Making a difference in farmers’ lives: Retired Forest Officer shows the way…
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Making a difference in farmers’ lives: Retired Forest Officer shows the way…

By N. Niranjan Nikam

Plant, nourish and flourish’ is the mantra of this 80-year-old former Forest and Environment Secretary A.C. Lakshmana.

The multi-pronged and highly beneficial project to the State that he advocates especially in the wake of farmers’ loan burden, increasing poverty and suicides is very important to overcome these tragic conditions.

Speaking to Star of Mysore, Lakshmana said, “I strongly advocate ‘Agri-Silvi-Horticulture’ method which I have successfully experimented since the last 22 years.”

Pointing to the tree in the park in front of his house in Gokulam, he said, “This tree Hebbevu (Melina Dubia)  was planted six years ago and see how tall it has grown. I am now encouraging the farmers all over the State to grow this species along with other crops.”

Asked about the Israeli method of farming that the present government is flaunting as the panacea for all farmers’ problems, he said that micro and drip irrigation has been practiced in a few regions in the Nagarhole and surrounding Hunsur belt for many years already.

For instance, the growing of tobacco is banned from 2019, bamboo can be grown as one of the components that will help in 33 per cent increase in water for borewells apart from other benefits, he said.

Flagship programme

The flagship programme is the planting of Hebbevu which the farmers from other parts of Karnataka are also trying to emulate.

Lakshamana has been working with farmers from North Karnataka including Bijapur, Belagavi, Raichur, Bidar, Ballari, Haveri, Bagalkot, Shivamogga and other areas. “All that the farmers need is Rs.50,000 subsidy to plant Hebbevu and their lives will change,” he said.

Reiterating his stand, a farmer from Haveri, Basavaraju, a commerce graduate, whom Star of Mysore spoke to over the phone said, “After coming in contact with Lakshmana Sir, I have planted nearly 2,500 Hebbevu trees in my eight acres land. I also grow maize, chillies, sugarcane and other crops. Hebbevu helps in absorbing moisture and also controls pollution.”

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Another farmer, Ahmed Patel, from Kadani village in Kalaburagi District, who grows sunflower, jowar, potatoes, tomatoes in his 11 acre land, told Star of Mysore that he had come all the way from Kalaburagi to Mysuru and taken 500 Hebbevu saplings from Lakshmana and planted them on Nov. 1 last year.

“In nine months it has grown to six feet and the girth is eight to ten inches. Now the Kalaburagi Forest Department itself is supplying Hebbevu saplings and this was because of the initiative taken by Lakshmana. Now, I do not have to come all the way to Mysuru to get the saplings again. I plan to plant another 500 saplings shortly.”

On whether he had taken any crop loan, he said that he had taken a loan of Rs. 1.20 lakh. But was not sure whether it would be waived off going by the way discussions were happening in the government. “The bank people tell me that since I had not renewed the loan agreement twice, I might not be eligible to get loans again.”

‘Calamus lakshmanae’

Lakshmana, who is also the Chairman of Devaraj Urs Bidiru Vana, promotes cultivation of bamboo and even one cane is named after him called ‘Calamus lakshmanae’ in honour of his dedicated pioneering conservation and development work.

“There is funds in the Bidiru Vana but I have no powers to do anything. I am just a Barefoot Chairman. In fact when I spoke to H.K. Patil, former Minister of Rural Development and Panchayat Raj, I frankly told him, ‘you are not supportive of my ideas like your father K.H. Patil.’ And now he has called for a meeting on July 12 to discuss about the problems of North Karnataka and its farmers.”

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When the farmers in North Karnataka whom Lakshmana is in touch heard about this meeting, they all promised to join him to impress upon the former Minister about the agri-silvi-horticulture method of farming and its success.

“The Western Ghats Task Force was set up more than ten years ago. I am prepared to work here and all I ask is a monthly honorarium of Re. 1. The only reason I want to take up this assignment is to see that I can make a difference to the farmers’ lives.” he said.

“I strongly believe in the philosophy, greater the participation greater the success and according to me the formula is I=we=team=stakeholders. Behind the success of ‘Vanathotagarike’’ there are many individuals and groups. Government support is a must for such highly complex work,” he signs off.

A Barefoot Chairman !

“There is funds in the Bidiru Vana but I have no powers to do anything. I am just a Barefoot Chairman. In fact, when I spoke to H.K. Patil, former Minister of Rural Development and Panchayat Raj, I frankly told him, ‘you are not supportive of my ideas like your father K.H. Patil.’ And now he has called for a meeting on July 12 to discuss about the problems of North Karnataka and its farmers. The Western Ghats Task Force was set up more than ten years ago. I am prepared to work here and all I ask is a monthly honorarium of Re. 1.” – A.C. Lakshmana, Chairman, Devaraj Urs Bidiru Vana

July 10, 2018

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