BHUBANESWAR: Ajesh Nag, a youth of Doliamba village in the disputed Kotia gram panchayat, does not want to migrate to other states for work any more. He now hopes for a stable source of income by growing organic strawberries in the fertile lands of Koraput.
Working outside the State till two years back, the 28-year-old man faced several difficulties during the Covid-19 pandemic. Eking out livelihood had become a struggle for Nag and many others like him in the village till Integrated Tribal Development Agency (ITDA) introduced them to strawberry cultivation last year.
“All the families of Doliamba village are now engaged in strawberry cultivation. As of now, the demand is higher than the supply and we are hopeful the market for organic strawberries will expand further in the coming years,” Nag said.While the villagers cultivated strawberries over 5 acres of land in January this year, they have so far harvested 15 to 16 kg of the fruit which they are selling at Rs 400 per kg.
Another villager Anil Panji expressed similar views and said that income from strawberry cultivation will increase in the coming years. “The ITDA and Department of Agriculture officials provided us with the training to cultivate strawberries. We have now become acquainted with the process and will continue this in the coming years,” said Panji.
There are about 50 families in Doliamba village and the authorities had to convince them to take up strawberry farming instead of traditional crops for higher returns. The ITDA officials held the first meeting with villagers on October 29 last year. When the villagers agreed, they purchased about 55,000 strawberry plants for Rs 30 each from a registered firm in Pune.
“Koraput district has the ideal climate for strawberry cultivation as it requires temperature between 15 degree and 25 degree, adequate sunlight and availability of water. In a bid to provide sustainable livelihood to Doliamba villagers, the plantation drive was started in January this year. So far, we have got 15 kg to 17 kg strawberries,” said Koraput ITDA’s project coordinator Kasi Prasad Nayak.
These strawberries are 100 per cent organic as bio-fertilizers are being used to grow them. The strawberry saplings are planted at a distance of 1.5 feet. Each plant can give at least half a kg fruits and the administration is hoping for a yield of over 10 tonne by April or May.
Koraput Collector M Abdaal Akhtar said the strawberry plantation is aimed at improving the livelihood of people in Doliamba village. Funds for the purpose have been arranged from ITDA, DMF and CSR wings of different companies.
The cultivation has been taken up in a small scale and considering the overwhelming response, the district administration is mulling to expand it further to nearby villages after examining their soil and other conditions. The produce will be sold in Jeypore and Koraput besides retail outlets and cities like Visakhapatnam, Raipur and Bhubaneswar.