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Environment

Cultivating Change: Rajasthan Farmer Leads the ‘Poison-Free’ Movement

Bhagwan Singh Khudi's 20-year journey inspires farmers in Hanumangarh district to embrace chemical-free farming.

July 19, 2023: In the heart of Rajasthan, Bhagwan Singh Khudi has spent the past two decades spearheading a transformative movement towards ‘Poison-Free’ farming in the Hanumangarh district.

As a result of Khudi’s unwavering commitment to chemical-free agriculture, a growing community of cultivators has abandoned harmful pesticides and fertilizers. To sell organic produce, such as pulses and spices, under the Haqeeqat brand, they established Haqeeqat Natural Farmer Producer Company Limited. The article explores Khudi’s journey, the benefits of organic farming, and how Haqeeqat FPO came to be.

Unearthing the ‘Poison-Free’ Mission

Khudi’s determination to shift away from chemical cultivation stemmed from a chance encounter with a stranger during his days as a political science student in Jaipur. Criticized for unknowingly “spreading poison” through his family’s farming practices, Khudi returned to his roots in Hanumangarh and embarked on his organic farming experiment. Over time, he witnessed favourable outcomes, encouraging other farmers to join his mission. By embracing organic techniques, they experienced improved soil quality and garnered better prices for their produce.

From Toxic Fields to Organic Oasis

Every year, Hanumangarh district witnesses a staggering business of 600 crores rupees in chemical pesticides and fertilizers. The agriculture department reports that more than 200,000 hectares of the community are dedicated to wheat cultivation, while mustard covers over 125,000 hectares. Additionally, urea, DAP, and pesticides are used in crops like vegetables and cotton. In 2003, Khudi initiated his organic farming venture on a small scale, starting with one bigha of land dedicated to wheat cultivation. Utilizing organic fertilizers like Prosopis cineraria leaves and cow dung, he encountered initial challenges but witnessed a steady yield increase over time. Undeterred, Khudi expanded his organic cultivation to cover seven bighas of wheat and paddy while dedicating four bighas to the Bharatmala Project.

A Ripple Effect: Inspiring Fellow Farmers

Khudi’s story resonated with Naresh Beniwal and Mukan Singh, farmers from Peelibanga and Salemgarh Masani villages. Beniwal, inspired by Khudi’s success, switched to organic farming 16 years ago, cultivating wheat, chickpeas, and mustard across his ten bighas of land. Initially disappointed with his organic wheat yield, Singh sought guidance from Khudi and witnessed a remarkable improvement. Encouraged by these outcomes, Singh plans to expand his organic farming to include paddy cultivation. Khudi’s influence has spurred a wave of change as more farmers embrace chemical-free practices, revitalizing the farming landscape of Hanumangarh.

The Profitability of Organic Farming

Khudi’s experience showcases the economic viability of organic farming. In conventional agriculture, the expenses for chemical fertilizers and pesticides amount to around Rs 8,000 per bigha, yielding approximately 15 quintals of wheat. In contrast, Khudi’s organic farming eliminates the need for these costly inputs while producing around ten quintals of grain per bigha. Similarly, conventional paddy farming requires up to Rs 15,000 chemicals per bigha, producing roughly 20 quintals of rice. By adopting organic practices, Khudi yields around 12 quintals of chemical-free paddy, reaping higher profits. The premium prices commanded by organic grains further contribute to the financial advantages of organic farming.

Haqeeqat FPO: Empowering Farmers, Building Trust

Inspired by Khudi’s success, other farmers in the district sought avenues to sell their organic produce at fair prices. Retired district statistics officer Om Prakash Manjhu’s timely support proved instrumental in establishing the Haqeeqat FPO in 2016. The FPO provided a platform for farmers to sell their produce locally, catering to nearly 2,000 families in Hanumangarh. The Haqeeqat store also delivers products to major cities across India, offering a diverse range of organic products, including biscuits, honey, jaggery, pulses, and spices. While lacking formal organic certification, all products undergo rigorous testing at renowned laboratories to ensure their chemical-free nature, earning consumers’ trust.

Recognizing Success and Inspiring Hope

District officials, including Danaram Godara, the joint director of the agriculture department in Hanumangarh, applaud Khudi’s dedication and acknowledge the significant impact he has made in inspiring fellow farmers to adopt organic cultivation. Khudi and the growing community of organic farmers have become a beacon of hope, illuminating a path towards sustainable agriculture in the region.

Embracing Organic Farming

Organic farming represents a holistic approach to agriculture that promotes sustainability and natural cultivation methods. Fundamental principles include:

Prioritizing soil health.
Implementing integrated pest management strategies.
Fostering biodiversity.
Using non-GMO crops.
Prioritizing animal welfare.
Adopting sustainable practices to minimize environmental impact.

Through rigorous organic certification processes, farms adhere to specific standards, providing consumers with confidence that products labelled as “organic” meet stringent organic principles.

Bhagwan Singh Khudi’s pioneering efforts in promoting ‘Poison-Free’ farming have ignited a revolution in Hanumangarh district. With the establishment of the Haqeeqat FPO, organic farmers have found a platform to sell their produce, fostering economic empowerment and building trust among consumers. Organic farming brings financial benefits and nurtures the environment, creating a sustainable future for agriculture. Khudi’s story and the organic movement in Hanumangarh exemplify the power of perseverance, inspiration, and collective action in transforming traditional farming practices into sustainable and profitable endeavours.

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