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Pune farmers join hands to improve earnings

SOCIAL ENTERPRISE

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Abhinav Farmers’ Club acts as a platform for sharing information; transforms lives by focusing on dairy farming, floriculture.

Kailas Jadhav, a farmer near Pune, finds it difficult to hide his glee. Not so long ago, he reared goats and earned Rs 15,000-20,000 per month. Some time back, he shifted to dairy farming and now makes Rs 40,000 per month — more than double of what he earned earlier. “Abhinav Farmers’ Club (AFC) has changed my life,” Jadhav says.

Located at Manngaon , a small village near Hinjewadi in Pune, AFC is a group of 138 farmers. Set up in 2004, it has emerged as a platform to share information. Farmer-members share their knowledge on all the aspects of farming — what to farm, what to grow, seeds, fertilisers, pesticides and marketing of produce.

The numbers are there for all to see. In 2007, AFC produced 13.2 million flowers and some 250 tonnes of vegetables. Its yearly turnover is a little above Rs 10 crore. Farmers affiliated to the club use drip irrigation and operations in the farms are labour intensive. This keeps their costs under check.

Members of the club farm dairy and poultry products, flowers and exotic vegetables like broccoli, red cabbage, cherry tomatoes, celery, parsley, sweet corn and baby corn which are exported to Dubai and transported to stores in large Indian cities. Farmers also grow traditional farm produce like brinjal, potato, onion, rice and wheat.

One popular activity is floriculture. “We are able to make a good amount as our flowers go to Delhi, Kolkata, Nagpur, Hyderabad, Latur and other places in India. We pack them neatly and send them through the rail network,” says Dnyaneshwar Bodke, chief volunteer, AFC.

“Traditional farming compelled the farmers to wait for the required weather conditions to start farming. But, since we do our business in greenhouses and sheds, we are able to control the conditions in which the crops grow. That’s the reason why we are able to excel as we don’t have to depend on nature for the right time to begin,” adds Bodke.

Bodke, who founded the club, hails from a typical farmer family which was under heavy debt, forcing him to sell a part of his land. Similar were the stories of all farmers who are now members of AFC. Most of them are now debt-free. The club was sponsored by the National Bank for Agricultural and Rural Development and Canara Bank. It has generated employment for close to 730 men and women, out of which 445 women work under self-help groups.

The story began when Bodke enroled for a course in the Horticulture Training Centre, Talegaon. Armed with that knowledge, he set up AFC in order to pass on his knowledge on poly house farming and irrigation of exotic flowers and vegetables to all those who were interested to learn.

And this has changed many lives around him. One example is Nilesh Mane. “I had almost zero income, untilled land and a failed printing press business. Now that I have become a member of AFC, I have a green house of vegetables and flowers and my monthly earning is between Rs 12,000 and Rs 15,000 per month,” says a beaming Mane.

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