Each month, Bhoomi Ka features a smallholder farmer who is part of the vast Bhoomi Ka network and recognises him or her for his/her contribution.
Meet Khepu Hembram, the Bhoomi Ka Farmer of the Month!
Khepu Hembram, belongs to one of those indigenous communities who were traditionally hunters-gatherers and co-existed in harmony with nature. However, over the past few hundred years, his ancestors were unfortunately drawn into the quagmire of two ‘anti-nature’ trends of agriculture – the first being, adopting the mono-cropping system and adjusting to food habits based on rice or wheat; and the other, to get involved in a conflict with nature by cutting down trees to make room for agriculture involving chemical inputs. Khepu, who lives with his wife and two sons, also faced the dilemma of which of these two prevailing trends to accept or reject.
“I have harvested a good amount of vegetables for my food and feed for my animals and birds. I also came to know about livestock care and their usefulness for improving agriculture.”
Khepu was largely dependent on his livestocks which comprised 4 cows, 2 bullocks, 2 calves, 3 ducks, 3 hens and 21 sheep for income. He also had about an acre of crop land, which was cultivated twice with chemical inputs.
In 2012 , he attended training sessions by DRCSC and became a member of the farmers’ group. After being introduced to the concept of single stick paddy cultivation with organic manure, Khepu tried it in 1/12th acre of land. Satisfied by the result, in 2013, he extended organic paddy cultivation in the entire land during the monsoon season, with most of the portion covered by single stick. In standard practice, with the same input, Khepu used to get 5 Q paddy per 1/3rd acre where the seed requirement was 6 kg. In case of single stick, it was 4 Q produce but only 350 grams seeds in the very first year. The yield increased in consecutive years.
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Khepu was very keen on learning the science of crop mixing i.e. mixing crops of various families so that one helps the other. He learned and managed it so well that in the winter of 2013, he produced 1758 kgs of 19 types of vegetables in just 1/3rd of an acre. For this, he spent 210 INR for seedlings, and the remaining expenses on fertiliser, seed and labour, amounting to 6000 INR / 90 USD, were generated from within his own farm. He earned 24000 INR / 360 USD during that season. It continued to the summer months of 2014, with earnings of 3500 INR / 53 USD. He stored all his seed and conducted exchanges within the farmers’ group.
Livestock remains his key source of income. For his livestock, he does not purchase any feed externally. He manages this with straw, mustard cake, pulses, agro-waste, and even food waste and leftovers. He collects cow urine and uses it in the field for preparing fertiliser and bio-pesticides. His cow shed has been structurally improved for better collection of waste and improved well-being of the animals. He sells milk, chicken meat and eggs regularly, sheep and cows occasionally. From these, in 2013, he earned about 47,500 INR / 710 USD. The value of his existing livestock is around 1,66,700 INR / 2500 USD.
Khepu also has biogas, which recycles cow dung to produce slurry and fuel. According to him, vermicompost is the most economical component in his farm, which produces quality fertiliser (6Q on average, 4 times a year) and healthy feed for chicken and duck, in terms of extra earthworms generated in the pit.
According to his calculations, he puts in 317 days of internal labour into his production system. After including this imputed cost, his net profit is 78456 INR / 1200 USD annually. It is also interesting to note that the entire cost of production (barring a few seedlings), is generated from resources from within his own farm.