To the remainder of the world, the rose is an emblem of affection, magnificence and braveness. But to residents of Wadji village, situated in Maharashtra’s Solapur district, it’s a illustration of their success, regardless of dwelling in probably the most drought-prone areas of the state.
“Roses have made us lakhpatis,” says Kunlik Kumhar, one farmer from the village.
Solapur, which falls in a rain shadow area, faces extreme rain shortages. As Kundlik explains, farming right here is rife with challenges, and infrequently, residents must journey for miles to fetch water. Bachelors undergo as a result of brides refuse emigrate to the water-scarce area. “Moreover, a majority of farmers would grow sugarcane, which is a water-intensive crop. Farming was tough as profits dwindled, and the number of crops was limited,” he tells The Better India.
But over time, the tide has turned. For every acre of their rose farm, these farmers earn lakhs, and their merchandise are bought far and extensive throughout India. Kundlik narrates how the village farmers banded collectively to make this occur.
The perfume of success
The extreme water disaster of their village compelled Kundlik and different farmers to think about a special method to farming. Around 20 farmers approached an official of the Agricultural Technology Management Agency (ATMA), a state authorities scheme that goals to help farmers in progressive agriculture.
“We brainstormed over the number of alternative crops that could be adopted. During one of the discussions, a farmer shared a case study of another farmer pursuing rose farming,” Kundlik says.
He provides, “In 1989, a farmer from a neighbouring village, Pinjarwadi, brought a grafted rose plant. He used the sapling to propagate and gradually create a rose farm. He was not successful as expected, but could sustain the farm with less water.”
This impressed the farmers in Wadji to comply with go well with. “It seemed like a practical alternative as rose plants do not require much maintenance. The water requirement is considerably low,” he says.
Moreover, Solapur and its neighbouring districts are pilgrim locations, which see a footfall of a whole bunch of hundreds of devotees all year long. Anticipating profitable market alternatives, the farmers started rose cultivation.
“I started on 0.25-acre land using chemical methods of farming, which earned me a price of Rs 4 per kilo. On religious occasions, the prices scaled up to Rs 15 a kilo,” he says.
Alongside Kundlik, different farmers who adopted floriculture started seeing a growth in enterprise, which allowed them to scale up farming, he says. With this, rose farms throughout Wadji elevated to unfold over 100 acres. “Apart from local markets, we targeted buyers in Mumbai, Telangana and Bengaluru. We put roses in ice packs for preservation and sent the packages by trains,” he says.
In 2012-2013, the farmers approached the Pune market. “We faced heavy resistance from traders and middlemen, as our rose quality was superior and received significant demand from buyers. They feared that we could create a monopoly in the market and shut their businesses. Moreover, the middlemen started demanding more commissions,” he notes.
The farmers opposed the dominance of merchants, and on events, the heated arguments took a violent flip. Eventually, these rose farmers had been reduce free from the Pune market.
By then, the world by which farmers had been cultivating roses had elevated to 350 acres. “Production was happening on a large scale, and we needed reliable markets to sell our produce. Hence, we again approached ATMA officials for guidance,” he says.
Kundlik says the official urged they course of the flowers into rose water, gulkand, essence and different merchandise. The officer additionally promised to coach the farmers with advertising and marketing abilities.
The farmers approached distillers within the space to study the method. “The mechanism for distilling rose water is similar to the process of making alcohol. We also tried other raw methods such as using a pressure cooker and procuring used alcohol making units. But all experiments failed. The pressure cooker blew up when rose petals choked the whistle, while the alcohol making units used to distil rosewater added alcohol essence to our products,” he says, including, “We travelled to Uttar Pradesh to learn the technique from attar makers. We returned with an iron vessel with a capacity to distil 500 litres a day.”
However, the iron vessel turned rusty, and the farmers realised that they had been cheated.
“We had spent a significant amount of money and almost a year exploring opportunities. We eventually put our ventures on pause due to lack of money and skills. We almost went broke in the process,” Kundlik says.
The relentless farmers then knocked on the doorways of the Krishi Vigyan Kendra, which urged they type a Farmer Producer Organisation (FPO).
In April 2015, about 25 farmers got here collectively to start out the FPO, which in the present day has 382 members. “We obtained necessary certifications and set up Sri Khandoba Agro Producer Company Ltd, which enabled us to cut off the middlemen and directly sell to customers. Besides roses, we also started growing and selling seasonal vegetables such as bitter gourd, bottle gourd, tomato and others using funds from a World Bank project,” he says.
Towards an natural life
Parmeshwar, a biotechnology postgraduate and chairman of the FPO, says, “The farmers started earning considerable profits by 2017 and collectively decided to install a rosewater making unit. By now, we could afford to buy an industrial machine worth Rs 3 lakh.”
“The farmers harvest the roses early in the morning and sell them in the market during the season. During the off-season, the profits reduce, and farmers store the roses, dry the petals and sell them to companies that make pan masala, incense sticks and other such products in UP and Gujarat,” he says.
Today, the collective enterprise earns farmers earnings of Rs 2 to three lakh per acre, promoting a quintal of rose day by day.
Kundlik says their success has attracted many guests, college students and farmers from throughout the nation. “We feel proud when people visit us to take lessons from our struggle. Once I visited my school to deliver a lecture on farming, which was quite overwhelming. We also enjoy media attention when they publish our success story,” he says.
Meanwhile, Parmeshwar says, a number of farmers have additionally moved to natural rose farming. “A cluster of 50 farmers is now part of the initiative. They sell organic roses in weekly markets, and aim to create awareness about organic farming. Eventually, we all plan to move towards toxin-free farming,” he provides.
He says the farmers at the moment are planning to purchase photo voltaic drying machines to cut back the bills incurred from electrical utilization. “Solar-dried vegetable and rose petals have increasing demand in the food market, and we wish to tap the opportunity,” he provides.
Edited by Divya Sethu