To go against the flow often brings turbulence in one’s life. But many do take the risk nevertheless, face the consequences with a strong will and achieve something unique. The story of 34-year-old Sheetal Suryawanshi, a business management graduate, is also along these lines – all thanks to guavas.
Sheetal gave up a corporate job, despite strong opposition from his family, and decided to grow guavas, that too in the traditional ‘sugar belt’ of Sangli in Western Maharashtra. His efforts did pay off, and he succeeded in doubling his earnings.
“After graduating in 2009-10 from a private college in Satara, I took a normal job in a multinational company until 2015. But I wanted to experiment with the farming methods as a change from growing sugarcane was necessary,” says Sheetal.
Moment of truth
Coming from a traditional farming family, Sheetal quickly realised that sugarcane did not yield the profits that most conventionally thought it did.
“The sugarcane crop requires a lot of water for a good yield. The harvest comes in 17-18 months which is a long time. The farm produce gets sold in the factory and earnings reach the bank account 3 or 4 months later.”
Sheetal said after proper calculations and considering the expenses; the profits come down to Rs 70,000 – 75,000 per year. “Farmers here have 10 to 15 acres of land and surplus produce, earning them Rs 9-10 Lakh annually. This seems to have given them a laid back attitude, and stops them from trying better methods,” he adds.
Swimming against the flow
In 2015, he quit his job and started considering an alternate crop. “Initially, I thought of grapes, but then a friend from Ahmednagar suggested guava, as it was quite in demand in Shirdi and surrounding areas. The soil and weather conditions in Sangli also favoured the crop,” he added.
The farmer said his family wanted him to continue his stable job and never wanted him to quit. “They suggested I continue with my monthly income, and my father was much against experimenting with a new crop and moving away from a trusted crop,” he added.
Sheetal eventually convinced his father to experiment in a two-acre plot of land, leaving the remaining eight acres the family had to grow sugarcane.
“I planted two different varieties of guava on an acre each. I also tried organic farming methods to reduce the toxic chemicals sprayed on the fruit,” he added.
The farmer earned Rs 3 Lakh by selling his 10-ton yield in the first harvest season. “With all the investment and expenses gone, I still earned a profit of Rs 1.5 lakh in 14 months and that too from just two acres,” he says proudly.
Hard work gives good yields
Sheetal said the crop has also kept his income rolling. “The fruit harvests throughout the season and I earn about Rs 10,000 a day with minor harvests and sales. I am financially much stable, and many others have adopted the technique in the area,” he added. The farmer has provided saplings to 25 acres of land to farmers in the area.
“I was sceptical about changing the crop pattern. I tried growing grapes and failed to succeed as expected,” says Vikas Chavan, another farmer in Sangli.
Vikas said he experimented growing guava in 1.5 acres of land organically. “I was surprised that it requires fewer interventions and organic mixes for preventing pests,” he said.
Another farmer, Abhijit Jagdale, said it is his second season of harvesting guava. “It has been 18 months since I took up high-density plantation of 2,000 trees in one acre. I plan to increase the cultivation of guava if the success continues,” he added.
Sheetal said he feels happy about succeeding in the cause. “My family is happy, and my father is convinced about taking these risks for good. The bonus is I can guide others around me to change the traditional farming methods and enable them to prosper,” he adds.
(Edited by Vinayak Hegde)