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The village that defied drought

Last modified January 07, 2015 10:51

The Indian Express. New Delhi, 29 December 2014

On Sunday, the Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti claimed that 12 farmers from western Vidarbha — all from the cotton producing belt — had committed suicide in the past 72 hours due to crop losses. But among the parched villages of drought-affected west Vidarbha, Balkhed village stands out as an exception, thanks to seeds of a revolution sown three years ago by an agriculture officer. Anil Bonde, the then sub-divisional agriculture officer (SDAO) of Risod tehsil in Washim district, now SDAO of Khamgaon in Buldana district, worked day and night with villagers to implement the Rainfed Area Development Programme (RADP), sponsored by the Centre to raise a seed manufacturing, packing and grading unit which has brought participating villagers nearly Rs 3 crore (1 crore = 107 = ten million) in three years. This money helped villagers overcome economic crises that hit almost all villages in the region.

The unit operated by the villagers has spawned not only an economic revolution, but also a system that transgresses caste and political divisions. The Shree Balnath Shetkari Krishi Vidnyan Mandal, which runs the seeds business, has representatives from across castes and religions, with affiliations to different political parties. When Bonde suggested the idea to villages under his wing, Balkhed responded favourably in 2011. “We liked the idea and called a Gram Sabha meeting, where it was decided to set aside 200 acres as seed-growing plots,” says Vilas Gaikwad, vice-president of the group.

Source: Agriculture Today, Agri News Services, sanjay.km15@gmail.com

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