Thar desert is till now known for its conventional farming and main crop here is Bajra. Farmers of Jaisalmer districts usually go for kharif crops, which are grown in the summer season and seeded in June and July. These are then harvested in September and October and include bajra, pulses such as guar, jowar (Sorghum vulgare), maize (zea mays), sesame and groundnuts. Now Aloe Veera cultivation divides young and the old here and credit goes to Harish Dhandev,27, who changed the paradigm the way local look at farming.
Dhandev’s Dhaisar, 45 kilometres from Jaisalmer, is certainly witnessing a new green revolution which has all potential to transform rural lives in Thar desert.
In a very short span of time a 27 year old techie Dhandev has become a role model for young farming community of this area. In short, he quit his Sarkari job and took up Aloe Veeera farming on 100 acre family land and within three-and half year he became a crorepati farmer. His success has become a strong source of inspiration for local young and educated generation, who were so far looking for a better income generating career rather than taking forward the family’s farming activities.
The journey started with any bang. After obtaining a B.Tech degree from Arya College, Jaipur, like any other young techie he also looked for a better career and took up a private job. But the job did not provide him the required kick. Meanwhile, he was selected for a government job- that was junior engineer with Jaisalmer Municipal Council, but once again he could not serve here more than two months. Hailing from a family of farmers, Dhandev was continuously look for something different, exciting and lucrative.
He got that opportunity in Delhi. A visit to an Agri Expo in Delhi proved a turning point in his life. He quit his job and started cultivating Aloe Vera on his 100-acre farmland. In three years his turnover from his farmland is Rs 2 crore per annum now.
Encouraged with the success of Aloe Vera cultivation, Dhandev has set up his own company 'Naturelo Agro' at Dhaisar and pulp is being marketing through this company and brand. Aloe vera grown in Thar Desert by the company is being supplied in huge quantity to Patanjali Food Products Limited for making Aloe Vera juice.
“The quality of Aloe Vera grown in desert area is so good that there is a heavy demand for it in national and international markets. Experts at Patanjali found the quality our product so good that they immediately placed orders for its leaves. My risk has paid off,” says Dhandev.
“I had land and water, but no idea. I wanted to grow something new.First of all, I started surfing about various crops and their market. Even visited some agri expo. While doing online research on marketing, I realised that markets for produce would not be a challenge as there are several avenues. Moreover, markets are not confined to domestic, one can go for global market with any kind of produce. Once assured about marketing possibility, I took up farming of Aloe Veera,” he adds.
Aloe Vera produced in Thar is so good that it is in high demand in Brazil, Hong Kong and America too.Initially, Dhandev had planted around 80,000 saplings of Aloe Vera, which now he has increased to seven lakh. In last four months, he has sent 125-150 tonnes of processed aloe vera pulp to Patanjali factories in Haridwar.
Farming comes naturally to him. “ Ours is a farmer family, though my father was in Government job, he was engaged in farming and we have nearly 100 acre. Being desert area, my family used to confined to farming of those crops which were traditionally popular in the area,” says Dhandev.
What about investment? Dhandev is cultivating Aloe Veera for three years now. He says , “ For making Pulp, you do not require very high tech machines. Our cumulative investment for Aloe Veera farming and Pulp processing is around Rs 50 lakh so far. I happy that I am not only enhancing my farm income but also able to provide jobs to local people. That is quite satisfying.”
What next? Jaisalmer is desert area and has a different agro climatic conditions. Aloe Veera would continue as core or parent capability to enhance revenue from farms. As demand for Pulp is growing day by day, the company would lease more land to expand Aleo Vera cultivation.
Moreover, ‘ Online Resource’ indicates that Date is yet another opportunity for the agro company . It has also huge domestic as well as global markets. Dhandev is gearing up to tap this opportunity and he plans to enter Date cultivation very soon.
The family was in farming for 30 years and like all traditional farmers, Dhandev’s father depended on conventional methods and crops. But his generation lives in digital era which was missing earlier. ‘ Online Resource’ is the key for young generation’s success, he says. Young and educated farmers can have the best of the world which was not possible earlier. Innovations, research and new technique/equipment are easily available. Whole paradigm has changed in term of the way the younger generation look at agriculture.
It is all about income. If farmers do not get enough income, why would they stick to it? Young generation is aspirational and they would certainly and naturally prefer a better income generating career. But with modern technologies and ‘ Online Resource’ youth can be attracted to farming. There is need to create a positive environment with a new paradigm.
Educated farmers, especially the youth do not like traditional methods of farming including 'hal-bail' (home-made wooden ploughing tools driven by oxen). They prefer using mechanized systems while sitting in the operator seat, enjoying music and taking selfies with their smart phones. So the success of Aloe Vera cultivation and its processing unit has encouraged the entrepreneurship among local farmers of this area of Thar. Mindset is changing. The government agencies need to provide them training on the modern agriculture system to get more production thereby higher income. Higher income certainly change the mindset of youth and would attract them to adopt the modern agriculture system.