Gum yielding tree brought happiness to a rural farmer, Shri Mahendra Singh Yadav
Mr. Mahendra Singh, a well informed and progressive farmer of the village Parasai in Babina Tehsil of Jhansi district, Uttar Pradesh had expressed his interest to diversify land use pattern in his five acres of farm to the scientists of ICAR-Central Agroforestry Research Institute (CAFRI), Jhansi eight years ago. Taking the advice of the CAFRI scientists, he adopted various cropping systems including agri-horticulture and agroforestry systems along with fodder crops on his farm. To minimize crop damage caused by stray cattle of anna pratha, he was also advised to plant 400 seedlings of Acacia senegal (kumat) 2 m apart on his farm boundary to act as a bio-fence. In addition, he also established a 0.5 acre agri-horticulture model wherein he grew fruit yielding plants like guava, lemon etc. In another half acre land, he planted about 100 seedlings of teak and cultivated Napier grass on the field bunds. His rural orientation did help to align his efforts with animal husbandry and today, he owns three buffaloes and a pair of bullocks. Over these eight years, Mr. Mahendra Singh, the farmer has empowered himself to be a role model and encourages many more to do scientific farming by narrating how he got benefited from different systems, adopted eight years ago upon the advice of CAFRI scientists. Mr. Singh profusely speaks on the benefits accrued through a live fence of Acacia senegal established at his farm boundary that is protecting the crops from stray cattle of anna pratha. The planted horticultural plant species (guava and lemon) have now started yielding fruits, and the Napier grass is providing green fodder for animals. On his farm, he generally adopts groundnut-wheat and blackgram-barley cropping sequence for kharif and rabi seasons.
Shri Mahendra Singh now explains that the main driving force for him to venture into agroforestry has been to minimize risk of crop failure due to climatic uncertainties, ensure nutritious and regular supply of fodder for his animals and at the same time, protect crop from stray cattle of anna pratha. The major constraints before him were meeting initial expenses of establishment, lack of experience in tree-based farming and the knowledge required for management. At this juncture, it is overwhelming to record that a team of scientists from CAFRI broke the ice and motivated him through knowledge transfer, and by providing quality planting materials. According to him, approximately 10-15% crop yield which was otherwise lost, has now been stopped due to live fence of Acacia senegal, that ultimately improved the overall farm economy. Besides, he is also expecting that after some time, planted Acacia senegal will start yielding gum. As per an estimate, if a plant of Acacia senegal gives approximately 200 g gum-arabic then 400 seedlings will give 80 kg gum-arabic. On an average, gum-arabic is generally sold at a rate of Rs. 500 per kg; thus, the expected additional income from gum-arabic will be around Rs. 40,000 per year.
The success story of this farmer, who adopted tree-based farming is no more hypothetical but a reality provisioning that integration of gum/resin-yielding trees in agroforestry systems offer better farm productivity and income. Research experiences at ICAR-CAFRI, Jhansi revealed that growth of Acacia senegal (gum arabic) in semi-arid region of Bundelkhand has been better than that in the arid region, and the trees expectedly yield good quantum of gum-arabic. It is encouraging that the farm of Shri Mahendra Singh ji is being visited by several local farmers, and to minimize crop loss/damage due to anna pratha, many farmers of the region are now attracted toward planting gum arabic (Acacia senegal) based agroforestry on their farms.