Pioneer at the grassroots

FF

Farmer experiments on barren land with lemongrass, a crop never grown in Punjab before. It clicks so well that state govt takes up his example for replication elsewhere

Raghunath Singh, 66, had stuck to traditional farming for decades. When he eventually did experiment, he ended up setting an example not only for fellow farmers but also for the Punjab government. He has earned huge profits from barren land in Kandi, a very backward region that lacks irrigation facilities and where large tracts are not fit for cultivating any crop.

Except lemongrass. This is what Singh grew, a grass whose oil is of use in pharmaceuticals and cosmetics, but a crop that had never been tried by any farmer in the state until Singh pioneered it. And until a visit by the chief minister a couple of months ago, all that lemongrass could boast in the state was Raghunath Singh's 15 acres at Seeprian village in Hajipur block, one of the most agiculturally disadvantaged blocks of Hoshiarpur.

The chief minister was so impressed that he has now told government departments to increase the area under lemongrass to 1,000 acres in the Kandi belt. Officials have started roping in farmers, 200 of the 1,000 acres have been accounted for, and the government is looking at another 50 acres for lemongrass beyond beyond Hoshiarpur, in Pathankot.

Singh, a matriculate, had spent his first 60 years without venturing beyond the traditional wheat and paddy. His first experiment, as it turned out, was with a crop he had not even heard of till then.

"I was just another farmer cultivating wheat and paddy, with part of the land for sugarcane, etc. But I wanted to utilise the rest of my land, where huge parts lay barren," says Singh. He owns 50 acres; the 15 acres where he now grows lemongrass were then barren because of insufficiency of water and poor soil.

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