Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Yalakki Banana comes to the rescue to Nanjangud farmers

The poor and marginal farmers who had given up the cultivation of indigenous fruit Nanjangud Rasabale following huge loss, are now reaping good profits after they switched over to cultivating Yalakki (Ney Poovan) banana, species popular in Tamil Nadu and G9 (Grande 9), an improved variety of 'Pacha balehannu'.

With good profits and easy cultivation compared to Rasabale, the demand for this varieties of banana is good in Nanjangud. The farmers say the crops are cost effective and by growing G9 variety in an acre of land they can earn about Rs 1 lakh, while Yelakki fetches them around Rs 80,000.

“As the soil type, temperature and several other factors are quite conducive to cultivate these alternative varieties of banana, using low cost inputs and not much maintenance we are able to earn good returns,” say farmers.

60-year-old farmer HK Channappa of Hullahalli Hobli, Nanjangud says after he switched over to cultivating Yalakki and G9, his economic status has greatly improved. Particularly farmers of Devarasanahalli village in Nanjangud who were once world famous for growing only 'Nanjangud Rasabale', have today completely switched over to cultivating Yalakki and G9 bananas.

Devarasanahalli village Head Venkatesh says: “I incurred huge loss with the failure of indigenous fruit Nanjangud Rasabale. Today the fruit is on the verge of extinction with plants attacked by a virus  Panama Wilt. The plants were very sensitive to viral attacks, and the cost of maintenance was very high. This was the main reason,  hundreds of farmers like me in the region switched over to cultivating other varieties of bananas. Today we are a happy lot for making that bold decision.”

According to officials in the Department of Horticulture, today farmers are growing Yalakki banana in thousands of hectares of land, while the cultivation of Rasabale in Nanjangud has shrunk to less than 25 acres in the past two decades.

Nanjangud Horticulture Department Senior Assistant Director BM Shivalingappa said that farmers are showing more interest to grow Yalakki in the region, which can be grown with minimum maintenance costs and also there is a good demand for the fruit. “The economic status of farmers has vastly improved,” he adds.  

Poor farmers have given up Rasabale banana cultivation in Nanajnagud

Devarasanahalli Village near Nanjangud was world famous because of a unique variety of bananna 'Nanjangud Rasabale' that was grown in large extent here. Whereas today the village has lost its identity and will be an another nondescript village in State.
There were times when hundreds of the farmers of this village were cultivating only 'Rasabale' and have fetched a good price. But to various reasons cultivation of the plant dwindled and today hardly countable number of farmers are growing Rasabale in a meager three or four acre plot.

Hundreds of poor and marginal farmers have completely given up the cultivation in Nanjangud. Only a dozen of upper middle class farmers owning more than 10 acres of land are planting in half or one acre plot. The special nature of the soil that is found only in Nanjangud is said to be responsible for the extra-ordinary sweetness it has.
According to officials in the Department of Horticulture, the farmers
in Nanjangud were cultivating 'Rasabale' in thousands of acres of land, which in the last two decades has shrunk less than 25 acres. This special indigenous fruit has acquired a Geographical Indication tag, though it is now on the verge of extinction.
One of the main reason for farmers to give up cultivation is because plants are attacked by a virus called Panama Wilt, (locally known as Soragu Roga). According to farmers and horticulture department officials, this banana plants are very sensitive and are more vulnerable for this viral disease.

Nanjangud Horticulture Department Senior Assistant Director BM Shivalingappa said that 'in spite of continuous research going on to check the spread of the diseases it has not been successful. The plant has no inherent immunity for the disease.'

While the farmers allege that after the construction of Kabini Canal, the banana plants flowers started withering away, as the plants are very sensitive. Because of all this reasons, farmers in the region in the past decade, have switched over to a species grown in Tamil Nadu known as G9 (Grande 9). With good profit and easy maintenance compare to Rasabale plantation, the demand for the breed is good in the region.

60-year-old farmer HK Channappa of Hullahalli Hobli, Nanjangud says: In his 14 acres of land, he is growing Rasabale in just an acre of land. “Though it is a loss for me, I am continuing with the plantation to keep up with the tradition. We request government to look into the issue seriously and supply a variety that is resistant to disease, so that, farmers enthusiastically come forward to continue farming activity.”

Another 51-year-old farmer Sathyanrayana of Kugalur said that there is threat to the conservation of this breed. Government should look into the issue seriously. This particular variety is so famous that even Germany took it to their country to preserve the strain and if possible cultivate it, adds Sathyanarayana.

To protect this rare variety of fruit, the Rasabale Sangha was constituted few years ago. But only 15 farmers signed-up for this restoration effort. With the Government too not showing any initiative to help the Sangha the Sangha has become only for namesake, he regretted.


About 4000 rural youngsters to take up agriculture activities in district 

If the data available with Zilla Panchayat were any indication, then Rajiv Gandhi Chaitanya Yojana aimed to discourage rural youth migrating to urban areas in search of jobs, is a success. When the training programme of first batch concluded on February 20 (started in January), majority of the youngsters have dropped their ideas of moving to a big city and instead are planning to continue their work in their own agriculture fields. The beneficiaries in HD Kote and Periyapatna are largely showing interest in animal husbandary.

In all, 6985 beneficiaries were selected from 235 Gram Panchayats in the district. Out of which 4,570 are men and 2415 are women. Interestingly, 4440 beneficiaries have shown interest in self employment, such as animal husbandry, agriculture, horticulture, ship rearing, diary, mushroom and vegetable cultivation, fisheries, honey agri business and other sector, while 2487 have shown interest towards skill development programme and remaining 58 are yet to decided.

27-year-old Parvathi, a beneficiary from HD Kote said: "Before attending the programme, I was thinking of heading towards Mysore to seek a job. But, now I have gained confidence that I can become self-employed and even suggest the same for my other friends."

KR Nagar Taluk, Hulhalli Village Head Venkateshappa said that: "Earlier my unemployed son was wasting time, roaming in the village. After I forced him to undergo the training, I began to see some changes. Today, he is planning to cultivate in the two acres of land what we have and am happy for him."

Chandrappa of KR Nagar Taluk said that the programm has helped him to create employment by himself and is planning to take up animal husbandry.

ZP Chief Executive Officer PA Gopal said that migration will definitely come down with educating youngsters and the programme creates job opportunities for rural artisans in large, apart from helping village youth to take appropriate decision about their future.

ZP Chief Planning Officer Prabhuswamy said that with youngsters taking up agricultural activities coming down in recent times, the programme has motivated thousands of youngster in district to take up farming activities.

The selected beneficiaries were educated about skill employment and self employment and how to generate income by mobilising the existing resources within their villages by taking up activities like horticulture, animal husbandry, goat rearing, cow rearing, fisheries etc., apart from main
occupation agriculture.

Another feature of the programme was the inclusion of women in the training. They too were educated about rearing hen, goat, cow, tailoring, handicrafts while generating income using locally available resources that needed little investment. They were trained through video conferencing and satellite education.

The programme was announced by Chief Minister Siddaramaiah in his budget on July, 2013. Loan facility will be provided by banks upto Rs 1 lakh of which Rs 10,000 will be provided as subsidy. The beneficiaries will be further provided training to specialise their skills in the respective fields they
are interested.  

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