Role Of Makhana Grower And Cultivator
Makhana Cultivators: The backbone of Makhana Industry
Known for its innumerable health benefits, Makhana has made inroads not only into the nook and cranny of India but also European and American countries. There are many reasons that contribute to the success story of Makhana seeds and Flakes. However, the most important contribution for its success goes to the Makhana cultivators whose untiring efforts, knowledge and hard work ensure top quality produce.
Makhana cultivators spend long working hours in the open field, understand the weather conditions, bear risks, take critical decision for growth and farming of crops. They are always alert and active to ensure proper harvesting of the crops as well. Their job doesn’t end there. Their job also entails grading, storage and preservation.
The background of Makhana cultivators
Though the world has recently woken up to the goodness of Makhana seeds and flakes, its existence has been there since 18th century in the hinterland of India called Madhubani. It was under the kingship of King Darbhanga that the cultivation of Makhana started and prospered in the small village of Madhubani. The farmers at that time were extremely poor and did all the manual labour to produce and consume Makhana. It was their daily bread and source of income.
However, today the cultivators of Makhana in Madhubani have progressed and are using new technologies to produce Makhana for domestic as well as global consumption. India has become the largest producer of Makhana and the biggest reason for this is its cultivators.
Role of Makhana cultivators
With the increasing global consumption of Makhana seeds and pop ups, there is an increase in the responsibility of the cultivators or farmers. Being the backbone of the Makhana industry, cultivators have a huge role to play in ensuring quality production that can be distributed to rest of the world after meeting stringent quality checks.
The cultivators can produce Makhana using different farming techniques like Pond farming or field farming. Unlike pond farming, Field farming has been known to be easier and less harmful to the lives of farmers. Different farmers use different methods of cultivation depending upon their knowledge, technology know-how and credit facilities.
The Makhana cultivators have to ensure that the harvesting and production should take place within the stipulated time as the produce has to be supplied to wholesalers and retailers. Time management depends heavily on the weather conditions and the quality of produce. Retailers want to buy big sized Makhana pop ups and this leads to a lot of wastage of small sized pop ups as there are no buyers for them.
Once the cultivation and harvesting of the produce is over, farmers have a very important responsibility of Grading. Grading is one of the essential steps to ensure quality, size, uniformity are maintained before packing of Makhana. Grading of Seeds is a very important step for farmers to separate the different sizes, shapes and quality of seeds. Traditionally, farmers use the manual process of separating different size, quality Makhana. However, farmers have been introduced to new age technology and machines that make the job of grading easy and quick. It also helps in ensuring error free grading. Usually, manual grading entails a lot of errors as it is a laborious and time taking procedure.
Apart from cultivating quality Makhana seeds and flakes, the cultivators also have the responsibility of the storage of Makhana. Farmers mostly store the Makhana seeds and flakes in their houses due to lack of proper storage facilities. They use jute bags for storing Makhana pop ups of 9 to 13 kgs each. It is vital that the Makhana is protected for Moisture or it might spoil the stored produce. To ensure that, cultivators use wooden platform for full protection against moisture.
Farmers have to protect stored Makhana against insects, rodents as well. A lot of stored Makhana go wasted due to mite infestation that reduces the quality of Makhana.
The cultivators also preserve the Makhana seeds using traditional methods by storing them in cylindrical bamboo sticks. They apply cow dung on the Makhana seeds for preserving them and thereafter cover them with coarse cloth to maintain the right temperature. The Makhana leaves are protected from insects and diseases like fungal leaf blight disease by using Pytolam Spray that helps in keeping away the disease and protects the Makhana leaves.
Another important role of makhana growers is ensuring the cultivation, storage, preservation. Farmers of Makhana also have a huge responsibility to ensure that best farming practices are used that are both planet and people positive. Protecting the environment is also kept in mind while using the method of farming. This has led to another form of farming i.e. Aquaculture which helps in sustainable farming if Makhana seeds and flakes. Government initiatives have helped the cultivators to use new and renewable sources for cultivating and combining them with latest technology.
Difficulties for Makhana cultivators
With urbanisation and globalisation, Makhana has emerged as a wonder nut having innumerable health benefits. Starting from India, it is being cultivated in other Asian countries as well. The challenge that is being faced by the cultivators is to keep up with the ever increasing global demand within the stipulated time.
Though many Government initiatives have been taken for helping the farmers of Makhana, there are many poor and uneducated farmers who still prefer to use the traditional methods of farming that are detrimental to their health and environment. A lot of health risks are there using the traditional Makhana farming that is laborious as well.
A lot of poor farmers are exploited by the wholesalers as well due to lack of storage, credit facilities which leads to loss of produce. Due to this, they are forced to sell wholesalers at a very low rate which doesn’t even help them to make ends meet.
The wholesalers make payments to farmers in cash and also provide credit loans for cultivation. Many farmers are not able to pay back the loans which force them to sell to the same wholesalers again and again.