Kalpana Khanra shares how despite the changing climate in the Sundarbans, she is able to give her family nutritious food all round the year
A story interviewed and written by; Anirban Banerjee from DRCSC, West Bengal
Ramganga village, Patharpratima Block, South 24 Parganas, West Bengal
…My husband has not migrated to far-off States in search of work since the past 4-5 years, instead seeing the benefits of doing natural farming, he has joined us farming on our own land, is giving more time to our children’s education and looking after the family…
Our ancestors have been living here in Ramganga village, South 24 Parganas (Sundarbans regions) since more than 100
years and there was rarely a time when they had to depend on the market for their food. However, until a few years ago we could hardly grow one or two vegetable crops and paddy once an year despite using chemical inputs which were meant to be for quick and increased production. Our 1 acre farmland and 0.165 acre of homestead land was no longer sufficient for the family. For almost all our daily needs we became solely dependent on the local market. The changing climate, frequent natural hazards and occasional water logging issues made farming further difficult. Migrating to far-off states like Maharashtra, Karnataka etc in search of better income opportunity was the only way to meet our ends meet.
Then in 2012, I became a member of the Nadi Mahila Samity (a mutual cooperation group) an initiative started by
Development Research Communication and Services Centre (DRCSC). I got to attend series of training sessions on
sustainable and nature friendly farming practices. Like preparation of organic manures, pest repellent and growth
promoters, seed saving preservation & conservation etc.
These training sessions gradually changed my perception about farming because all the while until now the farming I
practiced used lots of chemicals. So growing food without chemicals was something new and insightful for me. In fact the most striking learning for me was that locally available low cost materials could be used to make good manures and pest repellents. Thus with regular interactions with the local field staff and support from the DRCSC team for manure, seeds, bio-pests repellents, neem oil etc; I first designed and began natural farming at my garden.
And then, there was no looking back!
Later in 2018, we revamped 0.66 acres of our farmland. Raised land & embankments for vegetable cultivation, prepared low land for paddy and made pond and drain system for fish cultivation. This way we were able to grow all kinds of leafy and fruit vegetables, creepers etc all around the year – bitter gourd, chilli, brinjal, radish, okra, bottle gourd, Amarantha, tomato, sponge gourd, ridge gourd and so on. In the paddy field of 0.33 acres we cultivated desi Dudheswar paddy in monsoon and green gram in winter. And we have 5 cows; milk is consumed at home and if excess sold in the local market; the cow dung is used to make biogas. Whose slurry is then used for composting and used as manure in the farm. We also had chickens, goats and ducks but they had to be sold off as they were affected during the Amphan cyclone.
Integrated farming has been extremely beneficial for us. Not only has it increased our vegetable production, but we can also harvest the produce throughout 9 months of the year and sell it in the local market. Most effective selling happened in the time of lockdown last year, when there was high demand for chemical-free organic food. We also consume the fish everyday at home and rest is sold to the trader. Our average income from farming was Rs. 20,000 in 2018, but last year it increased to INR 45,000 – 50,000/-.
Over the years what we have learned is that apart from reduction in cost of production and increase in income, we now
have nutritious and safe food for our family all around the years. The best part is that natural hazards and changing climate has not affected drastically. And even if one farm patch suffers, production from the other patches are found to be sufficient.
Farming this way has solved many of our challenges. To the extend that my husband has not migrated since last 4-5
years, instead farms on our land and spends more time with us.