University students are usually known for their carefree attitude, last-minute cramming and sleeping late. While a majority of them derive pleasures from all this, Hashique Kambrath, a third-year computer hardware student of Government Polytechnic College, Meppadi, has been reaping rich dividends by rearing farm animals and cultivating organic crops on his 1.5 acres of land.
Hailing from Pozhuthana, a hilly area in Wayanad district, Kerala, which is surrounded by picturesque tea plantations, the 22-year-old, with his dedication and self-belief, has set an example for the farming community in his district, where 33 debt-ridden farmers have committed suicide during the past one and a half years.
Being an organic farmer, Hashique grows a mixture of crops in the same field as coffee and banana, including types of beans that replenish the soil so that he does not have to apply fertilisers. Growing a variety of crops also helps him attract insects, which replaces synthetic pesticides.
Hashique, who started farming at the age of 12, says his decision to abandon synthetic fertilisers and pesticides has been the turning point in his career as a farmer. “When I started off, I did not know any other model other than chemical farming,” he says. “But, fortunately, after a couple of years, I shunned the use of chemical fertilisers and pesticides after learning about organic farming. When we can cultivate high-quality and
nutritious vegetables in the natural way, why should we use fertilisers and pesticides that have adverse health effects?” says Hashique.
Hashique’s day starts at 4 am with the cleaning of the cowshed and milking the two cows that give about 30 litres of milk everyday. Afterwards, he feeds the hundred-odd rabbits kept in the large hutches in the backyard of his home. In the meantime, Hashique’s mother Rukkiya joins him to feed the goats, chickens, turkeys, geese and flying ducks housed in separate compartments across their courtyard.
Before getting ready to go to college, Hashique waters the vegetable garden where he cultivates a variety of plants, including cabbage, spinach, beans, chillies, different types of yams, bananas and ferny azolla, a water plant that is used as cattle feed.
After returning from the college in the evening, the young farmer is busy monitoring the crops of coffee, pepper and cardamom, that contribute a major chunk of his annual income of about `4.2 lakh via farming and animal husbandry.
Also, Hashique’s interest in ornamental fish farming and cultivation of medicinal plants adds colour and variety to the pleasingly congested farmland on the banks of Aaneth river, a tributary of the Kabani river.
“Of course, it is a tight schedule,” he says. “But I have to find the time to study before going to sleep by 11 p.m.” Hashique is planning to do a diploma course in computer networking after completing his degree.
The Department of Animal Husbandary has set up a field-level farm school at Hashique’s home and has appointed him as the training director. As per the three-year contract worth `2.5 lakh, he will impart training to as many as 300 farmers from across Wayanad on innovative farming techniques.
Meanwhile, the Gandhiji Study Centre (GSC), a Thodupuzha-based voluntary organisation that promotes Gandhian values and thoughts, has recently chosen Hashique as the best organic farmer in Kerala.
“The award came as a surprise to me,” he says. “I think my achievement will encourage more youngsters to take up agriculture as a profession.” Incidentally, Hashique is the youngest farmer to win the award in GSC’s 30-year-old history.
Though the award carries a cash prize of `2 lakh, Hashique is more excited about the larger prize that came with it: a 10-day trip to New Zealand in April. “I have read a lot about the country that gives priority in conserving its agricultural biodiversity,” says a beaming Hashique. “It will be a great opportunity for me to learn about the people, environment and the farming practices there.”