Wednesday August 21, 2019
Home India Indian Farmer...

Indian Farmers Grow Herbs To Save Farms From Hungry Monkeys

Farmers in India switch to herbs to thwart hungry monkeys

0
//
Indian farmers switch to herb cultivation
Farmers face huge loses due to monkeys attacking their farms in India. Pixabay

A group of farmers from Magroo village in India’s northern state of Himachal Pradesh listens intently as agriculture experts hold a workshop to explain how growing herbs instead of traditional crops such as rice, wheat and corn could save their farms from the ravages of monkeys.

For years they have waged a losing battle with growing hordes of the red-faced rhesus macaques. Displaced by shrinking forests and rapidly spreading urban centers, the primates raid farms in several northern Indian states, searching for food and destroying crops worth millions of dollars.

“In the day we roam around with dogs and we use an air gun,” said farmer Babu Ram. “Then they run off quickly, otherwise it is difficult to keep away the monkeys.” But guarding the fields at night poses a challenge, especially for those that aren’t close to his home.

The growing menace has prompted many in the state nestled in the Himalayan mountains to abandon farming – an estimated 40 per cent of the farmland here is fallow as dejected farmers gave up planting crops.

Indian farmers switch to herb cultivation
Farmers in India learning to save their farms from Monkeys through workshops. Pixabay

Agriculture experts are pushing a solution: switching to herbs only protects their crops but also fetches higher profits.

Monkeys do not attack crops such as aloe vera, a herb with medicinal properties. And they fetch better profits due to surging demand for herbs from domestic companies making medicinal and personal care products. India’s booming herbal product industry is worth $4 billion and growing at a fast pace.

“We teach farmers the kind of crop they can grow according to the soil, the water and air in that area, what market exists for it and how he can increase his income by two or three times per acre,” says Arun Chandan, regional director at the National Medicinal Plants Board for North India. “For example, a herb locally called “sarpgandha” gives farmers eight to ten times the profit compared to wheat.”

Some farmers have already greened their fields with the board’s assistance, which provides planting material and training. Farmer Bipin Kumar in Magroo village says the lower Himalayas are particularly suitable for growing herbs. After starting plants such as aloe vera, stevia and lemongrass, he now plans to expand to other herbs.

“I still have a lot of vacant lands which I will cultivate because I am getting a good market, he said. “And I am learning that there are other herbs that I can grow.” He said the herbs survive even in relatively drier soils and do not get damaged by dense fog which is common in the hills.

Experts have shortlisted about 100 herbs that could be grown on the barren farmland where villagers gave up cultivating crops.

So far nearly 4,000 farmers have switched to growing herbs in seven North Indian states – in Himachal Pradesh, the number is 300.

“The ones who are successful are those who have entrepreneurship, who are willing to innovate. For example, they can plant short-term herbs in between other crops,” says Chandan. His organization also links farmers in remote villages with potential buyers to ensure they can market their crops.

Indian farmers switch to herb cultivation
Farmers learn the benefits of growing herbs instead of other crops. Pixabay

The havoc caused by monkeys is not restricted to rural areas – their numbers are growing in towns and even in the capital New Delhi, where they are infamous for snatching food and even mobile phones. In December, advisers gave lawmakers tips on dealing with monkeys often seen around parliament. The experts said to leave the animals alone and don’t make eye contact.

The monkey population has surged since India banned their export for biomedical research in 1978.

Also Read: Brazil Rainforest Deforestation Jumps 67% in First Seven Months as Government Attacks Data

The problem has been exacerbated because many in Hindu-majority India revere and feed the animals that they link to the Hindu deity Hanuman, who takes the form of a monkey.

But the brunt of the marauding monkeys is being felt in villages like Magroo in North India. Faced with growing losses, even older farmers here are now considering changing age-old farming patterns, although it’s hard to alter practices handed down generations.

Growing rice, corn and wheat is second nature to 79-year-old Charan Das, who has worked in the fields since he was a child. But after watching monkeys eat up more and more of his crop, he wants to shift to growing herbs.

“I will have to plant whatever the animals don’t eat,” he says ruefully. “At least then I will get some reward for my work.”

That is the message going out from workshops like the one in Magroo – there is a way to stay ahead of the monkeys. (VOA)

Next Story

Himachal Pradesh CM Formulates Development Policy for Sustainable Development of Himalayan States

The conclave called for development of new tourist destinations as old hill resorts had reached their saturation stage

0
sustainable development, himachal
The conclave called for development of new tourist destinations as old hill resorts had reached their saturation stage. Wikimedia Commons

Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur on Sunday advocated the formulation of a holistic development policy for sustainable development of the Himalayan states so that they could progress on par with other states.

Addressing a conclave here of Chief Ministers and representatives of 10 Himalayan states, Thakur said about 66 per cent geographical area of Himachal Pradesh is covered with forests and if ecologically viable and scientific silviculture practices are allowed, the state can earn additional annual revenue of Rs 4,000 crore.

The conclave called for development of new tourist destinations as old hill resorts had reached their saturation stage. Thakur said that the state is neither able to get full revenue from its forest wealth, nor undertake developmental activities over a large geographical area on account of national laws and court orders.

sustainable development, himachal
Thakur said that the state is neither able to get full revenue from its forest wealth, nor undertake developmental activities over a large geographical area on account of national laws and court orders. Wikimedia Commons

“Therefore, Himachal Pradesh should be suitably compensated for being deprived of revenue worth crores for being denied harnessing of its forest wealth,” he said. He urged the Finance Commission and the Union government to provide adequate grant to revenue deficit states so that they have adequate funds for capital investment after overcoming the deficit remaining post-devolution.

He said that Himachal Pradesh has seen a huge fall in income following GST implementation and urged the Finance Commission for proper evacuation of GST for the state for the remaining 33 months.

Thakur said that the state has immense tourism potential but due to non-availability of rail and air connectivity, a big airport needs to be constructed. The construction of roads in Himalayan states was expensive and rail network was almost negligible.

himachal pradesh, sustainable development
Thakur also said most of the rivers in the country originate from the Himalayas and the Himalayan states are playing the most significant role in furthering Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s water conservation initiative. Wikimedia Commons

Moreover, the Himalayan states are prone to several natural calamities on account of the hilly terrain and it was the need of the hour that the Union government ensures adequate allocation of funds under the State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF) for these states, he said.

ALSO READ: Fourfold Increase in Himachal Farmers’ Income with Crop Diversification Project

Thakur also said most of the rivers in the country originate from the Himalayas and the Himalayan states are playing the most significant role in furthering Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s water conservation initiative.

According to the Chief Minister, since most Himalayan states have to depend on the Centre and the Finance Commissions for financial management, they are facing a lot of hardships after the scrapping of the Planning Commission. (IANS)