods have a slightly better yield when compared to fully organic farms.”
Basavaraj says he would not be driven by profits to change his farming methods. The price mark-up for organic products are slightly on the higher side, but he justifies it by saying that the mark-up price is almost the same, as used by wholesale retailers when they sell their produce to individual buyers. In the case of the organic farmer’s collective, they have eliminated the middlemen from sourcing and selling. The products are available at Javik Society, Lalbagh and Organic Junction, Malleshwaram in Bengaluru.
Reach Basavaraj Kapsi
Hukkerri district, Belgaum