The arrival of traditional New Year is celebrated in many forms and ways. It brings a host of challenges too. The month of April is celebrated for two reasons, one it marks the beginning of harvesting and the second is expectation of balanced monsoon for the forthcoming cropping cycle and readying farms for sowing. Farmers also gear up for the ripening fruit crops that are due in the month of May-June. April 2018 hit hard at the still developing fruit crop, the hailstorm damaged the crop (pic above). In 2015, 93 lakh hectare area was affected across 14 states due to hailstorm which occurred in the February-March period. Uttarakhand’s 39,000 hectare land was affected. Subsistence agriculture and thinly spread tree crops leave much to be desired for the commercial interest, it is the zeal and labour invested, that the crop is expected and of course the confidence it builds for fellow farmers to take a chance!

As per the AICIL, insurance for horticulture crops come at 5%, higher than 1.5 – 2% designated for the rabi and kharif crop respectively. The WBCIS is based on the severity of the weather and it is very likely that higher reaches will have higher premium, for example – Champawat in the middle range has an acturial rate of 10% (for peach) whereas for Pitthoragarh and Bageshwar it is 35% – but the farmer has to pay 5% of this 10% and 35% respectively, rest is borne equally by the state and the centre. The SI is Rs. 500? The crops and geographical extents are notified, meaning not all crops will have an opportunity to get insured.

But many a places the outreach of insurance companies is limited. While talking to a few people in Joladi, it was revealed that organic certification facilitated by the government is not coming through. In one case, inspection was done but to protect the field from wild animals, the boundary was protected with some pungent smelling local plants – this became the reason for non-approval. While during our survey, it came out clearly that almost 90% of the area heavily uses cow dung and it is only capsicum, cabbage/cauliflower, tomato and other cash crops where hybrid seeds are used and also require some sort of protection. People are exploring options, to raise a nursery of mulberry trees for the cocoon which has some buy back mechanism. Similarly, to tackle the increasing fallow lands, aloe vera or similar crop is being explored which doesn’t even require much depth to plant and is not liked by the animals.

Sakdina village’s one tok ‘Santugra’ is supposedly has land distribution among 10-12 farmers of the village. One of the farmers shared that despite their individual differences, they felt that combining the fragmented holdings might be useful and they are practicing the same with certain difficulties. One of the elders took upon his forefathers as to why they allowed division of land within the family which they now feel is detrimental for sustainability. Someone shared the example of a wealthy person who somehow brought algerian rose variety to set up oil expelling unit – it was tried but due to limited expansion and no export avenues, it was shut down. Contract farming is yet another area and commercial farming near Padampuri (District Nainital) is aptly located near to the market (Haldwani-Kathgodam) and moderate to warm climatic zone using poly house. Scaling up production for eventual value addition becomes an essential for market access and negotiations, that is absent and require renewed focus on community initiatives which create structures of acceptable-workable model.