Among renowned personalities like Deepa Karmakar, Virat Kohli and Sanjeev Kapoor on the list of Padma Shri awardees this year was another, but far lesser-known, name– Genabhai Dargabhai Patel, a differently-abled farmer from Sarkari Goliya village of Banaskantha district of Gujarat. And his is a story of grit and determination.Genabhai is the youngest among four brothers and one sister. As kids, his brothers would help their father on the farm.However,their dad wanted Genabhai to study as he felt that due to his illness, he would never be able to farm. He was sent to a hostel 30 km away from his village at an early age where he would manage to go to school on his tricycle. He studied till class 12 there, but being illiterate his parents had no clue on how to educate him further. So Genabhai came back to his village.Though people believed that Genabhai could do nothing to help his father and brothers on the farm, he would still accompany them. He realised that there was one thing that he could do at the farm – drive a tractor. He learnt to drive one and also managed to handle the clutch and break with his hands.Genabhai then started his research on such crops. He thought of planting mango trees initially, however mango flowers fall if there is a weather change and one has to wait until the next flower season. To know about more options, Genabhai took help of the local agriculture officer. He also visited Agriculture University and gathered information from the government’s krishi mela. He travelled across Gujarat, Rajasthan and Maharashtra for about 3 months and finally came across the answer to his research. He saw farmers in Maharashtra growing pomegranate in an almost similar climate as of Gujarat. Unlike mango flowers, pomegranate flowers grow all year round and do not require constant attention.Genabhai was proved right within two years and in 2007 all his plants bore fruit. Noticing his success few farmers also planted pomegranate. But now marketing these fruits was the biggest hurdle as there was no market for pomegranate in the entire state. Genabhai then gathered all the pomegranate growers in Banaskantha–they would load trucks of pomegranate and sell them at Jaipur and Delhi markets. But this was not a long-term solution. They needed traders who could buy their yield directly.
Seeing this, a lot of villagers started following his footsteps and diverted from traditional farming to horticulture farming. Genabhai also started conducting workshops for villagers on pomegranate farming for which he brought in agricultural scientists and experts to his pomegranate farm. This was to ensure that the farmers can avoid all the mistakes which Genabhai made due to lack of knowledge and exposure to information.However, the problems did not end here. There was a point when the water level in the entire district went down and there was a huge water crisis. But Genabhai, who believes that everything happens for a reason, took this as an opportunity to install drip irrigation in all the pomegranate farms.“If farmers will earn well… then, what do you say in English? ‘We can also pull up our collars and walk,’” he laughs.He says that he felt like he was in heaven when he received the award on January 26, 2017 from President Pranab Mukherjee.On asking about his future plans, he says that he dreams of an India where farmer success won’t be a miracle anymore.
(Text Source: The Better India)
Tags: Genabhai Patel | Genabhai Dargabhai Patel | Differently Abled Farmer | Padma Shri |Padma Shri awardee farmer | Gujarat | Organic Farming |