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From Struggle to Success - Mr.Sakalesh Ravi

Aham Krishak Bandhu session in CWF group by Sakalesh Ravi(9886377250) - A Techie working in Banglore, Karnataka, India turned weekend farmer. 

       To begin with (On a lighter note), the First challenge is to convince your family, especially your wife that you are quitting the job and want to start farming: My farm is in Ballari (North Karnataka), our's is a black soil. Half the land is irrigated (borewell) and other half is rain-fed.   As a beginner, first thing we need to know if we have understood the concept of natural farming correctly.  In my quest to learn about organic farming, I had attended one of the sessions of Narayana Reddy Sir and was very impressed. My interest in farming grew stronger. Before I started farming, decided to talk to many fellow farmers and visited many farms  People were kind enough to guide me. Until this point I had thought Organic farming was the only ultimate thing,  then people taught me about the Palekarji's ZBNF method and I was convinced about this method than anything else. The very idea that it encourages to use the resources available on your farm attracted me to this method. It encourages biodiversity and creates an environment for them to thrive on your farm,  which ultimately enriches the soil.
      Divided my learning into different phases for implementing 1) Prepare the land 2) Improve the soil health 3) Multi cropping. The first step was to undo whatever we were doing earlier in chemical farming. i.e. Stop using heavy machinery, except for digging trenches and building farm pond. Built a farm pond. stop using chemicals, stop mono-cropping plant trees for windbreaks. Planted Neem and Pongamia in the south-west direction (we receive monsoon this direction) Luckily we didn't have labour problems as others but the other problem was to convince the labours to follow the methods you instruct them. They think you are from the city and don't know anything about farming. For example- last year has asked them not to burn all the dry leaves and plant leftovers after harvesting and spread them over the field and spray the ghana jeevamrutha. Immediately after I came back to Bangalore they burned it. So I took one the main guy to attend Palekar guruji's workshop In Chitradurga: after that, they at least listen to what we say. Since we not present at the farm day in-day out difficult to monitor the activities as I visit on the weekends  I only choose a less than half portion of the land for natural farming we planted Pongamia thinking that cattle and sheep won't eat it,  Many of them were destroyed by cattle crossing the farm without a fence it is difficult to guard the plants.
   In between of all this, I met with an accident and underwent three surgeries last year.couldn't execute planned activities: did not want to give up on farming and decided to go the easy way, by choosing the crops which do not require much water and caretaking. millets belong to grass family and they grow fast, they do not require much water and nutrients and also do not allow weeds to thrive for example we have been growing foxtail millet for many years we just sow the seeds and harvest it, no fertilizers, no weeding, no pesticides required. it's like plug and play, so decided to get more varieties of millets One of my friends helped me get native varieties of seeds from Tamilnadu: Sowed Foxtail, kodo, Little, Browntop and Proso millets. and Cowpea as intercrop. Theoretically, we know a lot of things, the major problem was people give up is during the pest attack  I had this issue with untimely rains and water clogging. Sokka Ji and Anand sir from CWF group guided me. Luckily it worked. In our area getting the mulching material is a major so we try to use the weed itself as mulching material.
      Before sowing consulted few people, one of them was Mahesh from CWF group who has similar weather and land type on his advice mixed millet seeds with little sand so that there will be uniformity and don't pile up at one place and give  enough space between the plants Took a handful of sand for about a kg of seeds and we had also mixed wood ash  I was told it makes the plant pest resistant. We got a good yield with the millets, we are yet to see the yield from kodo since its a long duration crop. Did not face much pest problem except for the ones which were due to the untimely rains. but entire village was affected not just ours. The pests were caterpillars that attack crops during monsoon and I applied 2.5 pc each of neem n Pongamia solution diluted in water.     
      Even though I couldn't execute my plans successfully, I'm content that has begun my journey not using any sort of chemicals and inputs for a major portion of land and content with the yield as well: now I have the confidence to do more. But do not want to make it very capital intensive I have seen some people do it there is so much information available online. reading exaggerated stories of someone earning 20lakhs per acre and all that by integrated farming. people get lured into it and over-invest in making it an integrated farm and buy cows, hens, sheep etc and then struggle to maintain you'll be tempted to grow whatever you read, but should look at the market to sell also.
   Now just to summarize 1) Understand the concept of farming. Sometimes it's very confusing especially if you are getting into farming because it's a lucrative option and can make more money. Talk to people and visit and work on as many farms as you can 2) Once there was a discussion in the group that you should do organic farming first and then start natural farming. I don't subscribe to the idea. there is no such concept. If your aim is to start natural farming then today is the day. Organic farming is no better then the conventional farming 3) Prepare your land, step by step (digging trenches, planning multi-cropping etc. which do not require much investment) 4) Stop using tractors or heavy machinery if possible 5) I did not have desi cows, luckily my labour had. I pay him for his efforts and dung used for preparing jeevamrutha 6) Learn pest control (most important aspect)  Other challenges in our area include getting the mulching material (due to very high temperatures nothing sustains there). So planning to use straw from paddy fields and spray ghana jeevamrutam provides thick layer.

Chemical Farming vs Natural Farming


  

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