PUNE: Over 7,000 farmers in Maharashtra have benefited through a project by BAIF Development Research Foundation in the tribal belts of Maharashtra, Gujarat, Karnataka, and Madhya Pradesh, where small farmers have been educated on how to exploit the market potential of underused crops to diversify produce and increase revenue generation by 25 per cent at least.
BAIF has implemented a project in four locations in India, in association with The Coalition to Diversify Income through Underused Crops (CoDI) Project, funded by the UK Department for International Development (DFID). The project has been simultaneously implemented in four locations in Vietnam as well. “There are many crops such as millets, some varieties of rice, spine gourd, Karvandha (blackberry), yams etc, which are underused,” said BAIF Programme Director Joshua N Daniel.
In Maharashtra, where the project has been implemented in Jawahar in Thane district, farmers have been encouraged to grow Bangalya Rice and Karvanda, besides millets, cashew fruits, and aamla.
“These crops grow with less water, and even in less fertile soil, reducing over-exploitation of land. They will help farmers diversify their income source, rather than be dependent on a single crop. These crops can be planted on a bare patch of land, or even in the boundary of the main crop,” said Daniel.
The project has been launched in four parts with food processing parks, nurseries, village crop fairs, and annual knowledge fairs. “Farmers collect underused crops available in the wild, and semi-process it, after which, it is further processed in BAIF units,” said Project coordinator Hannah Jaenicke. Products such as Karvanda pickle, ragi papad, cashew-fruit sharbat etc have been produced by these farmers.
“In addition, we are also helping them identify plant material from the wild, that can be grown in their own nurseries, thus reducing over-exploitation of forests,” added Jaenicke. BAIF is now focused on taking their successful experiments to other parts, as well as encourage farmers to diversify further. In Pune, we currently have one outlet in BAIF's Warje campus, and are initiating more outlets,” said Daniel.