Himansshu Bhatt-SURAT: Before three years, Arjun Bhoye, an illiterate tribal farmer barely managed to make two ends meet for his family. He harvested some grains on his three acres land in Niloshi, an interior village of Kaprada taluka in Valsad district. Bhoye was then suggested to go for cashew nut farming by a research institute.
And, today, he earns Rs 50,000 per year from cashew grown on three acres of land.
Dhruva, an institute promoted by BAIF research center to help tribal farmers, provided him all the support including saplings and necessary methods to go about the farming.
Another tribal farmer, Sitaram Bhoye has just two acres of land and he too earns almost the same amount from cashew farming today.
“This village located 80 km off Valsad houses 400 families and 300 of them are cultivating cashew on their land after receiving training from us,” said Jayanti Mori, programme co-ordinator of Dhruva. These families no longer think of going out of their area in search of work.
Actually, Gujarat grows just one per cent of the total cashewnut produced in India, which is world’s biggest producer and exporter of the dry fruit. But, what is most significant is the fact that whatever production is taking place in the last 10-15 years has transformed the lives of some 35,000 tribal families like Bhoye and has indirectly changed the life of 75,000 tribal families.
Cashew farming is done in predominantly tribal areas of Kaprada and Dharampur taluka of Valsad district, Vansda of Navsari and Dang district. Nearly 15,000 acres of land is occupied for cashew farming in 450 villages of these districts.
Raw cashew production in these areas is estimated at 800 to 1,000 tonnes per year.
“When we started this programme in 1997, we encouraged only tribal farmers with their own land as we work on comprehensive tribal development programme,” said Mori, “Along with working on their livelihood which is farming, we work on drinking water supply, soil conservation, women empowerment, health and hygiene and awareness on education,” he added.
In last 10 years, the biggest achievement of the cashew farming is that forced migration in search of livelihood has almost stopped from these areas. “Women folk never go out in search of work now and even landless tribal population is finding jobs in processing and marketing industry of the cashew,” said Modi.
“Other benefits are that tribal kids have started going to school regularly. Their lifestyle has improved and they have become more aware about issues such as water storage, water conservation, soil conservation, plant protection and other things,” said Dinesh Chaudhary, horticulture department official from Valsad district.
As these tribal farmers are encouraged to develop grafted variety of cashew, the production process starts from the third year itself. “In normal cases, we get a crop of 450 to 500 kg of raw cashew in 1 acre of land and these are sold at Rs 80 per kg,” said Bhoye.
“Once the plant is ready, it keeps giving fruit for 45 years and requires very little medicines or fertilizers,” he added. However, from a raw cashew, the edible part called the kernel is just 20 per cent.